Mickey Mouse: An Ever-Growing Fad

Eloho Fidelia Akpovi

I'd like to think that I'll always have that inner child within me because of my still strong fascination with Mickey Mouse and his crew. I grew up with Mickey Mouse, not on my television but on my sippy cups, pajamas, and notebooks. Television wasn't a big part of my life while I grew up in Nigeria. It wasn't until I came to America at the age of 8 that I discovered the endless possibilities: I could watch Mickey and his friends in action every morning before going to school and all day on the weekends and holidays! There were multiple shows and movies, new songs and lessons to learn, and even more paraphernalia to encourage my craze. And my mummy did nothing to deter me. But the Mickey Mouse I grew up with is not identical to the Mickey Mouse my cousins are currently infatuated with, and certainly is not the same Mickey Mouse from when Walt Disney first brought him to life. Mickey Mouse has traveled all around the world and has assimilated and evolved to represent the contemporary era.

Making his debut in Steamboat Willie in 1928, Mickey was very musical, very bouncy " he literally does bounce as a tune is played " and energetic, and very"black and white. His eyes are beady, his feet won't stop tapping a tune, and he doesn't talk, though he makes sounds, like laughter. The music and the sound effects tell the story as Mickey and his co-stars act out the scene. The gist of Steamboat Willie is that Mickey is on Captain Peg-Leg Pete's boat which has parts, such as the whistles, that are just as animated and lively as he is. The scene opens with him pretending to be the sailor of the boat until Pete shows up and chastises him and sends him away from the wheel. Mickey blows a raspberry at Pete as a sort of comical retort but it only ends him down the stairs and onto the deck of the boat. Next, Pete pulls over to load cargo, which turns out to be a cow, onto the boat. Mickey jumps down with a lift that is supposed to fit around the cow like a belt to haul the cow onboard. The only problem is that the cow is way too skinny and almost slides out of the belt when lifted. Mickey's solution is to grab a pitch fork full of hay and stuff the cow with it to fill it up to the size of a normal cow so it can fit, and voil"! We have a cow onboard and we are set to go!

As Pete and Mickey pull off, we see Minnie Mouse, Mickey's beloved, running down the shore trying to get Mickey to wait up for her. Once Mickey spots her, he uses a pulley with a hook to grab her by her undergarments"which I found to be quite inappropriate since Mickey is a character that young children admire"and pull her onto the deck, which causes her to drop her music sheets and guitar. The cow gets hold of Minnie's music equipment, and commences to eat her sheets and then her guitar, leaving crumbs of music notes on the floor. Minnie is devastated, but her music is still playing in the cow! And so Mickey gets a brilliant idea to create a musical ensemble using the cow, now a living juke box, and the other animals on the boat. But, alas, Pete appears again to ruin the fun. He makes Mickey stop the commotion and sends him under the deck to peel a large pile of potatoes. But it doesn't kill our hero's spirit because the scene closes with Mickey cackling to himself after knocking a parrot into the water with a potato. That's what the parrot gets for laughing so much!

That is the Mickey Mouse Walt Disney brought to us originally. Even with no words spoken by the characters in this animated short, there is so much to witness from the actions of the characters. The musical creativity, the lively motion, and the determined ability to be boisterous " that was the original image of Mickey Mouse. Today, he has been tweaked and fine-tuned, and I bet the people at Disney Studios probably think that Walt would be proud of the development of his creation, and I would not disagree. But even with some slight animation changes, Mickey still stays true to the image he was created as: a fun-loving, joy-bringing, happy-go-lucky peace-keeper and good friend.

Mickey started out as a very round and circular mouse because, according to the Time Magazine article "A Brief History of Mickey Mouse," "earlier animators had drawn the mouse as a series of circles, which limited his movement," which explains the bouncy nature of the older Mickey. He couldn't do the crazy and exciting moves that one might expect while a song played so he bounced up and down instead. He had no pupils and no definitive eyes, just two big oval dots above his nose. His body overall has become much more defined, color has been added, different outfits have been added, including shoes, to represent the character he is portraying at a given moment, and a voice was given to Mickey to enhance his already dazzling character. Instead of a purely circular body, he is now more pear-shaped. Mickey now also wears white gloves, given to him by animator Fred Moore, and a shorter nose. What has yet to change, however, are his big, round ears. They are unforgettable, unique, and a signature of Mickey Mouse.

Mickey and his friends today are entertainment for children, usually under the age of five or six, depending on the specific show or movie. The computer animated Mickey in The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Playhouse Disney Channel is centered on the learning development of young children of the pre-kindergarten age. It teaches them lessons about friendships and making decisions as well as about shapes and sizes and about counting from one to ten. It is a good learning tool even for infants as they grow and it also introduces them to Mickey and the crew before they are old enough to appreciate the masterpiece that is Mickey Mouse.

Disney's House of Mouse, however, is a show that most age groups can watch, as long as the fact that it is a cartoon doesn't bother you. I am a personal fan of House of Mouse and was devastated when new episodes stopped being produced and I was forced to watch rerun after rerun after rerun. Disney's House of Mouse was like a comedy night/talent show with all the different Walt Disney cartoons as the audience and the performers. After every act on stage, a Disney short would be played on the screen for the audience in House of Mouse. Mickey was the host and everyone loved him " everyone that is, except the usual enemies from the various Disney movies and shows, like Ursula from The Little Mermaid and Queen and Magic Mirror from Snow White. His friends assisted with the set, with the cooking and with problems backstage with the show's flow whenever Mickey was tied up with something, and with creating dialogue between the characters. People that enjoyed Mickey Mouse Works might enjoy House of Mouse as much as I did because it always presented a short scene from that show at various points during the House of Mouse show. It's kind of confusing because it's a show within a show, within a show;but it's worth it to watch at least one episode on YouTube. Throughout the course of one episode of "House of Mouse," we also get to see our favorite characters like Timon and Bumbaa, Ariel, Pinocchio, Hercules, Cinderella, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and many more as Mickey and his friends walk through the audience and interact with them during different segments of the show. It was almost as if I was able to reminisce on my favorite Disney shows every time I watched Disney's House of Mouse.

Mickey Mouse, thanks to Walt Disney, is an icon recognized and loved by children and adults all over the world. I have yet to meet anyone that does not agree with me. The fact alone that Mickey is the mascot of a company worth more than $47 billion (in 2003, so imagine eight years later), according to the BBC article "Mickey Mouse Business," should demonstrate that there are people out there willing to invest in having Mickey Mouse in their lives. And I am one of them. The sticker on my laptop should say a lot about my infatuation with a scene of an older Mickey, whistling while he walks. The article also states that "Mickey already accounts for up to 20% of the value of Disney consumer products," not to mention film and television. Since his first official reception in 1928 until now, 83 years later Mickey has held the hearts of the American people, and even people in other countries. I hope that he will also continue to do so because he has become an essential part of American culture.

Works Cited

Behr, Rafael. "Mickey Mouse Business." BBC News. 18 Nov. 2003. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3280709.stm.

Disney, Walt E. Disney's House of Mouse. ABC/Toon Disney. Burbank, CA, 2001-2003. Television.

Disney's House of Mouse. ABC/Toon Disney. Walt Disney Productions, 2001. Youtube. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXuVXJS1N7A.

Suddath, Claire. "A Brief History of Mickey Mouse." Time 18 Nov. 2008. www.time.com. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1859935,00.html.

Walt Disney Animations Steamboat Willie. Dir. Walt E. Disney. Walt Disney Productions, 1928. Youtube. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBgghnQF6E4.