Mickey Mouse is one of the world’s most enduring and original characters. So what do you get such an iconic figure for his 90th birthday?
It’s a fun question we posed to a handful of creators we consider true originals. Well-versed in making their memories tangible, their answers – and unique creations – are documented in a new series created in partnership with Disney to help celebrate Mickey’s milestone. And as it turned out, the character’s influence can be traced through both their handiwork and personal lives.
Ben Young, founder of Frank Green, an eco-friendly Melbourne company making reusable coffee cups and water bottles, told us when he was six, his parents took him and his sisters to Disneyland. “We went there for a whole week,” he says. “It was crazy. Going on all the rides and meeting all the characters as they’re walking through the streets – it was a real fairytale.”
To commemorate the 90th celebrations, Young stamped Mickey’s iconic silhouette on a classic black and white Frank Green cup, a nod to the character’s continued resonance with the founder. “To compete on the world stage, you really need a point of difference,” says Young.
For Melbourne illustrator Beci Orpin, her entry point to Mickey came when a friend returned from Disneyland with Orpin’s name embroidered on a Mickey Mouse hat. “I was a bit obsessed,” she says. The hat became a prized possession and inspired her artwork contribution to the series – a “semi self-reflective” portrait of an adolescent girl wearing a Mickey Mouse hat, using blocks of bold colour.
Orpin says its Mickey Mouse’s ability to transcend generations that remains fascinating. “It’s his optimism and being a symbol for happiness, which has shone through since his creation,” she says. “This is what makes him an original to me.”
Melbourne artist Pete Cromer also channelled his childhood memories to create a one-off artwork that speaks to “when life was simpler”. He says of his piece: “It’s a collage that creates a silhouette of Mickey built out of emotive blobs and shapes that expresses how I felt at the time. Not many characters in history have shaped the way we spend time with our family like Mickey.”
That familial thread runs through our featured creators. Anna Ross, the founder of ethical nail polish company Kester Black, says when she was 14, her parents took her family to Disneyland. “We were really into Disney when we were kids,” she says. She remembers meeting Mickey and Minnie at Mickey’s House. “It was wild.”
Ross relished the opportunity to develop a one-off custom range to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th. The collection includes five Kester Black nail polishes in classic Mickey colours (red, yellow, white, black and a nude) in bottles displaying his iconic silhouette. It was a “super fun” project to work on, says Ross. Other characters have come and gone, but Mickey Mouse is “still number one”. “He’s got one of the most recognisable faces in the world,” she adds.
You could say Gelato Messina’s entire business model is based on childlike delight. For our series, the beloved ice-cream empire created a Mickey Mouse cake made from layers of gelato encased in carefully tempered chocolate, in classic Mickey colours: black ears and head, red body, yellow shoes, white hands and face emblazoned with his trademark infectious grin.
Siân Bishop, Gelato Messina’s content and brand ambassador, says Messina executive chef Tom Mitchell, who led the project, has a unique connection to Mickey Mouse. “When he was first starting out as a chef, Tom won a trip to Hong Kong to cook in some of the best kitchens in the city,” she says. “One of the experiences was going behind the scenes at Disneyland there to see how they produced everything for the park. There were so many amazing Mickey creations.”
The whole team loved being involved in creating an homage to a cultural icon like Mickey. “He’s a character we’ve all grown up with so to create him out of gelato was a fun project,” Bishop says.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Disney.