One of my most beloved attractions in Disney World- Magic Kingdom specifically- sits in the center of Fantasyland. Mickey’s Philharmagic is an attraction full of intrigue and adventure. It is loosely based on the most popular scene from Fantasia in which Mickey “borrows” the blue sorcerer hat. Philharmagic portrays Donald Duck as the sneaky one this time, as the 3D film depicts Donald chasing the hat and taking you with him through some of the most exciting scenes within Disney Animation.
It got me thinking.
These days, you may have noticed that Mickey is revealed as “perfect.” He teaches the lessons and knows all the answers. He boats and fishes and pilots airplanes and has a multitude of loyal friends. He also has a clubhouse that would knock the socks off of any architect! But how did Mickey get to this point of perfection? I suppose being 83 years old and still having the energy of an adolescent helps, but the real answer may lie in all the lessons Mickey has already learned. In the earlier cartoons, a common theme was Mickey trying to impress Minnie in his awkward way. In this cartoon short, Mickey takes Minnie to a Barnyard Dance…and simply cannot win.
Eleven years passed, and hard lessons still needed to be learned.
Fantasia was Walt Disney’s chance to take high culture and life lessons to the masses. Partnered with the conductor Leopold Stokowski, it was similar in feel to the modern Broadway at the movies idea. Within the animation are portrayals and messages, which the audience will hopefully take away with them. One of the most poignant messages, I believe, is the one of Mickey and the sorcerer’s hat.
Simply, Mickey is the apprentice and, before turning in for the night, the sorcerer asked his helper to preform a small task: to carry water. With just enough knowledge in the area of magical arts to be dangerous, Mickey decides to use the ease of spells in place of the arduous and tedious task of carrying buckets up and down stairs. Without permission, he dons the sorcerer’s hat and brings life to a broom, giving it arms and legs and teaching it to do Mickey’s own chore.
He falls asleep.
Now, what happens any time we do something we know is not right? We can’t sleep and are haunted by the action! This is represented symbolically when Mickey awakes in a dream state. In a matter of moments, chaos ensues due to Mickey’s disobedient behavior. Eventually, as he is overcome with emotion caused by no one but himself, he is moved to violence, splintered the broom, and only achieved making the situation worse than before. As per usual, doing the wrong thing has now spiraled out of control. A now awakened sorcerer steps in to put it all right again and Mickey, the sorrowful apprentice, has learned his lesson. I wonder if he took that into consideration when Donald used the sorcerer hat to conduct the orchestra he was supposed to be setting up in Mickey’s Philharmagic?
Despite all of the lessons Mickey has learned over the past 83 years, I expect it could be a good idea to go back and look at our beloved mouse in such an imperfect light. No one is perfect and lessons are a part of a complete existence. Not only is Mickey portrayed as a “regular guy” (er…mouse) but the story lines make light of life’s little screw-ups! Hey, they are going to happen- may as well get a laugh out of them! I think of the newest generation of Mickey fans who only see the flawless version, and I have to wonder if it’s time to resurrect some of these older cartoons for a bit of perspective! It may do us all some good to even see Mickey Mouse making mistakes.