MENDOCINO FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! I don’t mind saying it. I’ve been a fan of Disney for as long as I can remember. The first movie I saw was Mary Poppins. I’ve been to Disneyland way too many times. Jeff Malmberg’s tribute documentary Mickey: The Story of a Mouse reminds us that it all started with a Mouse, and by “it,” I mean everything.
Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is the story and history of Mickey Mouse since his inception in 1928 and before he became a corporate icon. Walt Disney created him when Universal stole his prior creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. With Mickey firmly in his pocket, Walt built an entire animation studio around Mickey Mouse and revolutionized film, starting with the first sound-synched film Steamboat Willy.
If you’re planning to do a term paper or report on Mickey, Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is about as comprehensive a story as you can get. As Mickey evolved, he became too good and virtuous in the eyes of the public. So much so that Goofy and Donald Duck were created to enough mischief to tell a compelling Mickey Mouse story.
Mickey’s history runs parallel with veteran Disney animator Eric Goldbert, pulling out the old pencil to create a brand-new Mickey Mouse cartoon for this documentary. Dozens of animators would feverishly pull together a Mickey Mouse short or feature in the old days. Still, here it’s, a small crew reviving the medium of hand-drawn animation—now sadly on life-support.
“…the story and history of Mickey Mouse since his inception in 1928 and before he became a corporate icon.”
Malmberg’s documentary then explores the global impact of Mickey Mouse. Mickey was loved everywhere, even by Hitler and Mussolini…just before Mickey’s appearance supporting the war effort in WWII through a collection of U.S. War Propaganda short…and yes, it was war propaganda. Mickey even served as an image of hope during the Holocaust.
As you’d imagine, Malmberg highlights the corporatization of Mickey Mouse as an icon in merchandising, art, and shilling for the mega-corporation, The Walt Disney Company. While basking in a heavy haze of nostalgia, I couldn’t help but wonder what the Walt Disney Company did to Walt, the man? Did they put him back under ice? Some might question the current direction of the Walt Disney Company and its recently acquired intellectual property.
Walt’s DNA is indelibly ingrained in optimistic Mickey Mouse, and you see it in that small group of animators trying to hold Walt’s memory and legacy tightly through their short film. But where is that spirit of creativity now?
The most often asked question at Film Threat seems to be, “Is it woke?” There’s undoubtedly an element of it and handled better than most other Disney projects. For example, early in the pre-Snow White days, Mickey Mouse engaged in questionable behavior toward Minnie Mouse. Some, shall we say, #MeToo moments. I believe you can see some of this behavior at the Main Street Theater at Disneyland. However, it’s handled in a way that doesn’t hide or justify his actions as a product of its time, but at the same time, refuses to cancel Mickey for his youthful indiscretions outright.
If you are a fan of Mickey Mouse at any level, you will fall in love with the Mouse again in Mickey: The Story of a Mouse. It’s a fitting tribute to Walt and Mickey and makes you long for a time when storytelling was someone just telling a story.