Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars
by John Cawley & Jim Korkis
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Mighty Mouse

Superstar Summary
THE STAR: Mighty Mouse
STUDIO OF DEBUT: Terrytoons (Paul Terry)
SIGNATURE: "Here I come to save the day!"

KEY CREW BEHIND THE STAR: Tom Morrison (voice and storyman), Connie Rasinski (director), Jim Tyer (animator), Paul Terry (producer).

CAREER HIGH: MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE (1955) - One of the longest running Saturday morning series.

"Here I come to save the day!"

Mighty Mouse has thrilled new generations of fans for decades. Certainly, his popularity saved Terrytoons from obscurity and debt. Without question, he is the best known and loved character from Paul Terry's cartoon factory.

His costume was suggestive of Superman in particular and all super heroes in general. He wore a gold leotard with a red cape, boots and pants. Unlike most super heroes, he didn't have an insignia or logo on his chest or cape. Originally a parody of Superman, Mighty Mouse quickly took on a distinctive personality of his own.

While Superman became more complicated, Mighty Mouse became more simplified in his focus. He was an ordinary mouse with extraordinary powers. Generally, these powers seemed limited to flying, super strength and speed with just a degree of invulnerability. (On at least one occasion he also exhibited mystical powers that allowed him to "mentally" command water.)

He was equally as effective battling huge sinister cats as he was handling natural disasters like floods and exploding volcanoes. He was so powerful that in his early cartoons he often appeared only in the final moments to save the day. He resembled a comet streaking through the sky as he rushed to aid the helpless.

Mighty Mouse's base of operations changed over the years. His home at various times had been a supermarket, a plush skyscraper office and even the Moon. At other times, he was a disguised "mysterious stranger" wandering around the country helping those in distress.

Despite his great powers, Mighty Mouse's personality was much like a humble country boy. Even though he was obviously an adult mouse, this modest young boy attitude helped make such a powerful character appealing to children of all ages. It was not unusual that a kiss from a rescued maiden would bring a deep red blush to his entire face. This bashfulness made him tremendously appealing to a variety of Terrytoons' women. In the early cartoons Mighty Mouse was the object of affection of many female mice including some hot numbers like the Gypsy Princess, Sweet Susette and Krakatoa Katy. ("She ain't no lady when she starts to shake her sarong!") He eventually concentrated his affections on Pearl Pureheart.

Mighty Mouse was a mouse of few words. He took himself and his responsibility as a crusader against evil very seriously. In the heat of battle, he offered no clever quips. Even if his foes resorted to trickery, Mighty Mouse still fought fairly.

While Mighty Mouse may be best remembered for his countless battles against mice-hungry felines, he also battled a large assortment of other recurring bullies including a nameless wolf and Oil Can Harry.

Mighty Mouse had normal intelligence. He solved problems with his strength and common sense, not through analytical planning or new inventions that he created. It is surprising that villains never really took greater advantage of his natural good nature and gullibility.

When the series evolved into a melodrama format, Mighty Mouse truly became the embodiment of all that was good locked in an endless battle against evil. While he might smile, it was clear that he was accomplishing fantastic feats because it was his duty not because of personal pleasure. Even in a more recent revival, Mighty Mouse retained the boy scout personality that has served him well for almost half a century.


In the Forties, the popularity of Superman was enormous. At Terrytoons, animator I. Klein came up with the idea for a cartoon to spoof the whole concept of a super-powered savior. Klein conceived the idea of a super-powered housefly. The smallest creature he could imagine would imitate the fabled Man of Steel. Paul Terry was interested in the idea but according to some sources, he felt that a fly would be too small to animate well or be clearly visible matched against a larger menace. A short while later, it was Terry himself who suggested developing the story using a mouse instead of a fly.

