Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mickey Mouse - Forever Young

Anyone of us Baby Boomers, whose childhood spanned between the mid 1950’s through the mid 60’s, can not help but hold dear, fond memories of the Mickey Mouse Club.

It was eighty years ago today that Mickey Mouse starred in Steamboat Willie, known as the first animated talking cartoon (created by Walt Disney who provided the squeaky voice himself) and considered a technological marvel. The iconic mouse had actually gone from its initial concept of a hard-drinking, tobacco-chewing and womanizing character to the squeaky-voiced, squeaky-clean mascot of his entire company and, some say, America.

"Never forget that it all started with a mouse," Walt Disney used to tell his employees, to illustrate the fact that the empire he had built was created in the image of the American dream. It was created out of nowhere and started small. After all, what is smaller than a mouse? But thanks to the creativity, the initiative and primarily the ambition and determination of a young architect … as Disney was 27 years old when he created the character of Mickey Mouse … it grew and developed into one of the largest and strongest empires in the history of the entertainment business, and of contemporary capitalism in general.

That said, he also became the most famous cultural export of the United States, so much so, that he unfortunately became associated with its values and global dominance, which prompted a Saudi Arabian official to call upon the extermination of all mice as they are "agents of Satan, including that famous cartoon mouse". His charisma is thought to have such a sway on young people that the Palestinian group Hamas devised its own mouse, “Farfour”, who advised children to take up armed struggle. Unlike his immortal American cousin, Farfour was eventually beaten to death by "the killers of children".

Nichola Dobson, an Edinburgh, Scotland based scholar, who is currently completing a book on animation history and is the editor of the online journal, Animation Studies, highlighted the bizarre nature of Mickey's progress from cute character to universal emblem of American capitalism:

"Because he's become so commercialized, people use him as a target to say, ‘This is what's wrong with corporate America.' But in actual fact he's just this wee mouse guy that was quite funny, and a sorcerer's apprentice."

Considered to be the leader of all the Disney characters (“the leader of the pack that’s made for you and me”), he was actually semi-retired in the early 1940s. He did however make his incredible return through the creation of the Mickey Mouse Club in the 50’s and A Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol in the 80’s.

In the recent Presidential election, if you would have tallied up all the write-in votes from any and all elections across America over these past 80 years, Mickey Mouse would have given Barack Obama a run for his money. In fact, this past November 4th, both Mickey and Jesus received the highest amount of write-in votes nationwide. If there were a runoff (who knows how Florida would have gone were the election held there), based on the folks utilizing the write-in vote in Columbus, Ohio, Mickey would have won handedly.

Take the office of tax commissioner, for example, for which incumbent Lula Huff ran unopposed. Along with Gandhi … Scooby Doo, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Judge Wapner, Pee Wee Herman, South Park’s ‘Man-Bear-Pig’, Joe The Plumber, Stephen Colbert, and Jesus … all got one write-in vote each. Mickey Mouse got seven.

“Never give up and everything is possible, especially if you are young … or young at heart!”

These are some of the All American values that Disney wanted to emphasize, to not only his employees, but to the world. He also bequeathed these values to his most famous cinematic hero, the little rodent who never gave up, always proving that anything is possible.

And even now, as we celebrate his 80th birthday, Mickey Mouse remains in our hearts and forever young.


Andy said...

The wonderful memories of youth and the belief that life has a fairy tale ending - things that dreams are made of...........

dmarks said...

I just found your blog. I read the profile bit about the River Rouge. Doesn't it reach the Detroit River at infamous Zug Island?