Epic Mickey

I was raised in a Disney household. I know from photographs and stories that I was taken on my first trip to Disney World before I could speak. I dressed up as Mickey Mouse three times for Halloween and still attempt to see all of Disney's animated films in theaters.

While the announcement of an "Epic Mickey" project initially left me confused and afraid, I quickly began to side with a particular description from the New York Times article on the transformation of Mickey Mouse:

In many ways, it is a return to Mickey at his creation. When the character made its debut in “Steamboat Willie” in 1928, he was the Bart Simpson of his time: an uninhibited rabble-rouser who got into fistfights, played tricks on his friends (pity Clarabelle Cow) and, later, was amorously aggressive with Minnie.

That is the Mickey Mouse I grew to love as a child. "Steamboat Willie" is still one of my favorite animated shorts, as well as "Plane Crazy" - where Mickey can't get Minnie to kiss her so he tosses her out of the plane, saves her life, and earns his kiss - and "Thru the Mirror" - where Mickey reeks havoc on Wonderland. One of his most iconic roles, as The Sorcerer's Apprentice, involves him directly disobeying orders and almost destroying everything by bringing mops to life with no way of stopping them.

Part of the joy of early American animation is this mischievous streak. It was safe to laugh at skeletons coming alive and dancing in a cemetery because the audience knew it wasn't real. Mickey Mouse could get away with putting his friends in harms way for a thrill or a prank because he would always save the day. He was a clown, willing to do anything for a laugh, but also your best friend, always there to lend a hand when you needed it.

If anything, the Disney corporation eventually started to sanitize Mickey Mouse in a misguided attempt to produce a family-friendly iconic figure. Mickey did everything right, laughed, smiled, and showed concern in any situation that might be a little naughty. It was boring. I can distinctly remember falling asleep during Disney's The Prince and the Pauper because there was no conflict and no character growth. Even the Smurfs and Carebears Christmas specials had some darkness.

The only mistake the Disney company is making right now is referring to this new Mickey as "Epic Mickey." The terminology feels a bit dated and is most likely misapplied in this situation. It's Classic Mickey, and that's the way I like him.