Who’s the greatest secret agent in the world? James Bond? Jason Bourne? Johnny English? (And why do all their names begin with a J, anyway?) None of the above, of course. He’s actually a cartoon mouse with an eye-patch, a flying car and a hapless hamster sidekick.
Danger Mouse (89 episodes, 1981-92).
A parody of British spy-fi creations such as James Bond and Danger Man, Danger Mouse (voiced by David Jason) is the world’s greatest secret agent. Aided and abetted by his hamster colleague Ernest Penfold (Terry Scott), he battles a variety of cartoon wrongdoers, most notably the evil toad Baron Silas Greenback – who bears more than a passing resemblance to Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld – although he does so in a manner which more frequently resembles Inspector Clouseau than Bond.
The title sequence features Danger Mouse rescuing himself and Penfold from a variety of life-threatening situations – generally via the expedient of running away very quickly, conveying the tongue-in-cheek approach of all their exploits – to the tune of a theme song composed by British singer, songwriter and comedian Mike Harding.
He’s the greatest, he’s fantastic
Wherever there is danger he’ll be there
He’s the ace, he’s amazing
He’s the strongest, he’s the quickest, he’s the best
Danger Mouse, Danger Mouse, Danger Mouse
Over the years, the intro was re-cut into versions of differing length, but these were largely just minor variations on the same basic sequence. The theme song remained the same, although it is sometimes slightly truncated (and always played in full over the closing credits). The longer-form version is shown below.
The name Danger Mouse was inspired by the 1960s series Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan.
Penfold’s appearance was based on co-creator Brian Cosgrove’s brother Dennis, who was deputy editor of the Sunday Express at the time.
Danger Mouse and Penfold live in a traditional Royal Mail pillar box on Baker Street in London – just outside Sherlock Holmes’ flat at 221b.
To save production costs, in addition to recycling old footage there was also liberal use of both ‘in the dark’ sequences (black with eyeballs visible only) and the North Pole as a location, as the white, snow-covered backgrounds required minimal artwork.
In the pilot episode, Baron Greenback is introduced as ‘Baron Greenteeth’.
Stiletto, Baron Greenback’s henchman, originally had a heavy Italian accent but was redubbed as a Cockney for US broadcast so as not to offend Italian-American viewers.
Count Duckula (also voiced by David Jason), a showbiz-obsessed vampire duck who wanted his own show, originally appeared as a Danger Mouse villain – before eventually getting his own spin-off show, Count Duckula.