Late in 1942, Terrytoons released the classic THE MOUSE OF TOMORROW. Cruel cats were subjugating innocent mice. One of these poor little mice, chased by a hungry cat, dashed into a supermarket. The mouse bathed in Super Soap, munched Super Celery, swallowed Super Soup and plunged headfirst into Super Cheese. When the mouse reappeared, he was now a Super Mouse! Attired in blue tights and red shorts and red cape, this mouse of tomorrow was able to beat up all the cats and send them to the Moon.

As clever as this origin story is, Terry's storymen had trouble sticking to it. In 1943, the cartoon PANDORA'S BOX revealed that this super mouse became super by swallowing vitamins A through Z. In 1946, the cartoon THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD suggested that a little mouse ranger had to drink from a jug labeled "Atomic Energy" to be transformed into the amazing mouse. Still later in 1951, the story was again revised in THE CAT'S TALE so that a mouse couple raises an orphan baby mouse left on their doorstep. Soon, they discover that he has powers and ability far beyond mortal mice. (This version more closely mimicked not only Superman's origin but was similar to the version of Mighty Mouse's origin officially given in his comic book adventures.)

The concept of Super Mouse was instantly popular and another half dozen cartoons were made. One of the most interesting was FRANKENSTEIN'S CAT (1942) where Super Mouse is contacted in his supermarket headquarters to rescue a bird captured by a monstrous cat living in Frankenstein's castle. By the beginning of 1944, Super Mouse was rechristened Mighty Mouse. For years, there was speculation concerning the name change. It was suggested that the publishers of Superman threatened a lawsuit for infringement of copyright.

Within recent years, a Terrytoons staffer, Bill Weiss, has claimed that the real reason was the existence of another Super Mouse. While the first animated cartoon was in preparation, a Terrytoons employee left the studio and sold the idea to a comic book publisher. Nedor Publications released COO COO COMICS #1 the very same month that THE MOUSE OF TOMORROW appeared. In that first issue was the adventures of Supermouse (one word) who gained his powers by eating supercheese.

The comic book company had been able to copyright the name before Terry could and Terry was placed in the difficult position of producing cartoons that gave free publicity to the comic book character. The name of Terry's creation was officially changed in 1944 with the release of THE WRECK OF THE HESPERUS on February 11th. The cartoon is a fairly straight adaptation of the classic poem with Mighty Mouse arriving in the last few minutes to save people from a shipwreck.

When the earlier Super Mouse cartoons were released to TV, they were redubbed and retitled to eliminate references to the original name. Mighty Mouse was now costumed in his familiar red and gold outfit and had started to gain some weight and muscle.

Many of the early Mighty Mouse cartoons followed a format where the champion of justice appeared only within the final moments to save the day. Terry explained that it was a "pattern- made thing" based on the assumption that throughout history people without hope yearn for a magical solution to an insurmountable problem.

AT THE CIRCUS (1944) has escaped lions terrorizing the population and Mighty Mouse showing up at the last minute to recapture the felines. RAIDING THE RAIDERS (1945) begins like a typical Thirties Terrytoons with cute bunnies but when a baby bunny is stolen by vultures, Mighty Mouse turns up at the end to rescue the rabbit.

This concept became limiting to the storymen and animators who began to experiment with different approaches. One approach was having Mighty Mouse disguised as a "mysterious stranger" in a trenchcoat and slouch hat who is in the entire cartoon but at the last minute rips off his disguise. Another approach was a mini- operetta perhaps inspired by the public domain works of composers like Gilbert and Sullivan, where the characters sang their dialog.

Another difficulty was developing a continuing villain who would pose a real threat to the Mouse of Steel. Several recurring villains were tried including a nameless wolf, an Edward G. Robinson-like cat gang leader, and a wild west bandit, Bad Bill Bunion. For various reasons, the chemistry just wasn't happening.


Finally in the late Forties, a more successful approach was developed for the series. Mighty Mouse director Connie Rasinski had directed one of the eight cartoon series produced by Terry in the mid-Thirties. The series had a black mustached fiend known as Oil Can Harry who chased a helpless heroine named Fannie Zilch. Fannie was rescued in true melodrama fashion by a clean cut hero named Strongheart.

