Mickey Turns Urban

Mickey Mouse

Disney is allowing a group of contemporary artists to turn Mickey Mouse ‘street’ through a new program called Bloc 28. The artwork displayed so far on the project’s site is, for the most part, vapid and uninteresting. There’s no real observation about the character of Mickey in any of these pieces, just a little paint splatter and rough edges to make it ‘urban’ enough for people with too much money to pretend that they’re buying art. I’m all for reinterpreting classic cartoon icons in subversive ways, but reinterpreting cartoons with the full sanction of a corporation defeats the purpose. Air Pirates these guys clearly aren’t.


  • Chuck R.

    “…reinterpreting cartoons with the full sanction of a corporation defeats the purpose.”

    Amid, in one short sentence, you’ve described the underpinnings of the entire Golden Age of cartoon animation and dissed it. Kudos.

    “There’s no real observation about the character of Mickey in any of these pieces”

    ???????? ! Suddenly style takes a back seat to character on the Brew. Where was this insight when you were reviewing “Bolt” months before it came out?

    “I’m all for reinterpreting classic cartoon icons in subversive ways”

    Sounds like you hold the style guide to the world of pop art, and woe to anyone who doesn’t follow it.
    Artists should be free to be unsubversive if that’s their artistic bearing, and they should be allowed to go on larks. I agree that the scope of this program lacks originality (just as every negative interpretation of cartoon icons is utterly hackneyed) But at least some of the redesigns of Mickey are interesting and if it appeals to certain collectors, so be it.

  • http://www.silent-k.net Eric Knisley

    We did a good MM parody back a few years: Mickey Death and the Winds of Impotence. Enjoy:

    http://www.comicspace.com/eric_knisley/comics.php?action=gallery&comic_id=1733

    –ek

  • http://www.flipanimation.net Steve Moore

    Here’s a comic by Dan O’Neill, where Mickey explains the Air Pirates court case. http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org/2005/08/the_pirates_and.html

  • Paul N

    No more vapid and uninteresting than the splatter art from a month or so ago…

  • http://www.colpetteriabuona.blogspot.com Fabio Tonetto

    i’m totally agree with you.They can’t pretend to find out the real disney’s evil soul doing cool and fashion street art.It looks most an obstruct to create something of new for the real “artist” whose are seekers of the real disney’s bad side.like air pirates.I bought a book about them few years ago,and their history is increndible,truly subversive.

  • http://www.mynameispj.com PJ

    I think the art’s pretty interesting and fun–as long as their goal was not to reinterpret or comment on the character in any way. Because they’re not doing that.

    But just judging the art on its aesthetic quality, I rather enjoy it. And I like that they auctioned it off for charity.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    This has been happening for quite a while. I first saw the stuff at the store “Disney Vault 28″ at Downtown Disney in Anaheim.

    http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/moreMagic/downtownDisney/shopping/detail?name=DisneyVault28ShoppingPage

    From the outside, the store looked like any regular Hot Topic, but more “Hot Topicy”.

  • http://www.jessica-plummer.com Jessica Plummer

    It’s usually the art that people don’t have “official” permission to make of characters that is the most fun anyways.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    There’s no real observation about the character of Mickey in any of these pieces,
    As John K once observed, Mickey doesn’t even have a character.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/elastic_spam Jenny

    I sorta agree with Chuck R on his second and third points,but I’m confused by this sentence:

    “Amid, in one short sentence, you’ve described the underpinnings of the entire Golden Age of cartoon animation and dissed it. Kudos.”

  • http://cartoonresearch.com/gerstein David Gerstein

    Tim: In the comics Mickey’s got plenty of character—or rather, he never lost it. A determined, adventurous little squirt with chutzpah on call, like in this story from 1932…

    http://www.cartoonresearch.com/gerstein/die-fighting.jpg

    …and this story from just two years ago:

    http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/10480000/10481000.jpg

    We’ve still got the modern one on sale in case John K. is buying:

    http://www.amazon.com/Mickey-Mouse-Adventures/dp/1888472103/

  • Chuck R.

    Jenny, I may have been hyperbolizing a bit, but take Bugs Bunny as an example:
    Every artist who ever handled Bugs had a different take on him, from Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, to Freleng and Jones. All of them were “sanctioned” by WB, and none of them were meant to be subversive (although many pushed the limits of what a corporate exec might call “good taste”) The Golden Age is rife with examples: Popeye, Superman, Mickey Mouse, Horton the Elephant, etc.

