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The Cocaine Adventures of Mighty Mouse

Fans of edgy animation and cartoon vice rejoiced this week, as the infamous 1987-1988 Saturday morning series “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” finally hit DVD.

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From the warped minds of Ralph Bakshi (“Fritz the Cat”) and John Kricfalusi (“Ren & Stimpy”), the show is often cited as a precursor to the era of wacky, subversive TV animation. So why the hold up on the DVD release? Well, it might have something to do with a controversial episode where the superhero mouse sniffed a very suspicious-looking white powder.

Premiering on CBS in November of 1987, “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” stood out in a field crowded with the mediocre likes of “Foofur” and “The Pound Puppies.” (This was a time when “The Smurfs” dominated two hours of prime Saturday morning real estate on NBC.) Bakshi — who began his animation career at Terrytoons, home of the original Mighty Mouse — assembled a team of future animation stars like Bruce Timm (“Batman: The Animated Series”) and “Wall-E” director Andrew Stanton, and granted them the creative freedom to poke fun at classic animation and superheroes (with characters like the Dark Knight stand-in Bat-Bat) in the guise of an innocuous Saturday morning ‘toon. As Kricfaulsi recently told Wired, the era of edgy, “creator-driven” animation that many credit “Ren & Stimpy” with starting actually kicked off two years earlier with “Mighty Mouse.”

But the show often veered into territory too risque for the Tiffany Network, including having characters shower together and hinting in a dream sequence that Mighty’s gal Pearl Pureheart had an illegitimate child with nemesis The Cow. The biggest controversy (and perhaps part of the reason why the show is remembered today) arose from the episode “The Littlest Tramp,” where Mighty Mouse is shown sniffing what appeared to be cocaine.

CBS balked at the episode, but aired it after Bakshi explained he was in fact smelling a crushed flower. Parent groups insisted that Mighty could encourage children to become coke fiends, pressuring CBS to cut the scene for future airings. The controversy tainted the show, leading to its cancellation mid-way through season two.

Viewed now, the show’s fast-paced 11-minute vignettes signal a change from the traditional half-hour animated format to the quick, absurdist style of “Tiny Toon Adventures” (which borrows heavily from the series) and later Adult Swim hits. The new collection contains the entire 19 episode run (including the uncut “Littlest Tramp”) as well as some classic Terrytoons shorts available for the first time on DVD. The show also inspired a pretty fun short-lived Marvel comic, notable for lampooning certain “hot” comics from the era.

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