Disney To Rebrand Mickey Mouse

Posted by Stephanie Startz on November 5, 2009 05:56 PM

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.

Comments

Lance Winslow United States says:

Hey, I wonder if Mickey will soon get a Chinese Girlfriend Miney Mouse, since Disney has won Chinese approval for a theme park, I believe outside of Shanghai?

November 6, 2009 04:56 AM #

Nic Jones United Kingdom says:

In the UK and EU Mickey is seen differently
He isn't so sacred and I think this will do the brand image a lot of good.
And yes, the Far East, in my opinion, will love it

November 6, 2009 05:08 AM #

miro Canada says:

if they drift from the core essence of Mickey (which I see is largely as a guide in life teachings to the young at heart) then it will be a sad day and any commercial success will be short lived.
cheers
Miro

November 6, 2009 05:31 AM #

Nic Jones United Kingdom says:

If you ask "what is the core essence of Mickey" to people around the World, you will get different answers, which is the problem Disney face. A good example is his voice, which generally is liked in Nth America, but which is considered "childish" on this side of the pond and this restricts the brand.

By doing this Disney have an opportunity to keep the parts of his essence and magic that is multi-national and also establish a world recognised branding image. It's a big task, but one that I believe is needed.
If they get it right, I don't think it will be short lived
If they get it wrong...!

November 6, 2009 06:28 AM #

Augie Ray United States says:

Mickey's personality has always been pretty fluid.  This isn't to say there isn't risk, but keeping the Mouse relevant is not a new concept.  Mickey started as a character with some dark habits back in Steamboat Willie.  He actually became a bit more sanitized as his reach and influence grew with consumers;  in fact, his personality became so locked in place (one might say milquetoast) that Walt himself felt the need for a character with more flexibility (which is where Donald Duck came from).  In the 70s Mickey took up disco;  in the 80s he became a skateboarding, shades-wearing dude.  So, keeping him relevant is important and certainly not groundbreaking.  

That said, as a Disney fan I hate to see words like "dark" associated with Mickey's rebranding.  If there's one thing Mickey should not be, it's dark.  It should be remembered that Mickey's place is to introduce young kids to the brand while representing the innocence of childhood and the positive American spirit for adults.  Mickey's place is not to be all things to all people, and if Disney makes the mistake of attempting this, then the Mouse will nothing to no one.

November 6, 2009 10:34 AM #

Sandile Xolo South Africa says:

Change is difficult but in any competitive environment it is necessary. Mickey has to evolve in order to stay ahead in the game. The trick is really in keeping the balance between current target and future targets. Small changes overtime would be the best route to go in order not to alienate current target market while keeping Mickey relevant. This requires a bit of forethought and braveness to initiate measured step changes while it may seem that there is no need for change.  The other route of course is the one that most companies follow “why fix it if it’s not broken?” and we know the consequences, your competitors move in and take over by the time you initiate a change you have to do an overhaul that put your brand at great risk.

November 9, 2009 02:46 AM #

Johnathan Sia Malaysia says:

Hiya Stephanie (And all the other peeps making comments about Mickey's supposed 'rebranding' of goold ol Mickey),

You guys don't seem to have the full story about this upcoming game project. The NYT article is blatantly under-researched and a poor excuse for journalism (trueslant.com/.../mainstream-media-blatantly-misrepresents-%e2%80%98cantankerous%e2%80%99-mickey-mouse/), and definitely shouldn't be used as a basis for this piece on Mickey's 'rebranding'. The NYT article has twisted the announcement of Epic Mickey to mean that Mickey's character is going to get a whole lot darker and edgier. It's not.

For starters to give some perspective on this issue, I'll quote a section from a first look at Epic Mickey by IGN - "It's that classic 1920's character that makes a return in Epic Mickey, and Junction Point's first task was to ensure it could authentically replicate the mouse's distinctive stretchy movements and capture Mickey's early essence. The team went as far as recreating key scenes from those early cartoons with Mickey's in-game model and the results, as presented by Spector at the London launch event, are impressively close to the original. It means that Epic Mickey's mouse is thoroughly authentic and his character remains at the heart of the game, even as Junction Point rips the rug out with its "whimsically twisted Disney game world".

Epic Mickey is NOT a departure from Mickey and he's not being rebranded - Mickey is being taken back to his roots and in this particular game, all the modelling and character basis comes from Mickey's original incarnation.

Another crucial point that was missed (or more likely glossed over) by the journalist is this - Mickey's look will change through the game depending on how You, the player, plays it. And apart from the dark, edgy look (known in the game as a 'Scrapper') that's been published everywhere by now, there are another two looks which mainstream press has not covered, the Neutral look, and the Hero look - where Mickey looks bright and erm... heroic.

