Iconic Disney character Mickey Mouse gets an African wardrobe for his 90th birthday

On 18 November, according to Disney, several events are expected to take place around the world to embrace and celebrate Mickey Mouse’s impact on global culture on the popular fictional character’s birthday.

Mickey Mouse, then a black and white construct, made his debut in the animated film “Steamboat Willie” on 18 November, 1928. Over the past few weeks, Disney has been building up to the celebration of Mickey Mouse’s 90th anniversary starting off with the Disney Roadshow a few days ago. The Disney Africa team hosted partners from media, influencers, renowned artists and various guests at the Art Eye Gallery in Johannesburg, launching the “Mickey the True Original Art Collaboration.”

The collaboration invited 10 local, highly talented artists to bring ten 6-foot Mickey statues to life with their own inspirations for the character to showcase Mickey’s pop culture influence on young and old across nine decades, since he first appeared on the animated classic, Steamboat Willie, which first screened at the Colony Theatre in New York City. The statues have been designed, painted, crafted and spray painted to showcase each artist’s unique take, featuring beautiful colours, graffiti, pantsula outfits, and shweshwe prints, drawing inspiration from uniquely South African lifestyles to change the usual white gloves, red pants and yellow shoes commonly seen worn by the character. The 10 artists included Cassius Khumalo, Colbert Mashile, Dominic Tshabangu, Lee Scott Hempson, Louis van den Heever, Nika Mtwana, Phumzile Buthelezi, Toni Bico, Trevor Coleman and Welcome Danca.

Mickey Mouse by Lee Scott Hempson.

According to News24, director Tyron Selmon said the gallery, which deals with emerging African art, was excited to be part of the project.

“You don’t get a company bigger than Disney International, and so when Disney came and approached us, and said: ‘Would you like to be a part of something,’ we certainly were very excited.”

“It’s Mickey Mouse. It’s his 90th birthday and we’re a young country; and I think that everybody has an idea of what Mickey Mouse means to them. It’s a universal symbol for childhood and we were interested to be asked to add value to Mickey Mouse in Africa,” he said.

The sculptures were delivered to Sandton City on Thursday for an exhibition, which is under way until 14 October. Artists had two and a half weeks to transform their Mickeys. From there, the sculptures will make their way to Gateway shopping centre in Durban and then to Cape Town. The exuberant mice with outstretched arms are currently on display at a Johannesburg shopping center.

In addition to the roadshows, TV channel M-Net will also be featuring Mickey’s 90th Spectacular, a two-hour prime-time special. South Africans can also share their own Mickey Mouse memories, inspirations, etc. on social media using the hashtag #Mickey90Africa.