The Walt Disney Company is about to do the unthinkable: retire Mickey Mouse.
To many, Mickey Mouse essentially IS Disney, as associated with the iconic company as any Disney Princess or Haunted Mansion. There is a reason why millions of Magic Kingdom Guests wear the Mouse ears on their dream vacations every year.
However, it seems that the House of Mouse is about to shut down its lead character today, July 28, on the 100th anniversary of the company.
Related: How Long Have Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse Been Married?
Mickey Mouse was created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, one of the great unsung masters of early animation. First conceived of as “Mortimer Mouse” (and as a replacement for the earlier Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), he made his formal debut as a character in the iconic short “Steamboat Willie.”
Not coincidentally, Steamboat Willie has a hand in the current retirement of Mickey Mouse.
Almost immediately, Mickey Mouse became an indelible part of the Walt Disney Company brand, appearing in innumerable cartoon shorts and full-length features like Fantasia (1940) and as a perennial character in Disney Parks around the world, not to mention merchandise, video games, and every product imaginable.
However, things are changing.
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Since 2020, Mickey Mouse has starred in the animated Disney+ series The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, which featured his fellow classic characters Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy Duck, and many more.
The series was a direct continuation of the Disney Channel (which may not be long for this world either) series Mickey Mouse, which was highly acclaimed for its return to classic Disney slapstick humor and won numerous Emmy and Annie Awards.
However, Disney has announced that the final episode of The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse will air today, featuring the main Mouse himself teaming up with his black and white incarnation Steamboat Willie. See a clip of it here:
Although he is the official mascot of the company and one of the most recognizable images in the world, the mouse has not appeared in a full-length Disney film since Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004).
Combined with the Disney+ series shutting down, it almost seems as though the company is working to reduce the role of its most famous character.
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There might be a good reason for that. For years, the company’s hold over the character has been covered by the Copyright Term Extension Act, which prevented certain high-profile creative works from entering the public domain as per normal United States law.
This act has also been called the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” as it allegedly was pushed into legislation by the Walt Disney Company in an effort to maintain legal control (and profitability) over its chief asset.
However, even under the Copyright Term Extension Act, Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain in 2024, unless sudden Congressional action is taken. Considering Disney is already in quite a bit of legal trouble around the country (and with a particular state governor), the company might not be able to make it happen.
As such, it really seems like Disney is finally phasing out Mickey Mouse.
Can the Walt Disney Company survive without Mickey Mouse? Let us know your thoughts below!
Nathan Kamal is a Chicago-based writer and comic, who enjoys cooking, hanging out with his cat, and seeing as many movies as possible.
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