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Anchoring The Saturday Morning Kiddie Fare with a Dinky Duck, (Mahatma) Gandy Goose,Single Parent Terry Bears and a Super Powered 'Pavorotti' of a Rodent.
When "THE MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE" (1955-66) premiered on CBS TV Network in 1955, little did we young-uns know that CBS had a working agreement with the Producer.Eventually CBS bought the Terrytoons Animation Studio. Both Terrytoons and Paul Terry had been around the film industry since pre World War I days.
The oldest continuing cartoon character in the Terrytoons Stable would have to be Farmer Al Falfa. The venerable agriculturist cut a familiar figure for at least four decades in theatrical cartoons. Eventually he was relegated to the status of a sort of "special guest star".* But time and progress did march along hand and hand, unchecked by nothing man-made.
Terrytoons kept pace with the times. The new-fangled developments such as sound, various color processes and even Stereophonic Sound (Disney's FANTASIA), 3 Dimensional effects (Fleischer Brothers' "Table Top" and Disney's Multi-Plane Camera) and widescreen processes (CinemaScope, VistaVision, etc.) were given at least a try-out in the cartoons. But sound and color proved to have the staying power. Soon virtually all cartoons were color. After 1929, all films were sound films. (Except for films like Charles Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS (1931) and MODERN TIMES (1936).)
So in the 1950's CBS was in a great position to compete in the TV Animation arena, both in newly produced, made for Television Terrytoons Series such as "TOM TERRIFIC", "DEPUTY DAWG" and "LARIAT SAM". they shown on shows like "CAPTAIN KANGAROO", which had Tom Terrific and Lariat Sam at one time or another. (Deputy Dawg cartoons were given its own syndicated show in 1959.) The big guns at the very beginning of the Terrytoons/CBS marriage, it was the old line series of the Theatrical Cartoons that were still in vogue.
So, in addition to all o the FARMER AL FALFA cartoons being shown, there would soon be a FARMER AL FALFA & FRIENDS kids cartoon show on the CBS "Tiffany of Networks; which is a self praising name they've developed over the years. This was quickly followed by MIGHTY MOUSE and by HECKLE & JECKLE the following year, of 1956.
So "THE MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE" was a welcome network addition. Its Cartoons were of a higher standard, being that they were the Theatrical Terrytoons Product. Only the opening, featuring the "Mighty Mouse Theme Song", the same theme song that the Late Andy Kaufman had used was newly made. And as the long as the studio had produced opening and closing footage for the series, as well as some in between "wrap around" animated footage for the in-between cartoon segments and as introductions for the various series that would be exhibited on the shows half hour. And there were several of those, in addition to the "Big Guy" MM, himself. This methodology had worked well for the "Cadilac" of the animated cartoon industry, Walt Disney Productions in "wrapping" up some Donald Ducks & Chip 'n' Dale shorts, rendering them into a show.
The other series used were GANDY GOOSE, DINKY DUCK**, THE TERRY BEARS and an occasional non-series cartoon. Not all of these supporting features would be shown on every weekly show; but that was okay, too.
As for MIGHTY MOUSE, he is an obviously developed spoof of the "Super Hero" genre of the Comics Magazines (aka 'Comic Books' or 'Joke Books', even.); and most specifically The Man of Steel, himself, Superman. And that brings us to the MIGHTY MOUSE origin.
Originally he was to be called "Super Mouse" until one of those most unusual, stranger than fiction occurrences came to pass. Almost simultaneously with the release of the first Terrytoon Mighty Mouse cartoon, titled "SUPER MOUSE RIDES AGAIN" (obviously a tongue in cheek reference to the Marlene Dietrich-James Stewart co-starring vehicle, DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (Universal, 1939). A comic book publisher in New York City published the first issue of a publication called, SUPER MOUSE. The character was not similar in appearance to Terrytoons MM. But, it is no surprise that this gray mouse did wear a red cape and could fly.
Well, as we all know that a runner going down to first base is safe unless the throw beats him there. "Tie goes to the runner" is about the first Baseball rule that we learn. So likewise, with this happening, this "tie", no one was at fault, nor was anyone in violation of the other guys copyright character. So something very unusual happened, at least by today's standards. Terrytoons went ahead and changed their feature character's name to the more alliterative, and even onomatopoeic monicker of Mighty Mouse.
And one other positive that Terrytoons and CBS had going for was that Terrytoons cartoons be they made in the late 1930's or the 1950's looked pretty much the same. (I swear, we saw some of the same Terrytoons Cartoons on TV that we would also be seeing at those Holiday 25 Cartoon Shows that we would faithfully attend at the Ogden Theater, here in Chicago on one of those school Holidays such as Columbus Day, Armistice/Veterans' Day, etc.
And we can well remember most fondly that the one "gimmick" or "trademark;" that we would see in a typical Mighty Mouse outing. And that would be and is that they were set up as little Operettas, with the dialogue's being sung, rather than spoken. This is a feature that we appreciate more today as adults in our 50's and 60's (or even a trifle older), than we did as kids.
And as for any favourite memories of particular cartoons we offer the following. Favourite titles were: THE WRECK OF THE HESPEROUS (1944), BAD BILL BUNION ('45) and THE GYPSY LIFE (also '45).
NOTE * By way of example, it was a latter day FARMER AL FALFA short that introduced the comic prowess of those 2 talking magpies, HECKLE & JECKLE.
NOTE: ** 'Donald' and 'Daffy' were already taken, hence the sympathy laden 'Dinky'.
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