I guess Miro's and Augie Ray's comments are a good indication about the low level of understanding of this project other than what's been published in the mainstream press.

I'll leave with a closing quote from the developer - “We want to honour Disney’s creative legacy; there’s 80 years of creativity here; we all know it, we all love it, we all grew up with it. But if we’re going to bring Mickey to an audience that hasn’t really thought about him as a hero for many years we can’t just give people Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and When You Wish upon a Star. We need to come up with something that’s maybe a little more relevant and a little more appealing to a modern audience. We have to give people a new twist on things – take things that are completely familiar to you, we all know them and all love them, and give them a little bit of a dark edge and a difference. We give you the pleasure of familiarity, and then we yank the rug from underneath you.” - Warren Spector

November 12, 2009 08:42 PM #

Jenny United States says:

Jonathan - I like your perspective and insight, thank you. If Mickey is being utilized to a specific audience and users are allowed to take on the persona of Mickey as a super hero with a dark side, that makes sense. It is a controlled environment that allows Mickey to grow and evolve with his followers as their own levels of maturity evolve. Hopefully, he comes out as a good guy in the end!

March 1, 2010 02:27 PM #

colin seeger Australia says:

Johnathan S' post added perspective: till then, I had visions of Mickey By Committee. Mickey is meant to be resourceful and more like McGiver than Casper Milquetoast. At least that's how I remember him from my comics on the late '50s. Then he got very saccharin and too-good-to-be-true, leaving Donald to be the dirty rat (sic). So long as he doen't stoop to "whatever it takes to win is OK so long as you win" the re-make might work. He has to stay true to his core values.

CS

November 21, 2009 04:40 AM #

rachel United States says:

Check out "gameinformer's" website for full coverage of Junction Point's Epic Mickey. Sounds like Disney is just trying to appeal to the gamers out there. I like that Mickey's personality is determined by how 'you' chose to play the game.

November 23, 2009 02:52 PM #

Anthony Swann South Africa says:

One can,t but feel for Micky Mouse a lost brand icon like Micheal Jackson trapped in a childs limbo of yeserdays although my own feeling on the proposal to rebrand him is its to little to late Mickys never had the attitude of Bugs bunny, nor the wit of Homer Simpson or the style of Ice age it may be far easier to send Disney a copy of one of your branding documents "when companies run out of ideas bad things happen to brands" toot toot

December 11, 2009 04:57 AM #

home staging toronto United States says:

By doing this Disney have an opportunity to keep the parts of his essence and magic that is multi-national and also establish a world recognised branding image. It's a big task, but one that I believe is needed.

December 20, 2009 04:07 PM #

rolex air king United States says:

One can,t but feel for Micky Mouse a lost brand icon like Micheal Jackson trapped in a childs limbo of yeserdays although my own feeling on the proposal to rebrand him is its to little to late Mickys never had the attitude of Bugs bunny, nor the wit of Homer Simpson or the style of Ice age it may be far easier to send Disney a copy of one of your branding documents "when companies run out of ideas bad things happen to brands" toot toot

December 20, 2009 10:49 PM #

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I always tell my kids stories about the cartoons on of the past specially mickey mouse and how cute he was, but if he will going to be violent in that game then I can also tell my kids not to play that game. A lot of people thinks of mickey as a legend in cartoons so creating a bad image of mickey isn't really helpful.

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There is a lot of downside in getting it wrong for their "$5 billion cash mouse"

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As a long-time fan of Mickey Mouse, the Mickey Mouse Club and a "mature" parent of a 4-year old, I respect Disney for continuing to make characters and programming that is innocence in premise. And, I agree with "Augie Ray's" post, that other characters like Donals Duck were developed to show the multi-facets of the human pysche (anger, greed, jealousy, envy, etc).  As a parent, I have struggled to find "commercial-free" programming and toddler-friendly programming that teaches the basics. I'm not interested in Spider Man, Transformers and the like for young children. While the corporate studies warn with their labels, let's face it. Parents and consumers today let their children get exposed to way too much violence, aggression, and killing. Our children are heavily influenced by what they watch, I prefer to keep them as innocent as long as possible. Disney has contributed to that magic. Let's not forget -- the brand promise represents magic. In today's world, being kind, considerate, pure is as close to magic as it gets.

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Mickeys need to be rebranded as we grow in technology. Everyone needs a change otherwise the it will be saturated. Its vital to remain popular and also in demand to survive in the ever changing market place. Is there anything never change in the super or hyper market or in universities or in the house? Everyone loves new things or new versions; so its timely for Mickeys to change his role and appearance to be more energetic and functional or practical.

