Official Artist
James Mar
Comic Creator / Cartoonist , Illustrator
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Cartoon Musings: Mickey Mouse

When I look at the world of cartooning, success, and mascot popularity, several characters come to mind:  Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Doraemon, Hello Kitty, Winnie the Pooh, Totoro, Bugs Bunny, Mcdull, etc...  These are characters that have all become icons and merchandising cash cows.  These are the type of creations which I can only dream of making. 

So let us briefly examine probably the world's most popular if not recognizable cartoon character: Mickey Mouse. 

Though I'm not quite obsessed about it as other fans I've seen, I generally love Disney stuff and I think they made wonderful work, especially during Walt's days.  Today Disney Animation's under pretty good hands with John Lasseter in charge.  You can pretty much find all Mickey's history on Wikipedia, his theatrical shorts delighted audiences because they were entertaining and well made.  Steamboat Willie's innovative use of sound caused a sensation.  Though personally, I'm more of a Donald Duck fan, Mickey's shorts were great, and they continued to entertain for a long time.  Mickey's circular design is said to be part of the success of his appeal.  Among the basic shapes of a square, triangle, and circle, soft organic circular shapes are said to be the most appealing or attractive to mind's eye.  Doraemon also relies on this simple circular design. 

Legendary Disney animator Fred Moore, one of the "Nine Old Men" under Walt's era basically describes Mickey as young, clean, humble, fun loving, bashful, polite, and clever.  And having traits of Fred Astaire (most famous for dancing), Charlie Chaplin (most famous for comedy), and Douglas Fairbanks (most famous for swashbuckling heroism).  He's a lovable character, one both boys and girls could enjoy watching or be comfortable wearing on their pajamas.  One wonders if Mickey were introduced today, would he survive the same type of popularity as he does today even with the same exposure?  They don't make cartoon characters like they used to.  Perhaps Mickey is a relic of his time. 

It's easy to feel that the spirit of Mickey died and became a bland corporate icon after Walt's own death.   A pale cliched imitation of his own character.  During Walt's era, you can feel the honesty, the sincerity, the classiness of the Mouse's cartoons.  Today, most this kind of entertainment has fallen into the trap of trying too hard to entertain rather than staying true to character.  I won't say Mickey can't ever be done right again, but these days, it's a lot more difficult and unlikely.   I sure couldn't do it.  But what's great or horrible, depending on your viewpoint is that Mickey's iconic image has endured despite his seemingly soulessness portrayals.  Much like Hello Kitty, nobody cares about whohe is it's about whathe is, a commercialized brand name pop logo to plaster onto equally bland manufactured merchandise to increase it's sellability...  At least the guy's still capable of making big bucks!  In the end however, he'll always be the rightful icon for representing Walt Disney.  And for that, Mickey, I salute you.  That's Disney Magic.

over 15 years ago 0 likes  3 comments  0 shares
Photo 64087
what a beautiful model sheet!  i think mickey worked for all of the reasons you listed, and particularly because he was a product of the times.  of course, like you, i always enjoyed the donald cartoons much more - he seemed easier to relate to (constantly irritated & frustrated), haha.  
over 15 years ago


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April 9, 2008