Cartoon Research Books
November 18, 2017 posted by Kevin Scott Collier

The Mighty Heroes: Ralph Bakshi’s Professional Springboard

Ralph Bakshi at Terrytoons in 1965

Talking with legendary animation icon Ralph Bakshi for the book The Mighty Heroes Declassified was an educational experience. He brought me back to 1966 when I was age 9. Back then, I was one of the countless children who became fans of the new Terrytoons’ cartoon on CBS, The Mighty Heroes. What I didn’t know then, and do now, is it was a time of celebration for Bakshi, but also disappointment.

Terrytoons had been dying for years as an animation studio. Not even CBS, who bought Terrytoons a decade earlier to create TV cartoons for their network, was buying anything from them. At a meeting in early 1966, Terrytoons failed to sell even one show pitched to program director Fred Silverman.

Just when it looked as though Terrytoons producer Bill Weiss, and his small entourage, were about to walk away with empty pockets, Ralph Bakshi, who was standing at the back of the room, spoke up. It happened just as Silverman rose to his feet to conclude the meeting. It was then that, “a call went out for The Mighty Heroes.”

Bakshi, who was merely there to help set up Terrytoons presentations around the room, shouted from the back of the room, “Mr. Silverman, I have an idea.”

Those in the meeting were stunned, and silence gripped the room. Silverman sat back down. “So, what have you got?”

Bakshi then pitched The Mighty Heroes off the top of his head. It wasn’t anything he had thought of previously. But all five characters came out. Silverman liked it and bought it. What transpired was a victory for failing Terrytoons, thanks to Bakshi. Silverman stipulated he’d only take the series if Bakshi were the director and oversaw the entire project.

But back at Terrytoons, that didn’t transpire. Bakshi was in the middle of a departmental tug of war. The series didn’t fully develop into what he imagined. But, he loved it just the same. Just as I did, at age 9. I even bought the comic books issued by Dell. I couldn’t get enough of The Mighty Heroes.

“In a way, The Mighty Heroes were my heroes,” Bakshi told me. “They got me out of Terrytoons and with that in my resume, I got the job at Paramount.”

According to Bakshi, The Mighty Heroes was the springboard for his subsequent fantastic animation opportunities and achievements. The lessons he learned because of The Heroes were crucial to his career. If you speak up at the back of a room, sometimes you move to the head of the class. And while Bakshi seemingly pulled the idea for the super quintet out of nowhere, he understands “nowhere” isn’t a void.

“Let me tell you about ‘nowhere,’ because I’ve thought about this often,” Bakshi explained. “I don’t want to come off like some magical genius, okay? But nowhere was everywhere for me. You can’t be a 24 or 26-year-old cartoonist and not be aware of the world you’re living in. So this wasn’t out of nowhere, it was out of a young man’s experience as a cartoonist.”

I agree that nowhere is actually a pretty enormous place, but disagree with Bakshi concerning his intellect. He is a genius and created a lot of magic on film. And somehow, some day, another call will go out for The Mighty Heroes.

The Mighty Heroes Declassified is now available on Amazon.com.

NOTE FROM AMAZON CONCERNING THOSE WHO ORDERED THIS BOOK:

Anyone who had ordered “The Mighty Heroes Declassified” book from Amazon from November 18 to upon reading this message posted here on Cartoon Research on November 24, must go into your Amazon account, cancel the original order, and reorder the book.

Payment for the transaction only goes through when a book is shipped. Thus, the original orders during this time period were NOT charged to the customer. Only $7.95 for your amended purchase will be charged.

Amazon apologizes for the glitch and conveys “The Mighty Heroes Declassified” is now available for purchase without any issues and will ship promptly.

16 Comments

  • Plus let’s face it, one of the best theme songs for a cartoon ever.

  • Marvel Comics and Paramount had a one shot comic book with The Mighty Heroes back in the 1990’s featuring a new female member to The Mighty Heroes and a new villainess as well. Wish they had a reboot of the Mighty Heroes. Speaking of which Ralph Bakshi while doing The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse he brought back The Mighty Heroes now posing as lawyers of the law firm of Man,Man,Man,Man & Man.

  • I did like The Mighty Heroes. The great Herschel Bernardi, a wonderful actor and always in demand as a voice-over performer, really nailed the show’s opening narration. Also, it was such a step up in terms of design and wit from most of the latter-day Terrytoon material. It’s a shame the studio was unable to build and move forward from this. I look forward to this book.

    • And don’t forget Allen Swift who did many of the voices in The Mighty Heroes.

      • BIGG3469, Allen Swift didn’t do any Mighty Heroes voices. They were done by Lionel Wilson (who was every voice on Tom Terrific) and Herschel Bernardi (who played Diaper Man and narrated).

    • I thought Lionel Wilson did the majority of the character voices in “Mighty Heroes.” As a kid, I got a big kick out of the “call goes out” montage; looking at it now, I see how they used simple tricks like perspective to create fantastic effects. The designs of the heroes were funny and appealing as well. Credit where it’s due to Elliott Lawrence, a Broadway-musical conductor, who wrote the theme and scores.

      • Jeff Missinne, you are correct. Lionel Wilson did the majority of Mighty Heroes voices. I’ve noticed his Tornado Man sounds a lot like his Owlawishus Owl from the Possible Possum series. Most of the villains are also Wilson.

  • The boys made an appearance as the house band in Nickelodeon’s aborted TerryToons pilot Curbside.

    (I’m sure Jerry will have distain for this, but well….here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQZ-uu93p00)..

  • I enjoyed watching “The Mighty Heroes” during the show’s one year on the air, when I was in second grade.

  • MIGHTY HEROES BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT:
    A NOTE FROM AMAZON CONCERNING THOSE WHO ORDERED THIS BOOK:

    Anyone who had ordered “The Mighty Heroes Declassified” book from Amazon from November 18 to 2 p.m. EST on November 24, must go into your Amazon account, cancel the original order, and reorder the book. Your original order was not recognized or processed!

    Payment for the transaction only goes through when a book is shipped. Thus, the original orders during this time period were NOT charged to the customer. Only $7.95 for your amended purchase will be charged.

    Amazon apologizes for the glitch and conveys “The Mighty Heroes Declassified” is now available for purchase without any issues and will ship promptly.

  • Again, I will say it again, this complete series needs remastered and released as a dvd set. Why it hasn’t is way beyond my comprehension.

  • These guys should have their own movie!

  • Fascinating article, and now I so definitely want this book… and GAME; never knew it existed ! I agree: the lead ups and theme sequence to this series is one of the most dynamic ever, so cool and powerful. Sometimes the films themselves were rather predictable but the premise and presence of these characters was the perfect spoof at the perfect time, and indeed propelled Ralph into the spotlight towards his future successes, and MH was indeed the ‘last gasp’ of inspiration for Terrytoons.

  • Man oh man I grew up as a kid in the 70’s watching these bumbling characters they helped me get through some rough times growing up back then. I only got the chance to see them only in the movies as they were only shown during the intermissions. But I think Hollywood should think about bringing them to movie screens as a full feature. Or at least adding them to the Me TV cartoon line up whether during the week on Toony’s show or Saturday morning or even the Sunday night line-up. But someone needs to brings them back into circulation especially now I know there are many old school like me who’d appreciated them as well as new school who most likely don’t even know about them.

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