The series, a parody of turn-of-the-century melodramas and silent movie serials, had been fairly popular. The Terry staff re-adapted the concept substituting Mighty Mouse for Strongheart. Oil Can Harry was transformed into a cat and the object of his misguided affection became the bland, blonde mouse called Pearl Pureheart.

While other story formats continued to be used, it is these melodrama operettas that stand out in the memories of Mighty Mouse fans. One of the reasons for that distinction was the concept allowed Mighty Mouse to appear in all seven minutes of the cartoon, not just the last moments.

The first in the series was directed by Rasinski in 1947 and was entitled A FIGHT TO THE FINISH. A classic example of this series was STOP LOOK AND LISTEN where Mighty Mouse and Pearl have been tied to a rampaging bull by Oil Can Harry while Pearl's father desperately drills for oil in his basement to raise money to pay the ransom. Another example was a A SWISS MISS (1950) where an unconscious Mighty Mouse is about to be shot by the gun that makes holes in Swiss Cheese while Oil Can Harry chases Pearl in the Swiss Alps.

For many cartoon fans, the last official Mighty Mouse cartoon was THE REFORMED WOLF (1954). The cartoon was told in flashback as a wolf explained how he became a vegetarian after trying to steal some sheep when Mighty Mouse was around.


It was considered the last official cartoon because in early 1955, Terry sold his studio and properties to CBS for $3.5 million. The studio stopped production on the "old" characters like Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle. They developed new characters like the janitor Clint Clobber, artist Gaston Le Crayon and the lisping elephant, Silly Sidney.

The "old" characters came to Saturday morning TV in a series showcasing their classic adventures entitled MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE. This show's success is generally credited with beginning the Saturday morning cartoon ghetto. It was also this show that first presented the famous theme song that became so popular. It premiered December 10, 1955 with some new wraparound animation.

When the new Terrytoons' characters failed to capture the public's fancy, the studio tried to revive the classic characters. In 1959-61, Mighty Mouse appeared in three new cartoons: OUTER SPACE VISITOR, THE MYSTERIOUS PACKAGE and CAT ALARM. These films were done in a simpler animation style and were generally uninspired adventures with some science fiction elements.

In the Sixties, Viacom inherited all of CBS Films' properties and Terrytoons as a cartoon producing plant disappeared although the licensing of characters like Mighty Mouse continued. MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE continued until 1966 when tougher competition finally ended its successful run.

Beginning September 8, 1979, CBS revived the character of Mighty Mouse in a new series of Saturday morning cartoons produced by Filmation. The hour long show was entitled THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY MOUSE AND HECKLE AND JECKLE. The settings for the Mighty Mouse stories spanned time and space. Primarily, the basic storylines still concerned Mighty Mouse saving Pearl Pureheart from Oil Can Harry who was now assisted by a bumbling helper, Swifty the cat.

During the hour, Mighty Mouse appeared in two separate adventures and an episode of a sixteen chapter serial, "The Great Space Race." (The serial was later edited into a feature and released on home video.) Like most of the Saturday morning cartoons of this period, Mighty Mouse was called upon to educate his viewers with his "Mighty Mouse Environmental Bulletins" concerning things like littering.

One typical story from the series was GYPSY MOUSE where, by the light of the full Moon, Oil Can Harry was transformed into a werecat who kidnaps the gypsy dancer, Pearl Pureheart. Naturally it takes Mighty Mouse to save the day.

Filmation seemed unable to duplicate the simple charm of the original Terrytoons. Though there was an attempt to put in some clever verbal humor, the pacing was slower than some of the classic episodes. The series disappeared after only 16 installments.

