Much of the premier episode of the Disney’s 1955 Mickey Mouse Club TV show was what I expected it to be: dated—to the point where it seemed almost like a cliché of TV programs from the 50s, and also filled with a lot of cute, classic Disney moments. There were also, however, several aspect of the show that surprised me.
For one, much of the cartoon parts of the show reminded me more of Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, than the sweet kindness of the Disney cartoons I watched on TV as a child. Both the introduction and the cartoon at the end with Pluto and the puppy, were filled with cartoon slapstick and violence (Donald getting blown up, etc…) I think it’s interesting that Disney apparently began with this type of cartoon-making, and then branched away from it towards a softer, nicer style.
Second, there was the way other cultures were portrayed. The world news bit about the Seminoles, as well as the children in Italy and Japan, all had a distinct Disney spin on them. I noticed, as the narrator told viewers the story of the Seminole man’s great-grandfather, who was chief, he skimmed over the part about how he was tricked into leaving the swamp and subsequently died in prison. To paraphrase, it went something like this: “Then he tells Bobby and Mikey about how his great-grandfather was tricked into leaving his swamp hideout, and how he died in prison. But this has been a day that Bobby and Mikey will never forget, and they seem to fly across the sawgrass in their boat…” There was no lingering on the unpleasantness of the situation; the narrator moved right along to the next topic. I thought that was almost comical.
Lastly, I found it interesting that so much of the episode was about children saying what they wanted to be when they grew up. So much of Disney is about preserving childhood, and the message to “never grow-up” or at least, not to grow up too fast. Yet the sequence with the boy and girl who wanted to be a hostess and pilot seemed to be encouraging children to think about their futures and decide what they wanted to do with their lives as soon as possible. On the other hand, though, Disney is also about following dreams, and making dreams come true. So perhaps that’s what was the ultimate message of the segment.
When the end song began to play, I suddenly remembered my father singing it to me, and I suddenly felt all sort of nostalgic and happy. It’s weird, because obviously I’ve never watched an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club before, but it is part of my father’s nostalgia, and he passed that on to me. That’s the classic Disney legacy right there, and I think that’s why Disney will never go away. The love for it is passed from one generation to the next, always keeping the old fans, and also creating new ones.