Disney has had a complicated relationship with racism and stereotypes in its history. Fans of Walt Disney World and Disneyland found themselves at odds over the retheming choices surrounding the popular Splash Mountain ride. However, the most notable Disney representative, Mickey Mouse, has never found himself in question until now.
A Brief History of Mickey Mouse
Originally thought to be named Mortimer Mouse, Mickey, created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, made his first appearance on November 18, 1928, in the short film Steamboat Willie. This iconic character quickly became synonymous with The Walt Disney Company and is now recognized as one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the entertainment industry.
Mickey Mouse went on to star in numerous shorts and feature films, captivating audiences with his charm, humor, and adventurous spirit. He became the face of Disney Animation and played a pivotal role in the success of the company.
Over the years, Mickey evolved from his early mischievous and adventurous persona to a more wholesome and lovable character. He was joined by a cast of memorable companions, including his sweetheart Minnie Mouse, best friends Donald Duck and Goofy, and beloved dog Pluto.
Mickey Mouse’s popularity extended beyond the silver screen. He has appeared in comic strips, merchandise, and even had his own television shows, such as “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”
In 1978, the world’s favorite rodent became the first cartoon character to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, solidifying his status as a cultural icon. He continues to be a beloved character known for spreading joy and laughter to audiences of all ages.
Throughout his illustrious history, Mickey Mouse has remained a symbol of creativity, imagination, and the magic of Disney. His timeless appeal and enduring popularity have made him a true legend in the world of entertainment.
Mickey Mouse is so popular for several reasons. Firstly, Mickey Mouse is an iconic character created by Walt Disney himself, making him a well-known and beloved figure in popular culture.
Secondly, Mickey Mouse represents joy, innocence, and imagination, appealing to both children and adults alike. His cheerful personality and optimistic attitude make him a relatable and endearing character.
Additionally, Mickey Mouse has appeared in numerous cartoons, movies, and TV shows, allowing him to reach a wide audience and become deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness.
Furthermore, The Walt Disney Company has successfully marketed their main man through merchandise, theme parks, and various forms of media, further solidifying his popularity. Overall, the combination of Mickey Mouse’s iconic status, relatability, and continuous presence in entertainment has contributed to his enduring popularity.
We All Love Mickey Mouse
When we think of Disney World or Disneyland, Mickey, whose original concept entered the public domain in January 2024, is the foremost image in our minds, as he transcends culture, language, and sometimes even hard-to-break barriers to love, creativity, and nostalgia.
It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging out in a Disney Park, watching Disney+, or Disney Junior; Mickey is everywhere, and for good reason. He’s one of the most recognizable figures in history. To most, the big cheese represents a form of innocence that we’ve all lost at some point for different reasons.
Disney and Mickey Have Been Problematic in the Past
Disney, as a renowned entertainment company, has undeniably made a significant impact on popular culture through its iconic characters, including Mickey Mouse. However, it is crucial to acknowledge and address Disney’s problematic history when it comes to racial representation.
During the early years of Disney, racial stereotypes were unfortunately prevalent in their animations. Characters like Mickey Mouse were not exempt from these portrayals. In several shorts, racial caricatures were used, perpetuating negative stereotypes and reinforcing harmful biases. Examples include the character “Sunflower” in Fantasia (1940) and the depiction of indigenous people in Pocahontas (1995).
Another aspect of Disney’s racist history is the lack of diversity in their characters during earlier periods. Many of the classic Mickey Mouse cartoons and films featured predominantly white characters, leaving little room for representation and inclusivity. This lack of diversity had a significant impact on the perception of Mickey Mouse as a character that caters primarily to one demographic.
Disney’s history is also marked by instances of cultural appropriation, and Mickey Mouse has not been immune to these controversies. Through the portrayal of various cultures, Disney often simplified, stereotyped, and commodified them for entertainment purposes. This approach perpetuated cultural misunderstandings and did not provide authentic representations.
It is important to acknowledge that Disney has made efforts to address and rectify its racist history over time. Recognizing the need for change, Disney has taken steps towards inclusivity and diverse representation. In recent years, Mickey Mouse has been featured in inclusive storytelling, embracing characters from different backgrounds and cultures.
While Disney’s mascot remains a beloved character, it is essential to critically examine Disney’s racist past and its impact on the perception of this iconic figure. By acknowledging the company’s problematic history, we can engage in meaningful discussions about representation, inclusivity, and the responsibility of content creators. Disney’s ongoing efforts towards diversity and inclusivity serve as a positive step towards a more inclusive and respectful future for Disney’s mascot and all its characters.
However, what happens when confusion about current strifes to end racism crosses with Mickey Mouse? Well, that’s exactly what happened as one Reddit user posted an image of a vintage Mickey Mouse porcelain statue that certainly raised a few eyebrows.
In the post, user u/Thee-lorax posted a picture requesting help from fellow Disney fans. The image shows a Mickey Mouse figurine that the original poster claims is from the 50’s or 60’s. However, the image quickly became problematic for other Reddit users once they realized that Mickey was potentially in “blackface.”
For those that aren’t aware, “blackface” is a term utilized for the ignorant practice of painting one’s face a different color to represent someone of different ethnic background. Although that doesn’t necessarily seem like a problem, a quick look at the use of “blackface” in popular media easily identifies the practice as racist, empowering harmful stereotypes.
Although some users were quick to point out that Mickey Mouse most certainly was not wearing “blackface,”instead the figure had been painted over at some point and time, this isn’t the first time Mickey has come under fire for racist behavior.
Despite their apologetic stance nowadays, in 1933, Walt Disney Productions produced a short animated film entitled Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, which sadly included the beloved mouse, along with other famous characters, wearing “blackface.”
Although this Reddit post wasn’t an intentional racist display, some users loudly voiced their displeasure, not understanding that the figure wasn’t made all black, but had instead been painted at some point and time.
Thankfully, Mickey and Minnie Mouse have changed tremendously over the decades, as has the world and The Walt Disney Company. Still, as Disney does its best to utilize its sketchy past as a teachable product while making strives for betterment, they still find themselves at odds with some who feel as if the company is simply pandering. These voices have been the loudest over the Splash Mountain retheme.
Disney’s checkered past is a reflection of the changing times, and although Disney is doing their part in creating a better tomorrow, there certainly is more work to be done in the fight for equality amongst different races. Although this most recent incident was easily explainable, other popular presentations by Disney, such as Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, remain a black eye.