No more Mr. Nice Guy Mouse.
Far away in a secret lair (corporate park, rather), Mickey Mouse is undergoing a massive regeneration. Feared to be seen as a corporate overlord rather than an adorable, fun-loving cartoon brand, Disney has ventured into the cryo-chamber (say "Hi" to Walt for me) and begun to enliven the Mouse for a new generation of children and consumers.
The new Mickey will be slowly unveiled, first in the video game Epic Mickey for the Nintendo Wii, due out next year. As the New York Times describes it, the game will "show the character's darker side." Our new Mickey is multifaceted, and can be at times "cantankerous and cunning, as well as heroic, as he traverses a forbidding wasteland."
But executives at Disney are treading carefully, afraid to tinker with their $5 billion cash mouse. The industry agrees: "There’s a distinct risk of alienating your core consumer when you tweak a sacred character,” said Matt Britton, managing partner of brand consultancy Mr. Youth.
Not to worry: "Mickey is never going to be evil or go around killing people,” according to game developer Warren Spector.
Mickey's popularity in the United States has begun to wane. He's been crowded out of children's hearts by growing competition from Nickelodeon, Pixar and Dreamworks characters and personalities. Executives consider the rebrand of Mickey's personality necessary to remain relevant in the marketplace.
The recent success of the dark children's tale Where The Wild Things Are may provide a roadmap for Disney, proving that multiple generations can embrace a timeless tale that at times, gets a little scary, but remains good.
Do you think Disney should keep their hands off of Mickey, or does future success depend on todays intervention? Tell us in the comments.