Monday, May 22, 2017

Interesting Random Facts--Bonkers: I Oughta Be in Toons

Previously I indulged in some Disney nostalgia.  Which in turn brought up more memories of Disney cartoons (as these train of thoughts sometimes do).  This may not be of interest to anyone else but me, but I'm going to go ahead and get it out of my system.
I was in 9th grade when Bonkers came out--the age when you know you're kind of getting a little bit too old for cartoons, but you still watch them after school anyway.
We were all in the habit of coming straight home from school and turning on the TV, and in those primitive days the entertainment options were limited-- you either watched what was on, or you turned the TV off and did your homework.
That, plus I had grown up as a huge Disney fan, so I still took an interest in what the characters were doing.


Bonkers was one of Disney's less inspired ideas.  It was supposed to be a rip-off of Roger Rabbit, i.e. Bonkers is a toon cop in a world where all the cartoon characters we know are real and live in a city together with humans.
But then, bizarrely, having committed to this premise, Disney was extremely stingy about letting it's animated characters make cameos in Bonkers.  Which completely negated the whole premise of the TV show.
I mean, what's the point of watching a TV show whose entire premise is a world in which Disney cartoon characters are real and interact with humans, if you can't show any of the Disney cartoon characters?

In the years since, I've often grew curious about this question.  I mean, surely there must have been a reason for this--some corporate memo must have gone out detailing why the Disney characters had to be restricted on television.
Occasionally, I've even searched the Internet trying to find some explanation.  None.

The worst example of this strange mystery policy was the Bonkers episode I Oughta Be in Toons which aired on November 2, 1993 (Disney Wiki).  The entire episode revolves around the fact that Mickey Mouse is trapped in a cage.  You hear Mickey Mouse's voice throughout the episode, but you never actually see Mickey Mouse.

When I first saw this episode in 1993, I spent the entire episode assuming that the reason you didn't see Mickey's face was that Disney was just building up the reveal, and then at the of the episode Mickey Mouse would get out of the cage, and you'd see him and Bonkers together.  But no, the episode ends without one shot of Mickey Mouse.

This is one of the most bizarre choices in Disney history.
I mean, it's not like they had to negotiate around an actor's contract or schedule or anything.  They already had the guy doing the voice of Mickey Mouse throughout the episode.  They just needed to make the decision to animate him.

Not to mention, it is just a blatant "screw you" to the audience.  The whole episode revolves around Mickey Mouse, but then they decide not to show him?  How many TV shows have ever abused their audience's good faith in such a blatant way?

I'm assuming there must have been some memo that went out saying that Mickey Mouse was a corporate symbol, and he couldn't be put on TV because that would diminish the value of the brand.

I'm assuming this, because there must have been some reason for this bizarre choice.

But I can't find anything on the Internet giving the inside story.

And it's more curious when you consider all the other things that Disney has done to diminish it's own brand.  (The 1990s was, after all, the same period when Disney was tarnishing their brand with all the direct to DVD animated sequels.  Plus, when you consider all the other sub-par cartoons Mickey Mouse has been in through the years, this one decision to forbid his appearance seems a bit stingy.)

The Nostalgia Critic is ahead of me on this by a few years.  He brought up the same exact question in his review of Bonkers back in 2014.  Watch from 25:06

But, as someone who saw this episode back in the day, I've been wondering about this since 1993.

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