A Mickey Mouse Makeover?

Mickey Mouse, the iconic animated octogenarian who has long represented The Walt Disney Company, is getting a makeover. A thoroughly modern Mickey will debut next year in “Epic Mickey," a video game in which, according to the New York Times, “the formerly squeaky clean character can be cantankerous and cunning, as well as heroic, as he traverses a forbidding wasteland.” In other words, get ready for “Mad Max Mickey.”

But "Epic Mickey" is just the beginning of a long road of re-imagination. Disney execs plan to modernize Mickey’s appearance on everything from The Disney Channel to Web sites to Disney theme parks. The argument for change is that Mickey, while well-known as a corporate symbol, is not a beloved character like his aardvark, penguin, pig, and sponge colleagues on other networks. And this mouse is due.

Warren Spector, the creative director behind "Epic Mickey," told the Times, “Mickey is never going to be evil or go around killing people…[but] I wanted him to be able to be naughty. When you’re playing as Mickey, you can misbehave and even be a little selfish.”

More is at stake here than a media giant's bottom line. So many of us have shaken Mickey’s hand at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, happily worn the famous two-eared cap, and seen him on commercials and billboards with promises of a happier place. Mickey Mouse may not be the most popular creature in cartoonland, but he is a bona fide American institution. So Disney, if you must mess with the mouse, please tinker lightly.

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