Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Disney decides to mess with Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse is getting a cynical and potentially dangerous makeover from Walt Disney's successors, as they fear the iconic beloved symbol of childhood innocence is more of a corporate symbol than beloved character to a generation raised on the Disney Channel.

The New York Times reports on two parallel efforts within the Walt Disney Compamy organization to make Mickey Mouse more Miley Cyrus. The first is a new video game, Epic Mickey, "in which the formerly squeaky clean character can be cantankerous and cunning...

"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.

"Epic Mickey, designed for Nintendo’s Wii console, is set in a 'cartoon wasteland' where Disney’s forgotten and retired creations live. The chief inhabitant is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character Walt Disney created in 1927 as a precursor to Mickey but ultimately abandoned in a dispute with Universal Studios. In the game, Oswald has become bitter and envious of Mickey’s popularity. The game also features a disemboweled, robotic Donald Duck and a 'twisted, broken, dangerous' version of Disneyland’s 'It’s a Small World.' Using paint and thinner thrown from a magic paintbrush, Mickey must stop the Phantom Blot overlord, gain the trust of Oswald and save the day."

Meanwhile, Disney "has quietly embarked on an even larger project to rethink the character’s personality, from the way Mickey walks and talks to the way he appears on the Disney Channel and how children interact with him on the Web — even what his house looks like at Disney World."

Disney announced this week that after 20 years of negotiations, the Chinese government has given the okay to open a Disneyland in Shanghai. The China move is seen as another reason they're tampering with their symbol.

What next?

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