Mighty Max (1993–1995)
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Thank goodness for YouTube, who are so good usually with finding or re-discovering new gems. Mighty Max is a wonderful and very underrated show that is quite unique and kept me thrilled right until the end. As for the ending of the show, I have seen some controversy. I personally loved it not just for its dark tone but also how truly thrilling it was.
The animation does have some limited spots with some episodes lacking fluidity in the backgrounds or with the odd static movement, but I always noticed some impressive visuals in the action, the characters in general look great especially Skullmaster and there are some lively, ethereal colours.
I love the music too. The opening for Mighty Max sets the tone for each episode wonderfully, and the incidental music never feels out of place. The writing is one of the strongest assets of Mighty Max, it is funny, scary, moving, thoughtful and what's more quite educational too. Top hats also for some very well-thought out and engaging story lines.
The characters are delightful. Max is not bland or obnoxious, he has real steel and is very brave such as when he says "I'll die trying!", something I don't hear many animated kids saying now. Virgil is noble and wise, Norman makes me smile with his understated simplicity and Skullmaster is a terrific villain, smooth yet very malevolent.
Other than the writing and characters, I also have to highly praise the voice acting. Rob Paulsen is wonderful as Max, and never feels like he's overdoing it. Tony Jay matches him in every way as Virgil, while Tim Curry's menacing and distinctive intonation as Skullmaster is pitch perfect.
All in all, a wonderful show. 10/10 Bethany Cox
This is basically about the adventures of Max (Rob Paulsen). He's a prototypical American teen who likes hanging with his buds, extreme sports, is a bit of a smart-aleck and, despite never cracking a book, is remarkably intelligent. Then one day he receives a red ball-cap, and his life is turned upside down. This is because it turns out he's the latest in a long line of "mighty" cap-bearers and is destined to save the world a lot. Thankfully, he isn't alone.
Aiding him are Virgil (Tony Jay) and Norman (Richard Moll). Virgil is a 10,000 year old, anthromorphic owl from Lemuria. Max's mentor and guide, he is every bit as intelligent and stuffy as you'd expect from a 10,000 year old owl—even if he does insist on being a fowl "actually". Norman is a 10,000 year old Viking warrior fit to make all the immortals in Highlander pee their pants. The guardian, he's overly tense and laconic in nature, and lets Max and Virgil do most of the talking while letting his blade speak for him.
Together the three face off against numerous threats to world. These include mad scientists, aliens, demons, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, mutants and many more. However, the chief baddie and the one Max is prophesized to destroy is Skull Master (Tim Curry). Yes, he's inspired by Skeletor and would rip Skeletor's heart out and crush it under his feet. Another 10,000 year old, he oozes menace and definitely makes the cut for an arch-villain. The guy is basically a big, skull faced demon who's trapped in Hell; has a limitless army of lava men, golems and zombies at his disposal; and is bent on not just world domination, but on the utter annihilation of Max and company.
However, no matter where Max and crew ended up, and no matter whom they fought, the high quality of "Mighty Max" raised things well beyond the mundane. Despite claims the animation wasn't that good, I beg to differ. Never once were frames repeated, and there was never any scene that felt still or stiff. If anything, the animation style was in line with that of Batman: TAS. The character designs were streamlined, and much of the detail was provided by shading. But the real star was the scripting.
"Mighty Max" was funny without being corny; action packed without being far-fetched; educational without being boring; and violent without ever once being graphic. This may sound middle of the road, but it's not. It actually pushed the boundaries of what could be shown and said in children's programming circa the mid nineties. By today's stricter standards, however, "Mighty Max" could only exist on Adult Swim.
Most episodes featured at least one, horrific death. "The Werewolves of Dunneglen" is one example. It's night on the Scottish Highlands, and a lone man is investigating a series of strange noises. He hears growling from just behind him, and turns in time to let out a bloodcurdling scream before the scene transitions to Max chilling out half a world away. In "the Magnificent Seven" the four champions who accompanied Max, Virgil and Norman to Skullmaster's realm were all killed. In "The Axeman Cometh" Norman enters a darkened cabin and grimaces at what can only be slaughtered bodies strewn every which way. In every instance of death and dismemberment, nothing was ever shown or explicitly stated. But things were implied more than strongly enough to make the impression that something horrible just happened—albeit off camera.