In 1983, at the American Film Market, Sandy Cobe of Intercontinental Releasing Corp. was promoting an animated Mighty Mouse movie. His promotion included all the merchandising tie- ins from a health food candy bar to kites. Also in the early Eighties, Kaufman's Bobka Company purchased from Viacom the rights to "Mighty Mouse" as a live action film project.


On September 19, 1987, almost a decade after Filmation's attempt, Mighty Mouse once again returned to CBS's Saturday morning schedule in a new series. The official title was MIGHTY MOUSE: THE NEW ADVENTURES and it was produced by Ralph Bakshi, well known for his animated features. Bakshi had worked as a beginning animator at Terrytoons in the Sixties and had received screen credit for animating one of the last Mighty Mouse cartoons (THE MYSTERIOUS PACKAGE, 1961).

Bakshi's team for THE NEW ADVENTURES included such new talent as John Kricfalusi, Bob Jacques, Kent Butterworth and Mike Kazaleh, as well as veteran John Sparey (who began his career animating Crusader Rabbit). This group took a highly irreverent approach to the series and tried to recreate the wild spirit of the Warner Brothers cartoons rather than the classic Terrytoons.

While Mighty Mouse still remained the clean cut hero who protected Mouseville, there were some significant changes. Mighty Mouse was given a secret identity as Mike Mouse, assembly line worker for Pearl Pureheart's factory. He was also given a mouse kid side-kick named Scrappy, who was constantly getting into trouble.

Former villain Oil Can Harry made one appearance in the second season, but the series relied on new antagonists like The Cow, big Murray and Petey Pate. One of the popular new characters was Bat-Bat, a parody of Batman who drove a Man-mobile along with his youthful companion, Tick, the Bug Wonder.

Many of the cartoons satirized other cartoons. Alvin and the Chipmunks became Elwy and the Tree Weasels in MIGHTY'S BENEFIT PLAN. Saturday morning cartoons in general were satirized in DON'T TOUCH THAT DIAL. In order to meet the demands of Saturday morning's tight scheduling, several of the Bakshi cartoons featured excerpts from the earlier Terrytoons framed with new animation.

Bakshi's MOUSE FROM ANOTHER HOUSE gave Mighty Mouse yet another origin. Born in a tough neighborhood that is being demolished, his parents send the baby mouse in a rocket ship to a nicer neighborhood. Adopted by a farm couple, Ma and Pa Squirrel, the baby is raised to become a champion of mice, Mighty Mouse. This version is yet another homage to Superman's origin story.

The one stain on Mighty Mouse's spotless reputation occurred during this series. Reverend Wildmon, head of a self claimed media watch group American Family Association, stated that one cartoon (THE LITTLE TRAMP) showed Mighty Mouse sniffing cocaine. In actuality, it was clear that the Mouse of Tomorrow was simply smelling a crushed flower but the damage had been done. The offending footage (3.5 seconds) was finally removed.

The series was a favorite for many fans and critics. It received an award from Action For Children's Television (ACT), only the third animated series ever to receive an award from the parent watchdog group in its 20 year history. However, the ratings were not strong enough to warrant its continuance after a second season (1988-89).


Perhaps the most long lived of Mighty Mouse's supporting cast have been Oil Can Harry and Pearl Pureheart. While other recurring characters appeared, none seem to have made the lasting impression of these two characters.

Conceived as a melodrama villain, Harry was a cat usually attired in a long black coat, often a black hat and a mustache of varying sizes over the years. In the original series, although he was a comic villain, there was never any doubt that he was a bad guy capable of nasty deeds. His obsession with Pearl Pureheart seemed to be his major motivation. Over the years, he softened considerably becoming almost as much a buffoon as his dumb assistant, Swifty, introduced in the Filmation series.

Pearl Pureheart was unofficially Mighty Mouse's best girlfriend. She never really seemed to be a good match for the mouse. Certainly she lacked the spunk and sexiness of earlier heroines in the series. Over the years, she became a harder edged personality, a fact very evident in the Bakshi version. In the original series, this blonde, bland mouse had a father, Colonel Pureheart, which emphasized her image as a helpless Southern belle. (In some cartoons she was called "Little Nell.")

