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March 14th, 2017 Cat: Bisnis Online

Mickey Mouse has emblazoned every object we recognize, from pencils and diapers to Alaska Airlines jets, for as long as anyone can remember. The Mickey Mouse image practically holds Walt Disney afloat with about $5 billion in merchandise sales every year. And that is not counting what unauthorized bootlegged products trade for. Everyone knows what happens when you try to release a new and improved classic, the way Coca-Cola did with its beverages; understandably, Disney doesn’t really want to monkey with the mouse in the least bit. But jealous corporate guarding and sheltering isn’t that great for Mickey’s image as a friendly and amiable playmate. To children for the last 15 years, Mickey Mouse seems more the mascot of a billion-dollar corporation than a friendly soft rodent that toes the dust when it sees Minnie. And so, Disney is beginning to go a little light on its guardedness as it tries to reinvent Mickey Mouse to turn it into the live and evolving character it was when it first captured the hearts of generations of children starting more than a half-century ago.

And the first tentative shot in the dark that Disney will be taking with Mickey mouse is a video game – called Epic Mickey. Mickey Mouse was always innocent – grown-up but childlike. In this game though, Mickey Mouse will be not frolicking about a picturesque forest playing with Pluto; you’ll see him in an adventure game, being heroic, but also a bit bad-tempered, cunning and angry as he trudges through a threatening landscape. But this is only just the beginning, a gentle introduction to experimental Mickey, as it were. Everything about Mickey Mouse begs such a change.

The whole Mickey Mouse personality, the squeaky voice, the shy sidling walk, the wardrobe, and general attitude of the cartoon superstar, is up for reinvention. Disney is experimenting with the holiest of the holy – for its continued relevance and for children around the world who love it; an icon of this age that could live on as a symbol of our times. Disney is approaching reinventing Mickey Mouse with the kind of seriousness NASA approaches a new space shuttle design with. Epic Mickey is the first step in that direction. Today’s technology-embracing, 3-D animation-loving, Shrek-fan children need to be able to embrace Mickey Mouse the way their grandfathers did 60 years ago. This videogame will begin to test the waters in this pursuit.

Keeping a classic recipe like Coca-Cola set in stone will always work; keeping a character that is supposed to be alive set in stone that way can only backfire, and make people think of it as no longer alive. Children around the world still love Mickey Mouse as much as they ever did; American children though, are beginning to look elsewhere. Sales of Mickey Mouse merchandise in recent years have declined markedly. Perhaps that is the reason Disney has made bold to take the risk. And perhaps it won’t be that much of a risk. The Mickey Mouse of the 1920s, from Steamboat Willie, was a real brat of his times. He wasn’t shy and whistling away bashfully near Minnie. He was a Tom Sawyer of his time. Perhaps that is where he will have to return again to find relevancy today.

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