View Full Version : Is Mickey Mouse...black?

Enola Straight
04-02-2004, 04:37 PM

Fern Forest
04-02-2004, 05:05 PM
Well, unlike Bosko, he was always a mouse right? Seems to me a mouse is a mouse unless they were giving some strong clues that he was meant to represent some specific group of humans. I can't recall any instances of that.

Is there a reason I have a feeling I'm missing something?

04-02-2004, 05:26 PM
I've seen some old caricature drawings of black people that were kind of Mickey Mouse-ish. There's a little comic strip from the early 30's that I found in Jan Nederveen Pieterse's book White on Black, entitled "Louis Armstrong's First Lesson," in which the characters definitely have a certain Mickeyish look. They're drawn in black and white, all black except for eyes and lips so large that they meet and form a large white area on the face. I don't doubt that Mickey's look was originally influenced to some degree by those caricatures, but he's been pretty definitely a mouse since the beginning, what with the tail and the big ears on top of the head and all.

04-02-2004, 05:32 PM

He's not.

Stupidest. Question. Ever.

04-02-2004, 05:48 PM
C'mon, Euty. Certainly there are dumber things that can and have been asked. We can move from whether MM was meant to be black (which, personally, I've never seen evidence of - but I'm not a master of Disneyana) to whether he is perceived as black, or whether his character design has taken inspration from or in turn inspired black caricatures.

Captain Amazing
04-02-2004, 06:11 PM
He's black with a white face in the early cartoons, and black with a pink face in the color cartoons. So, yes, he's black, except for the face, which is either white or pink.

04-02-2004, 06:31 PM
Don't be silly. He's Jewish. (http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0679748407/qid=1080948635/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/102-5021737-6624128?v=glance&s=books&n=507846)

04-02-2004, 08:54 PM

He's not.

Stupidest. Question. Ever."Are Pygmies really human?" is the most idiotic I can remember. https://academicpursuits.us/columns/040220.html

04-02-2004, 09:42 PM


He's obviously mullatto!!

04-03-2004, 03:14 AM
No, but Daffy Duck is:


04-06-2004, 10:12 AM
Oh come on, people!

Don't you remember all the bootleg shirts in the early 1990s that turned "white" characters black and dressed them in African-style clothes? For example, Bart Simpson colored brown, with red-green-black "African" clothes on, and an AFRICA medallion on, with a slogan in the vein of "It's a Black Bart Thing, Man." There were, at the same time, "black" Mickey and Minnie shirts, with images hijacked from images of the "hip-hop clothing" Mickey & Minnie, but colored brown with clothing in red-green-black-and-gold. I believe Mickey even had a hair pick sticking out of his otherwise-smooth skull, and a Black Power fist on a necklace.

So: since we've seen a black Mickey, and he looks different from the usual Mickey, we must deduce that Mickey is not black. I can't say that he's white, or Hispanic, or Italian, or whatever, but he is not black.

04-06-2004, 10:29 AM
Back in the days of early cartooning, characters were rendered in deep dark black and white. The capability to do gray was certainly there, but you look at early Disney and messmer and others and it's not used. I don't know why -- certainly it helped the cartoons retain the same look through endless generations of duplication, so maybe that's why they did it.

Character design was kept pretty simple, too, at first. Although Winsor McKay spent a gazillion hours redrawing each damned frame with surprisingly elaborate detail in, say, "Gertie the Dinosaur", it helped, if you wanted to get the product out the door and turn a profit, to keep it simple. Mickey was pretty simple -- a few circles and a smattering of detail. His spherical body parts kept the same shape when they rotated. "Squash and stretch" could be used judiciously, and full application of it would come later.

So Mickey was doomed from the start to have a black-and-white head with very simple design. Right now mickey has a black "mask" surrounding a flesh-colored "face that has two eyes, a snout, and a mouth. But if you look at the older drawings, you'll notice that the "mask" is his face. That region that is now flesh colored (and was, of course, white in the b & w cartoons) wasn't originally his face -- it was the whites of his eyes. Where we now have full eyes with whites and pupils, the old Mickey had only pupils. That's a pretty drastic change that I don't think most people fully appreciate.

