If one was asked which is the most famous pop-art and/or cartoon figure, the answer would most likely be Mickey Mouse. The beloved rodent was created in 1928 by Ub Iwerks and -who else- Walt Disney. Despite Mickey's debut appearance as a guest star on "Plane Crazy", his first starring film was the short "Steamboat Willie", with the later being the first animation with sound. Paying tribute to the historic scene, Disney movies of our century, would put the clip with Mickey
whistling the characteristic melody while driving the steamboat on the beginning of each film for a long period of time. However, there are some facts about Mouse and his creator, Disney, that paint the cartoon’s history with darker colors. Some of those are to be presented below.
For starters, Mickey became suicidal (yes, you read that right) when Minnie started rejecting him. He tried to hang himself, drown and even shoot himself in the head. Of course, none of his attempts was successful, on the contrary being taunted by comical events, for example the gun which he tried to take his life with, turned out to be a water gun.
There is an urban legend that there is a missing black and white cartoon of Mickey Mouse that is said to be a portrayal of Mickey in Hell. The film begins with a dull scene, showing Mickey walking across a stagnant city landscape while dull piano sounds play in the background. Once the monotonous scene has continued for two minutes, the screen fades to black. In the sixth minute of the film, the background piano noise has been substituted by a piercing scream. While the scream becomes louder, the image becomes distorted, with the city landscape bending and stretching across the frame. In the front view, the face of Mickey seems to twist into a malevolent grin before disintegrating. Although the existence of this creepypasta-material-of-a-cartoon sounds ominous and (kind of) thrilling, there are just allegations.
There is also a comic strip that openly depicts Mickey being involved with drugs. In the 1950s, recreational drug use was a fairly accepted part of society - so much so that in the 1951 Mickey Mouse comic strip "Mickey Mouse and the Medicine Man", Mickey and Goofy get hooked on speed and end up dealing the drug in Africa, where they end up in a cartel war with another drug dealer who supplies a whole village with hash.
Moving on, there is the common topic when it comes to the political beliefs of Walt Disney himself, regarding him being a nazi advocate and racist. Unfortunately, most of the allegations do not seem to be false. The year 1942 saw the release of Disney's short animated film entitled 'Der Fuehrer's Face' which is said to be one of the 'darker' moments in Disney's history, as it portrays Donald Duck as a Nazi (even though he is reluctant). In the film, Donald Duck works as a soldier who deals with Nazi food rations and endures a hard job at an artillery factory. You can find it here.
There is also a vast depiction of racial stereotypes in Disney movies from the 1940s. For example, Dumbo's black crows, Fantasia's black servant centaurette, and Song of the South - a movie that is so offensive that Disney has prohibited its public circulation. Furthermore, Walt Disney was in a meeting when he allegedly referred to the Snow White dwarves as a 'nigger pile'.
Even if one supposes that Disney was not anti-semetic himself, he seemed to be willingly and even eagerly aligned himself with anti-Semites, the highlight being the invitation of the Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl to his studios in 1938, a month after Kristallnacht.
Shortly after, the Company's animators went on strike in 1941. Disparities in pay, chaotic management, and increasing tension owing to the company's escalating debt all contributed to a hostile work environment. Walt's supposed utopia fell apart under the pressures of capitalism, but he later attributed all blame to 'the commies'. Notably, Walt Disney strictly opposed communism; according to Disney historian Jim Korkis, he even accused his own employees of being communists after they unionized and began the strike. Furthermore, as the FBI documents suggest, he testified as a 'friendly witness' during a meeting of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the height of the Red Scare and identified one animator by name.
Lastly, there are the allegations that want Walt Disney to be a misogynist. Although he did hire women at his company, even if it was still uncommon in the 1930s, a letter from Disney (from 1938) survived that informed a potential coworker that “women do not do creative work”.
To conclude, it becomes obvious that the sinister parts of beloved Mickey carry the flaws of his creator. Some could say that Mouse works as Walt's mouthpiece, bringing his beliefs and character on the surface, depending on the creator's interest. Despite the black pages of the cartoon's history, being the most influential figure in the comic and animation world is an undeniable fact.
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Fantozzi, Frank Olito, J. 21 things you probably never knew about Walt Disney, Insider. Available at: https://www.insider.com/walt-disney-facts-2017-12.
Milner, S. Walt Disney is the ultimate problematic fave, Polygon. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/century-of-disney/23755495/walt-disney-problematic-fave-nazi-sympathizer-antisemitic-myths.
Dobbins, A. Fact-Checking the Age-Old Rumors of Walt Disney’s Dark Side, Vulture Available at: https://www.vulture.com/2013/12/walt-disney-anti-semitism-racism-sexism-frozen-head.html.
Disney after Dark: 6 More Disturbing Disney Secrets, Hour Loop. Available at: https://hourloop.com/blogs/news/88796161-disney-after-dark-6-more-disturbing-disney-secrets.