    Obviously, some characters changed directorial hands more than others, but my bigger point is, being “subversive” doesn’t make it art, and having the blessing of the copyright holder, doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at.

  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    There has been “urbanized” merchandise of Mickey and other classic characters (without the owners’ permission) for years.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/elastic_spam Jenny

    Ahhh thank you for the explanation,Chuck. And even if Mickey’ didn’t totally have personality before, the artists certainly gave him one.

  • PorkyMills

    I like the art. If the exact illustration had been a sketch by Walt Disney without the ink splatter it would have received praised to the high heavens. You people are too jaded…

  • Gillian

    I agree with Tim Drage.

    Mickey hasn’t had a personality in a long time. His image as a corporate icon had left him squeaky clean and completely uninteresting. I appreciate seeing different versions of him expressed by artists.

    Amid, I know this is an informal blog, but the non-objective nature of your posts is feels unprofessional. If anyone wants to disagree with me, go for it.

  • http://Mr.FunsBlog Floyd Norman

    I agree with David Gerstein. Mickey Mouse is not lacking in character. Since I wrote Mickey both in comics and the daily strip, I feel qualified to make that statement.

    This is one tough, feisty little guy. He was Indiana Jones before Harrison Ford.

  • http://themovierats.com Ian V.

    I agree with everything Chuck R. said, but I want to add something too: There is a difference between reinterpreting something and a parody of something. The Air Pirates were drawing Mickey Mouse perfectly on model doing out-of-character things in a comic aimed at adults, while these people are just drawing Mickey in their own “urban” art styles.

    (And to David Gerstein: those comics are great!I wish Mickey would be like that more in the cartoons)

  • Cole

    Gillian I totally agree with you re: Amid’s posting style. It’s not just that they’re non-objective but that they are frequently negative.

  • Skip

    Why can’t you just post up the link and let people judge for themselves?

    I understand it is your blog and all, but a lot of your writing is simply just too critical. I know some of the artists featured in the Bloc 28 show personally and they are some of the best in the world. The sheer fact that you labeled them as “urban” shows how little you actually know about art beyond animation.

    Look at Rime’s piece for example:

    http://www.bloc28.com/artists/artist_rime.html

    Not only is he a talented artist but he cites classic animation as his biggest stylistic influence.

    Now would you call his piece vapid? Really?

  • Shawn Jackson

    I totally disagree with this post!

    “just a little paint splatter and rough edges to make it ‘urban’ enough for people with too much money to pretend that they’re buying art.”

    Take another look at some of the work.

    I happen to enjoy the urban Mickey art movement, or whatever you wish to call it. I have managed to acquire some of the art and the clothing, and I definitely don’t fall under one who has “too much money to pretend that they’re buying art.” Quite the opposite.

    Go into Vault 28 at Downtown Disney and you may be surprised by some of the takes on classic Disney characters. It’s not for soccer moms, sure, but I see the shirts and caps all over LA.

    Maybe it’s just a Socal thing? Regardless, it’s fun, harmless, and, you know, kinda cool. :)

  • http:www.warrenleonhardt.com warren

    I agree with David Gerstein. Mickey Mouse is not lacking in character. Since I wrote Mickey both in comics and the daily strip, I feel qualified to make that statement.This is one tough, feisty little guy. He was Indiana Jones before Harrison Ford.

    Totally, OT – but I really wish they’d tap those comics for cartoons. My niece (she’s 8) thinks Mickey is like Hello Kitty, but not as cute – just a drawing on a bag or a shoe to her.

  • http://daryl-rhystaylor.blogspot.com Daryl T

    Thank you Floyd Norman, you just stated what I have been trying to tell people for years. And yes, I do wish they would tap inot that Mickey a lot more than they do. I felt the closest thing I got to that was “Runaway Brain”.

  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    Sorta off-topic, but is this thing with Mickey’s personality why Carl Barks signed off animation in 1942? Because more potential to expand Donald’s personality was found in comic books than in the cartoons?

  • http://www.cannedgeek.com/ Kyle

    I agree with where you’re coming from, but I’d argue you’re being a bit too harsh on the art. Taken purely from an aesthetic perpective alone, these images of Mickey look just fine.

  • http://lindsaybrothers.blogspot.com/ Tristan Lindsay

    Disney has been at a loss about what to do with Mickey ever since Fun and Fancy Free wrapped.