So Mickey was "black" -- meaning that he had fully black skin -- at first, and only later morphed to "white", for reasons that have everything to do with animation economics and design, and nothing to do with sociology or prejudice. In none of the old cartoons I've seen or read about does he do anything stereotypically "black". Heck, he doesn't do much that is stereotypically "rodent".

04-06-2004, 10:55 AM
Is Mickey Mouse black?

Till you hold him down and shave him. Then he's pink.

04-06-2004, 11:03 AM
If I may hijack for a brief kissing-up moment, I'd like to thank CalMeacham for the interesting and informative post. I've often enjoyed his contributions to various Cafe Society threads, but I don't think I've ever let him know that his insight and the breadth of his entertainment-related knowledge are appreciated.

04-06-2004, 11:23 AM
Stephen Jay Gould (RIP) once wrote a great article (http://monmsci.net/~kbaldwin/mickey.pdf) (republished in The Panda's Thumb) describing the evolution of Mickey. He noted that Mickey started out as a mischievous brat, but fairly quickly the mischievousness was given to the more raucous Donald Duck, and Mickey gradually became a respectable (and bland) straight man.

As he did so, his features became smoother and less adult, with a shorter snout, rounder face, and larger eyes -- Gould graphed the size of Mickey's features over time, showing a steady progression. He linked this creative process to the evolutionary process of neotony, where infant features are retained in adulthood -- humans, for example, can be thought of as neotonous apes.

This article displays Gould's gift for linking great themes to everyday events. We miss him.

On a lighter note, the last time we went to Disney World we watched the character parade, featuring rap music and a hip-hop Mickey with a high-top fade haircut and baggy pants. Nobody can be quite as lame as Disney when they are trying to be hip!

04-06-2004, 01:11 PM
If I may hijack for a brief kissing-up moment, I'd like to thank CalMeacham for the interesting and informative post. I've often enjoyed his contributions to various Cafe Society threads, but I don't think I've ever let him know that his insight and the breadth of his entertainment-related knowledge are appreciated.

Ohhh, Gawrsh! Thanks. Uh-hilk!

I'm sure I don't deserve it, but it's always nice to hear.

04-06-2004, 01:50 PM
Quoth Jurph:For example, Bart Simpson colored brown, with red-green-black "African" clothes on, and an AFRICA medallion on, with a slogan in the vein of "It's a Black Bart Thing, Man."Just for the record, the red-green-black color scheme in in broad stripes is called "kente" (pronounced "KEN tay", spelling may be off). It's originally associated with the oral tradition storytellers in some West African cultures.

04-06-2004, 02:53 PM
I think Kente is African cloth with a special weave originally associated with royalty. And it comes in many colors, each color having a special significance. Here's one cite: http://kente.midwesttradegroup.com/history.html

04-06-2004, 02:55 PM
Here's what I mean about Mickey's eyes. Scroll down to the still from Plane Crazy (the first Mickey Mouse film made, although not the first released. They still show it at the Disney theme parks):


There are a few early Mickeys on this page, but down at the bottom you can see "modern" Mickey, with the pupil replaced by a full pupil-and-white eye, anmd the original "white of the eye" now turned into pink flesh:


04-06-2004, 03:00 PM
Still yet more Mickey pix. Note, again, the huge eyes in Plane Crazy. He has eyebrows within what used to be his eyes on the modern-day Mickey costume at the bottom.

04-06-2004, 03:09 PM
Forgot the link:


04-07-2004, 08:04 AM
The article I linked to above (here's the link (http://monmsci.net/~kbaldwin/mickey.pdf) again, in case you missed it) has a graphic showing all of the different Mickeys in different decades.

04-07-2004, 09:21 AM
Brother Cadfael -- Yeah, I read the Stephen Jay Gould article when it first came out. But the picture there doesn't emphasize the fact that the "mask" was originally Mickey's entire eyes, and most of the ones I linked to do -- see especially the clips from Plane Crazy, which make this hard to miss.

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