Scrappy, created for the Bakshi series, was an orphan mouse who viewed Mighty Mouse as a surrogate father. An irritating character with few redeeming qualities, Scrappy was supposedly either a savage parody of Fievel Mouse (AN AMERICAN TAIL) or Jerry (from Tom & Jerry). Few viewers got the joke. However his frequent appearances in the Bakshi version guarantee him a perverse immortality.


Without a question, Mighty Mouse was the most successful and most visible of any Terrytoons character. He appeared on countless toys, games, books, records and promoted Colgate toothpaste and his own health food cereal and vitamins.

In the late Eighties, he was the mascot for New England Playworld, a short lived amusement park in Hudson, New Hampshire that featured Terrytoons characters. The park even had a gigantic statue of Mighty Mouse, arms upraised and a big smile on his face.

Mighty Mouse first appeared in comic books in 1945 in TERRYTOONS published by Timely (now known as Marvel comics). After four issues, the character shifted to a variety of different publishers including St. John and Pines, both of which published not only a MIGHTY MOUSE comic book but an ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY MOUSE comic book as well. There were also several special large comic book collections, Later, Dell/Gold Key continued both of those titles with each book coincidentally ending with issue #172.

Some of the comic book adventures are of special interest to collectors because they were done by moonlighting Terrytoons staffers like Connie Rasinski, Jim Tyer, Carlo Vinci, Art Bartsch and Tom Morrison. Of particular interest was the publication in 1953 of MIGHTY MOUSE 3-D which was the first three dimensional comic book which helped spur a short lived but popular fad in the Fifties.

In the late Eighties, a new series of comics was published by the short lived Spotlight Comics. Just prior to the company folding, Spotlight attempted to put out a special issue using talents from Bakshi's NEW ADVENTURES' crew. Marvel Comics revived the character in his own comic book in 1990.


Mighty Mouse was such a strong character that he survived weak stories and animation to capture the hearts of decades of fans. He was a mouse whose actions spoke louder than the few words he was given in his many cartoon appearances. He outlasted every other animal superhero parody, proving that he was the mightiest mouse of all.


"I've always liked the character and I thought it would be a fun thing to do." - Ralph Bakshi

"The old cartoons had lots of scenes of Mighty Mouse punching somebody out, but we couldn't do that even if we wanted to." - Mike Kazaleh, animator on Bakshi version

"What a mouse! What **A** mouse!" - Narrator in THE MOUSE OF TOMORROW (1942) and countless other Mighty Mouse cartoons

"It was the reviews that kept us alive." - Ralph Bakshi

"Who in this wide world can help the situation? Mighty Mouse!" - Narrator, AT THE CIRCUS (1944)

"The Bakshi version of Mighty Mouse will help clear the air of the smog of spoiled sugar and superslop." - Chuck Jones

"Hurry Up! I have a job to do!" - Mighty Mouse to his artist in THE WICKED WOLF (1946)

"No more opera. I don't think that a singing superhero mouse would fly with contemporary audiences." - Norman Prescott, producer of Filmation's THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY MOUSE AND HECKLE AND JECKLE

"Here he comes, that Mighty Mouse, Coming to vanquish the foe With a mighty blow! Don't be afraid any more 'Cause thing won't be like they've been before" - Theme song, MIGHTY MOUSE: THE NEW ADVENTURES

"Mr. Trouble never hangs around, When he hears this mighty sound: 'Here I come to save the day!' That means that Mighty Mouse Is on the way!" - Might Mouse theme

"This is a great example of how a cartoon character can be reborn. The innovative TV show featured satire on cartoons and guest appearances by other 'retired' characters." - Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, commenting on MIGHTY MOUSE: THE NEW ADVENTURES