Nearly a century ago, Mickey Mouse made his debut appearance in Disney’s Steamboat Willie. Ninety years later, the beloved icon remains an integral figure in pop-culture. Walt Disney’s mascot has grown into a brand of his own. As a graphic designer with a passion for marketing, I enjoy studying the evolution of Mickey’s illustration style the way a company’s logo transforms to maintain relevance. Whether black and white or chromatic, open eyes or solid eyes, Mickey’s identity is recognized.
America’s favorite mouse can be commonly found in contemporary artwork. I have also received creative inspiration from Mickey’s iconic status. Walt Disney’s most famous character has served as my muse since my early days of digitally drawing with Microsoft Paint on the cusp of the millennium. Imagery of my more recent Sticky Mouse collection satirizes the condescension directed toward youth. People are often ignorant of the work ethic, involvement, and talent behind the entertainment industry’s young ambassadors. The adoption of Mickey Mouse, a symbol for juvenile innocence and child stardom, reflects the negative connotations of “bubble gum” pop-culture.
In addition to art, Mickey has taken over countless branding campaigns as well. Many retail stores and food products jumped on the 90th anniversary bandwagon… or should I say, “brand-wagon?” Even the media shone a spotlight on 2018’s most important birthday. As a branding enthusiast, I celebrated Mickey’s milestone by purchasing some of the festive goods.
I enjoyed exploring the history of Mickey both as a cultural icon and marketing machine at the True Original exhibition. The pop-up museum featured fine art, memorabilia, and environmental photo-ops replicating the realm of Disney. It also offered the opportunity to steer Steamboat Willy, immerse in the magic of Fantasia along with apprentice Mickey’s anthropomorphic mops, and party at a retro diner rendition of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Curators presented both classic and reimagined interpretations of America’s favorite mouse while acknowledging his evolution through 90 years. Although he is a fictional character, studying the prolific impact Mickey has had blew my mind.
Happy birthday, Mickey! I hope I look as good as you when I turn 90.