Throughout 2023, The Walt Disney Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Disney100 marks a century of timeless stories and characters that have inspired popular culture and united diverse communities for generations. At the heart of Disney’s storytelling lies a sense of wonder that turns everyday moments into magical memories. Over the last one hundred years, Disney’s enduring brand of storytelling has inspired partnerships with artists and creators around the world – not least, its work with Uniqlo .In its latest collaboration, Uniqlo and Disney pay tribute to Mickey Mouse – a character that symbolizes like no other the timelessness of Disney. The collection, Mickey Shines, celebrates the journey of Mickey and the many styles and guises he has embodied over those 100 years.
The journey itself began on November 18th, 1928.
Mickey Mouse made his debut appearance in the first synchronized sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie. Early designs of Mickey can be seen in two previously produced shorts, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, but these were not released until later due to the lack of a distribution deal.
Ahead of its time in many ways, Steamboat Willie used synchronized orchestrated music to underscore the action of the playing animation. This included the now famous whistles of Mickey and, also making her first appearance, Minnie Mouse.
Unlike in Plane Crazy, where Mickey’s eyes were defined and took up much of his face, in Steamboat Willie, Mickey’s eyes were simplified to be small black ovals representing his pupils within a stylized facial shape that symbolized the overall eye. This gave Mickey’s features a stronger range of expression. Rendered in black and white, Mickey didn’t yet have his iconic gloves, but he did gain some footwear.
It wasn’t until 1929’s When the Cat’s Away that Mickey donned his now-iconic white gloves for the first time throughout an entire animated short. At first, this was done for a practical reason - to help define the animation of the character’s hands against the similar black paint of his body. But it also served as a fashion choice, that has since become a staple for a series of famous animated characters at Disney and beyond.
The 1930s also saw the invention of Mickey’s first animation model sheets. Notable features of these early character designs included tubular arms and legs. Another recognizable feature saw Mickey’s body become roughly the same size as his head.
While it’s difficult for many to picture Mickey Mouse without his well-known red shorts and yellow shoes, most audiences didn’t see Mickey in color until 1935’s The Band Concert where he made his theatrical debut in color for the first time.
As we moved to the end of the 1930s, Mickey still had solid ‘button eyes’ but had subtly evolved to lose the straight tubular arms and legs. Eventually, newly tapered limbs better enhanced his anatomy and the circle that was his lower torso became smaller, giving his body a more organic bean-like shape.
1940 saw one of the most drastic changes to Mickey’s design as a new style was created and supervised by legendary Disney animator Fred Moore. This became the standard for Mickey Mouse’s modern design. Where Mickey had started with small black pupils inside large white eyes, he now had smaller eyes with pupils and a flesh-toned face. The Pointer in 1939 established this new look for Mickey and it was further popularized by his starring turn in Fantasia (1940).
In 1952, Mickey became slightly more stylized in the short film, Pluto’s Party. His face became a little more angular and he gained eyebrows. As black and white televisions entered living rooms, Walt Disney understood the potential of the new medium and this updated Mickey model was used for the Mickey Mouse Club logo, a beloved symbol for Disney fans everywhere.
Over 30 years after the eyebrows were introduced, they were removed again, as 1983 saw Mickey make a return to theatrically released animation in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Our hero was drawn in a similar style to that of Mickey from the 1940s.
As we entered the new millennium, this modern look of Mickey became well established. The animated series Mickey Mouse Works introduced Mickey to a new generation while quietly calling back to Mickey’s design from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice era. Mickey was shorter than we see him now, with bigger hands and feet. Since then, Mickey’s proportions changed again to the model currently in use.
Today, as we celebrate 100 years at Disney, Mickey Mouse has grown with us. Mickey now has large expressive pupiled eyes with smaller hands and feet.
With this new collection, Uniqlo and Disney take a journey back in time alongside the world’s favorite animated icon. Each of his celebrated versions are immortalized in Mickey Shines, a collaboration honoring the love and craft that went into creating a beloved Disney character.
Release dates and prices may vary. Some items might be limited to certain stores or countries of sale or may be sold out.