There were a few problems with Mighty Max though. At first Max felt more like the product of a focus group than a true character. Over time this changed, most notably after the "Magnificent Seven". But it was still a fly in the ointment. Also, the cap he wore didn't feel all that special. All it could do was use portals to teleport, and anyone could use it. Only Virgil knew where most of the portals were, and he had to consult a map that, once again, anyone could use. When it came to dealing with the bad guys, the cap really wasn't good for much, save a hasty retreat. When searching for a portal, Max would often disappear in plain view of a freaked out public—yet no one ever once followed up on this upon his return. I get how, after living 10,000 years, Norman would possess enough skill to be the greatest warrior to have ever lived. Yet, his occasional feats of superhuman strength were never explained and, I felt, this diminished him.
So I can't say Mighty Max is the best animated-action show I've seen. But I can say it is of extraordinarily high quality and is dangerously watchable. You'll check one episode and then want to see another and another and another, until you're trying to rationalize how you can get to work and do your job on less than two hours sleep.
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Arsenal1508, at YouTube, for helping to keep this gem alive. Whoever you are, I just want to say thanks. Were it not for fans like you, "Mighty Max" would really be nothing more than a memory from the nineties. It's so much better than that—even if Film Roman has carelessly allowed it to languish.
Richard Moll is fantastic, as are all the voice actors. I didn't know Tim Curry was the Skullmaster's voice.
Creative, interesting, challenging, and full of action and energy. Always uplifting.
This is to me what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was to someone 5 years older. While I missed out on that little pop-culture wave, I embraced the toy line and t.v. series that was Mighty Max with both arms.
You wanna know how into this I was? I went as Mighty Max for Halloween.
Thank God for the internet. Thanks to Demonoid, last week I was able to watch this great show from my childhood for the first time in over a decade.
I'm watching this right now, having just been blown away by recognizing Rob Paulson of Animaniacs, and am also loving the celebrity humor in "Tar Wars". 4 minutes in, and they have already mentioned, By NAME: Clint Eastwood, Governor Arnold, Dustin Hoffman, John Wayne, AND Ace Ventura. Hells yeah.
Damn, it is only upon writing this that I realize there is NO WAY IN HELL I can give this series anything less than a perfect score. Any imperfections have been lost in the fog of time.
This Is My Childhood. This Is Awesomeness. This Is The Mighty One.
I was glued to the set when this would come on when I was younger. If they came out with a DVD of all the episodes they made I would be forced to buy it. This and a Conan the Barbarian cartoon are the ones I miss the most from childhood. I think these cartoons are the most unappreciated out of all the great cartoons. I used to watch these cartoons on channel 13 in the Los Angeles Area.
I remember the owl was always afraid, warning Max that he was in trouble and that he was the chosen one. Max didn't believe that he was the chosen one and always gave the owl trouble. Norman was less talkative but his simplicity was funny. He would say things like "I eat monsters for breakfast" when he was battling them. And then when he was battling zombies he would say "I eat zombies for...nevermind." Classic cartoon comedy and action.
I vote that they re-air Mighty Max.
In fact, I liked the show so much, I created my own website covering all things Mighty Max. It's called the Mighty Max Portal - feel free to look it up if you'd like to know more about this show and its characters.
My favorite "Mighty Max" episode is "A Bellwether in One's Cap", the first episode that started it all. I really enjoyed this episode and didn't want it to end. I also liked the episode "Max vs. Max".
I miss this show and hope I see it again one day. I give this show 9/10 stars.
The story was about destiny, and the power of good over evil. It spanned every aspect of adventure and bravery imaginable, and it reaffirmed the strength of the inner heart. No story could have communicated such a complex message so simply. If the show is ever made available to you, I suggest you give it a look. Share it with your children. Listen to the messages. Enjoy the action. This is entertainment at its absolute best.