“Why I Paint Mickey Mouse”

By Ron English

I remember making a painting of Mickey Mouse as a young child. I didn’t think of it as a subversive act. I was just rendering a beloved character that dominated my little world. Mickey Mouse was omnipresent. Mickey was America’s mouse. Mickey was everybody’s mouse. By the time I had kids of my own Mickey Mouse was stamped on everything from plates to diapers. Without any effort of proactive will on my part my house filled with images of the mouse.
kidrobot-x-ron-english-american-depress-3At times it seemed that every available surface was brandished with Mickey the Trojan mouse. The Disney Corporation wanted to brand every square inch of our lives and had been quite successful at it. They wanted to make the mouse an American Icon, and they did. They wanted children to adore the mouse; they wanted them to have the same deep-rooted love for Mickey as they did for their parents, and they do. They wanted adults to have a healthy respect for the mouse and the corporation it stands for; a little healthy fear of the mouse was a good thing.
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They were successful; adults do tend to have a healthy fear of the mouse. “I heard someone painted Mickey on the courtyard of their children’s day school and they were sued by Disney for everything they owned!” That couldn’t be true, could it? Not Mickey. Not the beloved face of the great American Corporation, the great, benevolent, family-oriented corporation. Mom, apple pie, freedom of speech, and Mickey Mouse!The Disney Corporation wanted their characters to be beloved; to be omnipresent yet remain untouchable. At what point of proliferation does something become public domain? I look out my window and I don’t see a mountain, I see an advertisement. I am surrounded by the cartoon mascots of the corporations that rule the planet. The way I have come to terms with them is by making them my own through the process of art. I can imagine what it must have been like for early mankind gazing upon the mighty beasts that ruled their world, beasts that had lain to waste so many of their tribe, beasts that could be of such immense benefit if only they could be conquered.SplashMarilynMickeys68SplashMarilynMickeys68To begin the process of conquering the mighty beast, the earliest people drew them on the cave walls, dead. This was the job of the first artist. For me it is still the job of the artist.