Arts & Culture

The Mouse Turns 80

Like everyone else in Florida, Mickey Mouse is now an octogenarian. The character famously first appeared in Steamboat Willie (released Nov. 18, 1928), although two earlier Mickey shorts, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, were produced but not immediately released. … Read More

By / November 18, 2008

Like everyone else in Florida, Mickey Mouse is now an octogenarian. The character famously first appeared in Steamboat Willie (released Nov. 18, 1928), although two earlier Mickey shorts, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, were produced but not immediately released. The world’s most famous mouse has appeared in various capacities over the decades, seeing time as a soldier, sailor, wizard, explorer, regular mouse, bachelor, bandleader, dogowner, regent, hobo, firefighter, beastiality-crazed sex fiend (thanks to the creative folks at DrawnSex.com), parade marshal, Santa Claus, ski bum, aviator, and most importantly, a corporate logo. Unlike other hallmark cartoon characters, Mickey Mouse’s enduring popularity derives almost exclusively from the peripheral characters that surround him. He’s not cunning like Bugs Bunny, bratty and rebellious like Bart Simpson or political and blue like Papa Smurf. Mickey Mouse as a character offers little in the way of personality or humor. He plays a role similar to that of Jason Bateman in Arrested Development or the bar in Cheers, serving primarily as a bind between the rest of the Disney stable of characters – your Donalds, Goofys, Minnies and Plutos, not to mention lesser, more-hated characters like the interspecial union of Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. A reasonable comparison for Mickey is Kermit the Frog, the de facto leader of The Muppets. Like Mickey, Kermit isn’t as funny as the characters that surround him, but serves as a figurehead of the entire collective. The enduring appeal of Mickey Mouse lies primarily in association. Over the past eighty years, Disney has repeatedly cornered the market on fantasy and children’s entertainment, co-opting the identities of some of the most beloved characters in the history of literature, including Winnie the Pooh, Robin Hood, Aladdin, Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid. Generations of kids are familiar primarily with the Disney interpretation of these characters, and Mickey Mouse represents that all of that. His delightful mug graces the boxes of all of the company’s products and his likeness from Fantasia is nearly omnipresent in American culture. Mickey Mouse has been proven so effective at piquing childrens’ interests that the radical Islamic group, Hamas, employs their own version of the character, named Farfur, who urges children to "Resist the oppressive invading Zionist occupation," like a real-life Johnny Chimpo. Of course, Mickey himself is no stranger to anti-Semitism, as Walt Disney would occasionally align him with less-than-desirable company, including the inexplicable presence of a swastika-decorated cigarette lighter in Mickey’s house in 1932’s The Wayward Canary. Happy Birthday, rodent!