Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse!
On this day almost 100 years ago, the world’s most famous mouse was introduced on the silver screen, and Disney+ just dropped a documentary about him and his legacy.
Mickey: The Story of a Mouse reflects on the character’s entire life and how he has evolved with the culture over the years and speaks of him in a way that is honest, interesting, and not completely comfortable. It does not feel like a Disney movie, nor does it feel like corporate propaganda in the same way I have heard people talk about Saving Mr. Banks. It felt honest, and I am still trying to decide if it was honest in a good way or bad.
Interviewing animators, archivists, fans, and even former CEO Bob Iger, the documentary starts in the 20s and ends in the 2010s. It discusses Mickey’s significance in World War II on a level I personally had never experienced, as well as Mickey’s adoption by the counterculture in the 60s and 70s. It also talks about the questionable myth of Mickey’s origin on the train from Manhattan to Los Angeles. We learn that it was the audience’s expectations for Mickey’s dignity that birthed the need for his pals, Donald Duck and Goofy. And we see clips of the politically incorrect cartoons that Disney has kept off of its streaming platform.
Viewers will see the world’s affinity for Mickey Mouse on a level that borders on the outright grotesque–yes, even for this Disney Fanatic. The folks at Disney almost talk as if the character’s popularity has grown beyond one company’s true control, which is a fitting topic as we could finally see the Mouse enter the public domain in the next few years.
Walt Disney’s meteoric rise to fame with Mickey Mouse should be studied in business school because there has arguably never been a character created that captured the world’s attention as Mickey Mouse did. And, perhaps it is the rarity of that “perfect storm” that gives Mickey Mouse–and Walt Disney himself–his otherworldly immortality.
I appreciate this documentary because it provides an official record that is not afraid to show the uglier sides of Mickey Mouse’s past. It tells an all-around truth that shows how chaotic the company’s one supposed constant could actually be. I have more respect and appreciation for Mickey as a social icon, a symbol of Americana, and a business triumph than I did before.
Whether it is good or bad, Mickey Mouse has left a mark on our society at the historic and archeological levels. It all started with a mouse, and I have no doubt that mouse will still be around long after everything he helped start fades away.
I recommend everybody reading this to take the time to watch the Disney+ documentary for yourselves.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiment of Disney Fanatic as a whole.