Mickey Mouse is being dusted off and reshaped to fight the War of
Terrorism--the Terrorism of Complacency, the Terrorism of atrophy.
For years, Mickey's image has been on the decline, sinking into a
quagmire of disuse at the expense of his 75 years of serving as a
Sentinel of Vigilance. Can Mickey Mouse become the leader
of the Children's Children's Children battle with the Beast of Terror?
24, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 803
Mickey Mouse Reeling Under Terrorism
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Nov. 24, 2003--
One of the great Terrorists of all time is age. It
whittles away at one's youth, vitality and optimism like the
proverbial drip of water upon a stone, eating away at the granite of
what once was to remove it for what will be.
celebrated its 75th Anniversary last week
Walt Disney is facing such a battle with its
icon, Mickey Mouse. Last week, Mickey celebrated 75 years
of public life, and, according to some, may be on his last legs.
The Beast of Age Terror may have his name scribed in the "Doom Book,"
the one with burned and singed pages kept in crypt with the ashes of
Willie" was Mickey Mouse's first appearance
I'm personally not a Mickey fan myself, but I do
understand the "rise and fall of empires." In his first
appearance in the famous cartoon, "Steamboat Willie," Mickey grabbed
the hearts of both kids and adults, and, the loveable rodent went on
to inspire millions and millions to a world Walt Disney built to
recapture and retain the safety and security of a child's imagination.
In a way, Mickey Mouse was modern society's first
Sentinel of Vigilance, the first Parent of Imagination Vigilance, and
now, nearly three generations later, may well be the great great
grandfather that the children don't relate to because he's being kept
in an "old people's home," wired to life-giving fluids that keep his
weakening body from failing as a wake of modern technocracy such as
Rescue Heroes or Sponge Bobs or Transformers vie to command the 21st
Century child's imagination.
But the crew at Disney isn't laying down on the
railroad tracks and letting the Big Bad Wolf tie them up as the
chugging locomotive rounds the bend. Nope.
In great cartoon style, they're marshalling their forces in a
vainglorious attempt to bring Mickey back to the forefront.
Mickey, like patriotism or nationalism, is viewed
by some as anachronistic, antediluvian. The foundations of
what built America are being plowed down and replaced with new
ones--and not everyone is sure the retrofit will produce the same
might have evolved from Mickey
Mickey is symbolic of such a shift in our
cultural and political values. Originally, he was an
underdog, fighting for justice. Historians suggest his
super-hero counterpart, Mighty Mouse, might have evolved from Mickey's
more fun-loving character by other artists who saw Mickey as a
grandfather image of children's imagination.
Walt Disney built a giant empire on the
small mouse's big ears. In fact, the problem today,
say analysts both within and outside Disney, is that Mickey's image
has been safeguarded by legal beagles so that he could not change.
As the trademark for Disney, changes and alterations to Mickey's
appearance and character threaten the preservation of his image as a
But protecting the child from growth may
have ossified his ability to relate to the modern children.
Mickey sales have dropped to less than 40 percent of Disney's consumer
products division that racks up nearly $2.3 billion annually.
Winnie the Pooh is now ahead of Mickey in the cash department. In
1997, Mickey's sales topped 50 percent of the division's revenues.
Disney is concerned.
In 2004 a new
stamp will highlight Mickey and his friends
It's hired a
plethora of Soldiers of Mickey Mouse Vigilance to form an offensive
front geared to shine Mickey's image and keep his value gleaming in
the eyes of the children and parents.
Next year, a new stamp will highlight Mickey and
his friends. Consumers will be able to "lick their
love" of Mickey when they post letters and bills.
Last year, in a copyright battle that threatened
to put Mickey's image into the public domain because the law limits
the length of any copyright, the United States Supreme Court ruled
that Mickey's copyright could be extended to 2023. This
flew in the face of many who believe Mickey should become public
property, and that his demise in the eyes of the world is the
limitations and licenses required for his use.
Celebrity marketing is another ploy being
used to bring Mickey back to the forefront. Superstars
such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston have been caught
wearing trendy Mickey Mouse T-shirts now sold in boutiques.
In Los Angeles, murals of Mickey
cartoons are being painted on freeway walls, moving the staid image of
Mickey as a simple corporate logo into the mainstream of daily life.
