Mythbusters "Cannibal Mouse" (lost unaired segment of Discovery Channel science entertainment series; 2006)
Mythbusters is a popular science entertainment TV program, hosted by veteran special effects artists Jamie Hyneman & Adam Savage, that puts various modern myths, storytelling tropes and urban legends to rigorous scientific test. Adam & Jamie then use their results to determine if the myths are in reality "plausible" or "busted". Over more than a decade, this has resulted in some startling and surprising television... but in only one case was it so startling that the footage never made it to air.
Banned footage[edit | edit source]
In the 2006 Mythbusters episode "Steam Cannon", among the myths being tested is "there's more nutrition in the cardboard box than the cereal." The resulting segment, as aired, features Adam & Jamie exploring various means of determining the nutritional content of cardboard. While mostly unremarkable, it comes across as a bit vague and disorganized in comparison to the show's usual meticulously planned investigations.
In a Q&A some years later (and several times since) Adam explained that this was because the original plan for testing this myth had gone so horrifically awry that it was unusable. According to his account, the experiment involved lab mice placed in three groups - one eating normal mouse food, another sugary cereal, and the last cardboard box pellets. After several days' filming they had noticed on the Friday afternoon that the cardboard-eating mice were acting strangely; on resuming the following Monday morning, they discovered that one of the "cardboard mice" had eaten the other two mice in its cage. All that remained of each victim was, in Adam's words, "...a head, and a tail, and nothing but a ribcage in-between."
The show's producers at the Discovery Channel refused to allow the debacle to be part of the episode. In the segment as aired, Jamie only very obliquely alludes to not wanting to actually eat the cardboard out of concerns over toxicity. However Adam claims that in the initial footage both he and Jamie had tried to play the ruined experiment off as gruesomely hilarious, holding up the 'very fat' cannibal mouse (which they had dubbed 'Killer') and joking along the lines of 'when mice attack!'
Availability[edit | edit source]
Adam had made a rough cut of this footage by the time the decision was taken to pull it, and in the Q&A he admits to showing it at "Northern Michigan Tech" (likely referring to either Northern Michigan University or Michigan Tech University). When Discovery found out, however, they forbade him from showing it ever again.
Mythbusters ceased first-run production as of 2016 - and despite his claims that the producers insisted he destroy it, it's plausible that Adam may still have a personal copy of the footage. But due to the graphic animal violence it remains very unlikely it will ever resurface publicly. The Discovery Channel has always done their best to keep a family-friendly image and strictly avoid any hint of animal harm (never testing the myth of "drying a dog in a microwave" in any form, for instance).