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Why Redesign Mickey Mouse?
Bob Iger is not a CEO that's afraid to make big decisions, and in fairness, most of the decisions he's made since taking over the good ship Disney in 2005 have proved to be sound. He has brought more order, trust and respect where there was chaos, and may well have saved the company in the process. However, he could be about to make one of his biggest decisions, and this one will not be so easy to make people believe in. He really does want to redesign Mickey Mouse.
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Corporate Logo Mickey
Iger claims that over the years Mickey has become less like Walt's original creation and more of an entertainer, host and corporate symbol -- no one who's visited Disney World would dispute this. But, isn't redesigning this little mouse that we all know and love (with no thought of what Minnie Mouse might think, I should add), treating him even more like a corporate symbol? Corporate logos and symbols are redesigned all the time, and while I might frown a little if Coca-Cola or Nike changed their logos it wouldn't make me sad.
Furthermore, isn't this the same Bob Iger that has complained of the baggage of tradition? "If you’re too adherent to tradition, you tend to be less innovative." Well, I think you've rather disproved your own point there Mr. Iger, by declaring that this Mickey redesign is to go back to his traditional roots -- less innovative indeed.
He also claims that Walt Disney changed things and "innovated constantly." He absolutely did, but he moved them on, he didn't hark back to the past.
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Who Cares - Hasn't This Happened Before?
In 2009, Mickey Mouse was given a redesign for the console game Epic Mickey. The idea then was to move away from the cheery little, squeaky-clean mouse we've come to know and love on the Disney Junior channel, and bring out the cheeky and mischievous side of his character -- perfect for a game. This version of Mickey was called Mickey 3.0, and perhaps the success of this game is affecting Iger's judgment. Although it was a Disney game, it really wasn't aimed at kids (certainly not those Disney Juniors), so giving Mickey a more adult, almost dark look, was used to help improve the appeal to gamers.
I genuinely think that the problem with redesigning Mickey is that Iger is thinking of the wrong market. On a daily basis, those that love Mickey Mouse are indeed those preschoolers who watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It would seem really odd that Mickey would suddenly become the cheeky one and start fooling around, in a show that he runs and does so in a way to educate children. Acting goofy (no pun intended), would start to become annoying and would certainly take away the gentle learning aspect of the show. So is he thinking of getting rid of the show -- the one current place that Mickey can be viewed every day?
Even if Mickey and his chums came back in a different show, I think it'd be hard to convince kids of a brand-new Mickey -- kids aren't stupid, they notice stuff! Where then, lies the future generation of Disney lovers that will want to visit the Disney store, buy the merchandise and one day take their kids to Disney World? I'm not sure this big idea has been given a whole lot of thought.
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Why Bother? If It Aint Broke...
If there's a decrease in the popularity of Mickey Mouse then I am as yet to notice it, which leads me to scratch my head a little over the motive for changing Mickey in the first place. Is Bob Iger just out to make even more of a name for himself by making this change, or does he see a genuine need for doing it?
I see little point in change for change sake. Sure kids like the cheeky appeal of the Monsters Inc gang, the Toy Story characters and Phineas and Ferb, but they also love the gentle approach of Oso, Handy Manny, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. None of the main characters in these shows are cheeky or fool around, and kids adore them.
After all, Mickey might be seen as a bit bland to some, but the millions that tune in to watch his Clubhouse every day don't seem to mind. Mickey is never really alone, like he was in those early cartoons, where he was the only one that could be cheeky. Nowadays he always has his gang around him, and they each bring their own qualities. If they were all acting cheeky and fooling around then it would be a show like any another, rather than a show that parents let their kids watch for both entertainment and education.
I told my five-year-old daughter that they might be changing Mickey Mouse and her response was, "Why?" Why, indeed.
What do you think? Is it about time Mickey was given a marvelous mousey makeover, or is he just fine as he is? Should we try to go back to the way he was, or maybe make him over further to be a thoroughly modern mouse with trendy kicks and an iPhone?
- Mickey Mouse to Get a Makeover, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/mickey-mouse-to-get-a-makeover-1816369.html
- Image of Fantasia Mickey property of author.
- Box and screenshot of Epic Mickey courtesy of Amazon.com