It's a fascinating thrust to save the
decaying image of a mouse that created a world of magic for children
Disneyland was designed to bring out the child in all of us
Disneyland was designed to bring out
the child in all of us. When one enters the Magic Kingdom, a
sign above the archway at the entrance reminds all who visit they will
be swept back into time, to a place where the child in all is free to
run and laugh and play, where "old" is left at the gate, where
"problems" are checked and where "unhappiness," "pain" and "sorrow,"
Our family used to live in
Orange County, California, just a few miles from Anaheim where the
first Disneyland was built. It was easy to take the kids
there and enjoy the magic of a world that stripped one of reality and
thrust all into a world of fantasy and imagination unleashed.
I often thought that if
every world leader could start his or her day with a quick tour of
Disneyland, especially a journey through it's a "Small, Small World,"
that decisions made on a global basis would be more prone to benefit
the children than the adults who thrust out their chests and pounded
their shoes on tables to show their dominance over others.
Disneyland was, and ultimately
is, the United Nations of the Children's Children's Children.
It is, at its nexus, the source of Vigilance.
Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency have no chance inside the castled walls of any Disneyland.
Instead, Disney is the "warp core" of Courage, Conviction and Right
Actions that favor the Children's Children's Children.
Back in the 40's, Mickey was an
activist, not just a corporate spokesman that he has become after the
death of Walt Disney in 1967. His creator used him as an
"action figure," one that showed rather than "told" others what
"Vigilance" was all about. In one of his early cartoon
strips, Mickey saved his pal Goofy from a dogcatcher who threatened to
put Goofy in an execution chamber.
Is there much difference
between Mickey's action then and the role of U.S. troops in Iraq to
protect the children and citizens of Iraq from the tyranny and
oppression that existed in that country for nearly a quarter of the
Mickey's image starts to take on characteristics that people don't
The idea that Mickey Mouse
would risk his image to fight for the safety of children makes
corporate lawyers tremble. What if Mickey's image starts
to take on characteristics that people don't like?
What if Mickey's image on a T-shirt ends up being worn by a Terrorist?
Or, by someone who falls from grace, such as the current child-abuse
accusations against Michael Jackson?
Obviously, there are
risks in taking Mickey out of mothballs and removing him from the
staid and silenced role as a corporate icon, guarded by legions of
lawyers who want to protect the logo. The more merchandise
efforts are put into bringing Mickey to the foreground, the greater
the risk he might be caught in some cultural, social or ethnic
cross-fire by critics.
But, there is another
danger far greater than his risks of rubbing the grain the wrong way.
That is the risk of Complacency, the becoming of a nobody, a nothing
Sales certainly suggest the
atrophy of Mickey's value in the eyes of a world seeking figures to
embrace. Mickey's decline to less than 40 percent of
sales, and a drop of more than 10 percent since 1997, suggests that
Mickey is on a quick path to oblivion as an "embraceable" Sentinel of
The idea that Mickey once saved
Goofy from certain death has been long lost by the public.
Children need heroes. They need to know that people, often
taking the form of cartoon characters, will stand up for them in a
world of constant threat, constant pressure, constant demands upon
Mickey Mouse is being reshaped and
reengineered to return to his primary role as a Sentinel of
Vigilance--the kind of Sentinel a child hugs at night to protect the
child from the shadows in the closet, or the bumps in the night.
If we look at imagination from a
child's perspective, we see the underdog rising up to stand up against
the bully. We see the "weak" becoming "strong," and
reinforcing the basic values of life with joy and happiness for all.
We see Pooh
Fundamentally, we see the character
fighting the Beast of Terror, whether it be Winnie the Pooh helping one
of the characters in the "Hundred Acre Woods" feel better about
itself, or, we see Mickey saving Goofy from execution.
Mickey Mouse is more than just
a Sentinel of Vigilance, more than just one of the Justice Heroes.
He's a Father of Vigilance, and Minnie Mouse is the Mother of
Vigilance. Their family represents the Family of Vigilance--and,
Disneyland is the Home of Vigilance.
I hope that the people at
Disney think in terms of reshaping Mickey as he once was--the fighter,
the defender of those being trampled upon. He is the "mouse that
roars," but not in grandiose terms. Mickey Mouse is
subtle. He is quiet and anonymous in his actions. No
chest thumping. No magical transformations.
He rises to the occasion, as we
all do when the Beast of Terror threatens us. Or, as we all
rises to the occasion and reminds us we need to change our outlook
as Disney is changing its
I hope the Complacency that
keeps many Americans and other members of the world from standing up
for what is right in the face of wrong will be replaced with the need
for us all to change our outlook as Disney is changing its.
We all need to brush off our Mickey Mouse and polish up the Parent of
Vigilance, the Citizen of Vigilance, the Loved One of Vigilance that
Disney is doing it.
And, what's good for Disney, is
good for all the Children's Children's Children.