March 16, 2010 07:51 AM #

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The problem with the brand is that he is a mouse. Vermin spread diseases. Yuk.

March 18, 2010 01:35 PM #

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March 23, 2010 10:13 AM #

[url=http://www.chineselanterns-uk.co.uk]Chinese Lanterns[/url] United Kingdom says:

Its about time I say, Mikey mouse now gets used for people who are thick, so I dont no how they are going to get rid of that impression.

March 23, 2010 12:16 PM #

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March 23, 2010 12:16 PM #

Mark United States says:

My two-year old daughter took one look at Mickey Mouse on an overnight diaper a year or more ago and fell head over heals in love. We've since shown her classic and modern videos of Mickey on YouTube, and the love affair continues. Her Mickey doll is her constant companion. Children's hearts don't need meanness to be relevant. Loveable works quite well!

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March 26, 2010 02:23 AM #

suhani India says:

I have grown seeing Mickey and even today i love watching it.Rebranding of Mickey is a great idea but should be done with atmost care.Mickey is so sacred ,anything goes wrong and Mickey won't survive the blow.Rebranding will loose its old customers who are less in number but would probably be able to attract newer generation.I hope they do it well.

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March 28, 2010 02:11 PM #

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This might be a good move of Walt Disney. Mickey's appearance has not changed much and he is facing competitors. I guess this is a must to compete with the popularity.

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April 1, 2010 05:49 PM #

Cynthia United States says:

Poor Mickey, I was born on cartoons with him, and nowdays the are making a game Frown, I think that they are going to destroy our memories. But in the same time I understand Disney, that due to a high number of Japanese action games, they are forced to do this step, but still, I don't know what results will be.

April 2, 2010 05:10 AM #

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By doing this Disney have an opportunity to keep the parts of his essence and magic that is multi-national and also establish a world recognised branding image. It's a big task, but one that I believe is needed.
If they get it right, I don't think it will be short lived
If they get it wrong...!

April 2, 2010 05:52 PM #

Deborah Leiser United States says:



  I wouldn't worry about this so called Mickey Mouse rebrand. I mean there are some things in life
that are so epic already for so many people they stand out as a lifelong hero to the young at heart-
as forever icons. Mickey Mouse can not be ruined by any sort of "Evil Darkness". Because he is and always will be very well protected as probably the most famous,celebrated,oldest,well cared for mouse in history!.I have seen some of the cartoon "parody"that some of the guys at "comedy
central's South Park have done. That's alright for adult laughter,for folks that know there is nothing and nobody that is really"sacred" and or completely "untouchable" as far as comedy goes. There isn't a whole lot that they haven't messed with, "whatever and whoever is left standing- I'm sure it's coming. But no-one I know would let "anyone" try to ruin Disney as a
brand that is "overall" one of the most trusted for "kids","families","stores","characters",
"brands" and yes even"channels".

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April 9, 2010 04:12 PM #

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Change can never be bad, and in such a competitive enviornment, change has been essential in turning profits into even more profits...

Good luck with Mickey and lets hope that the new image will be a hit like the old one was and still is.

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April 13, 2010 01:01 AM #

Beads United Kingdom says:

Keeping cartoon characters trapped in amber is one of the surest routes to irrelevancy. While Mickey remains a superstar in many homes, particularly overseas, his static nature has resulted in a generation of Americans — the one that grew up with Nickelodeon and Pixar — that knows him, but may not love him. Domestic sales in particular have declined: of his $5 billion in merchandise sales in 2009, less than 20 percent will come from the United States.

April 13, 2010 05:03 AM #

Roham Iran says:

Brand is a tool through which a comopany makes communication with public.It means that the success or failure of a brand lies in this fact if peolpe accept the brand or not.And the acceptance of a brand dependes on this issue whether this brand meets or exceeds people's needs or not.According to this story above, Micky Mouse has lost past popularity among pupblic.What does this mean?It shows that this charcter is no longer able to meet people's expectations and it is surley due to a change in people's tastes, a change in people's definitions of a hero and/or a change in people's lifestyle.These types of change can be realised through a comprehensive market research.What is obvious is that Micky Mouse can not resist against people's wants;this Mouse should change his personality as people have changed during past decades.It is worth mentioning that the brand core must not change because in that case Micky Mouse is not the same Micky anymore and it might result in losing core customers.

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April 20, 2010 11:48 AM #

Roham Iran says:

I think Mikcey is old enough to have a kid with new characteristics (associations) while he keeps the same charcteristics of his father.

What do you all think about this??????

April 21, 2010 01:59 AM #

Comments are closed

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