Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?
Mickey Mouse is 94 years old. Can you believe that? The lifespan of the iconic character is examined in the new documentary on Disney + called Mickey: The Story of a Mouse.
From his humble beginning, springing out of the mind of Walt Disney in response to losing the character of Oswald the Rabbit, Mickey Mouse has taken on a ton of roles over the decades from troublemaking scamp to international corporate icon and many of those faces of the Mouse are seen in the new documentary.
The documentary was focused around the 2022 Mickey Mouse short, “Mickey in a Minute” and the creation of that by three legendary animators, Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn, and Randy Haycock.
While this debuted on Disney +, the entire history of Mickey Mouse is investigated, which included some of the darker moments in the history of the Mouse. Admittedly, these moments are not gone into in great detail or depth, but just the fact that they are included is impressive to me. They have sections of the documentary talking about Mickey’s use in the World War II war efforts, the, at times, racist depictions in some shorts (The shocking image of Mickey in blackface stuck with me for a while), how Mickey’s image was used by the 1960s counter-culture movement and the Milton Glaser’s unsanctioned short film “Mickey Mouse in Vietnam.”
They even went as far as to address the image of Disney as a copyright overlord and how they carefully protected the image of Mickey Mouse from being used in non-Disney related place. Yes, again, something like this could fill up its own doc, but the fact that any of this is included in what could have been considered a commercial on Disney + is impressive.
Interviews with talking heads, including former Disney CEO Bob Iger, talked about how Mickey had become perceived as nothing more than a corporate figurehead over the years and how there were some efforts at Disney to rejuvenate the image of Mickey.
One of the most fascinating parts of the documentary for me was watching the three main animators hand drawing the images that would go into the new Mickey short. Watching them flip through different pages while making sure that the pictures aligned was amazing to watch. The true artistic skill involved in this type of animation has not been appreciated as much these days with so much of animation coming from computer generation, but these shots truly stood out of the film.
What shines through in the documentary is how the character of Mickey Mouse is beloved the world around and how he can be used as a symbol of hope. Some of the most affecting scenes were the one from Disneyland where little children would run up to the mascot-version of Mickey and give him a big hug.
Mickey: The Story of a Mouse gives a fairly balanced view on the EYG Hall of Fame character when it did not have to and that should be respected.