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Don't Mess With My Mickey

Cartoon sketch of a person in an overly-large Mickey Mouse mask and exaggerated costume, with a smaller, more accurate Mickey Mouse off to the side, looking confused, with a question mark over his head. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

How could I not watch the Mickey Mouse 90th Birthday Special?

He's just a year older than me—practically brothers—saw him in his first cartoons, those original clean innocent drawings. A sweetheart. Honest, truthful, loving, kind, big heart, a little shy. Best role model a boy could have.

My pal.

How my brother and I came up with a 16mm film projector, I don't remember, but I'll never forget holding a reel of film up to the light to see the drawings, frame by frame, trying to figure out how it worked, how I could make Mickey move.

Thanks to Saturday matinees—and the tough-talking matron in white, the big boss of the raucous children's section—I saw every one of Mickey's feature films. Plus, cartoons: a Lone Ranger or Green Hornet or some other hero's episode, a sweepstakes giveaway and an intermission so we could run out to the lobby and buy some candy.

The big event of the year, for me, was always the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: a towering Mickey Mouse balloon, a spectacular, giant Mickey: the featured attraction.

So, as I was saying, with great fanfare, Mickey's 90th Birthday Special was on. I mean, I was ready to roll.

And there it was: an explosion; suddenly, stage packed with sparkly costumed dancers, music blasting, lights flashing, chorus dancing and singing their brains out, audience in their Academy Awards party-time evening clothes, none as far as I could see, old enough to even know what this whole fuss was about, cheering and applauding like crazy and after about a light year of that, plus—I couldn't believe my eyes—out skipped one of the dancers, costumed out the kazoo in a Mickey mask, Mickey clothes, actually trying to pass as Mickey Mouse in person.

I mean, nothing at all about the deafening singing and the dancing and glittering costumes having anything to do with my Mickey and on top of that, here they are trying to tell me—of all people, Mickey's brother, practically—that this cavorting twerp was the real, live, Mickey and I just jumped up, fists clenched; outraged beyond belief and shouted—really loud; I mean, I was beside myself—"What the hell is this *%$@&*!!??" and switched the thing off.

Took me quite a while to cool off, to talk myself down; they were just doing their best. I mean they're not bad people; what do they know, right? Never knew the real Mickey, right?

So off to bed and in the morning, up and about, and calm now I thought, "Look, the party was just beginning; an hour left, there must have been something about Mickey, right? Some old cartoons? History?"

And I walked over to the TV and picked up the remote and switched back on to last night's Celebration and just fast-forwarded through all that dancing and cavorting and glittery people and—suddenly: there was Mickey!

I stopped and took a breath and then at normal speed watched a parade of the wonderful Mickey Mouse cartoons I remembered, and then fast-forwarded through some more glittery stuff and then—another string of cartoons, old stuff, beautiful, exciting, through the years, old familiar faces: Minnie and Goofy and Donald Duck and scenes from Fantasia! and then zipped through another glittery piece, and that's the way I spent my morning.

Just bathing in wonder, beauty, sweetness, love, kindness: the world of my Mickey Mouse.

Rage, bad feelings, shouting at the TV, the frustration, all of it, gone.

Amazing, isn't it?

Just a touch of Mickey and all's well once again.

I mean, real magic does survive, doesn't it?

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