A century ago who would have believed a small little, rodent creature would be the icon of not just a multi-billion dollar company but also a symbol of innocence, youth, and, happiness. The icon of course is none other than Mickey Mouse, a character that has hundreds of different meanings to millions of different people. But the Mickey the public knows today is not the same cartoon mouse that audiences knew when he made his first public appearance in 1928. Rather throughout the eight decades he’s been around, Mickey Mouse has evolved and grown, just as the public has. Where Mickey was once a mischievous, abrasive, adventurer over the years he’s transformed into a cheerful, calm, educational tool. But the question lately has been whether Mickey Mouse is still a relevant figure in a fast paced, high-tech world full of video games and action films. Where exactly does the eighty-three year-old Mickey Mouse fit in with newer icons such as Super Mario and Spongebob Squarepants? Disney hopes to answer this question by rebranding the aging character to once again become an important character in the upcoming decade of the teens. By going back to the essential qualities of humor, heart, mischief, and adventure that once made up Mickey Mouse, Disney can rediscover a character that is truly timeless.
It’s important to note that Mickey Mouse wasn’t always the prize creation of Walt Disney; you see once upon a time there was a young animated creature known as Oswald The Lucky Rabbit. Oswald was a happy, upbeat fellow who often found himself in sticky situations whether it was run away vehicles, danger at war or his girlfriend getting kidnapped by a shadowy figure wearing a top hat when he’s trying to milk a robot cow. Sadly Oswald’s happiness soon came to an end when his creator Walt Disney realized despite being the man behind the character, he actually didn’t own the rights to the animated rabbit, as he was property of the distributor Universal Pictures. Upset over his contract, Disney broke his ties with Universal, which meant leaving both his staff and Oswald behind. When attempting to come up with a new cartoon character he himself would own, Walt Disney’s mind wandered back to the days he spent living in Kansas City. His studio there was frequently overrun with field mice, and he found himself particularly close with one specific mouse. When bored with work he would play with the mouse, training the rodent to remain in a small circle through the process of operant conditioning by touching its nose with a pencil whenever it began to leave. Walt then decided to make the character modeled after the mouse he grew so fond of. The basic design used for Oswald was still retained, with mostly minor changes to make the character resemble a rodent rather than a rabbit. Walt originally planned to name him Mortimer, but his wife thought the name sounded pretentious. The two compromised on the name Mickey, and with that the most famous cartoon character was born.
Contrary to popular belief, “Steamboat Willie” was not Mickey’s first appearance, but rather it was six months earlier with the short “Plane Crazy” (1928). Based after famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, the short consisted of Mickey becoming a pilot as an attempt to impress his future girlfriend Minnie Mouse. The Mickey in the short is quite possibly the furthest you could get from what he is today, as his goal throughout the cartoon is to get an unwilling Minnie to kiss him while flying the plane. After several futile attempts, he tries to get the kiss by using force on her until she has no choice but to parachute out of the plane to escape. Mickey Mouse lusting so heavily after a kiss would be deemed bad enough by today’s standards, let alone using physical force to try and get it. Now Mickey wouldn’t be caught dead doing either activity. Soon another Mickey Mouse cartoon was made titled “Gallopin’ Gaucho” (1928), but it wasn’t until “Steamboat...
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