Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why Attempt Suicide Mickey???

The question of Mickey Mouse attempting suicide is one I never expected to consider. But; why would the writers of the original Mickey Mouse newspaper strip and Disney, himself want to create something so unusual and startling? Under what circumstances would the lovable, optimistic, Chaplanesque character of a mouse take his own life?   What devices might he use and how possibly to make this unlikely thing…well; cute? There are many questions raised and there are answers to be found.

The idea of Mickey’s suicide came from the great innovator and man himself; Walt Disney. It is thought by some that the idea was based on the silent film work of Harold Lloyd. One of Lloyd’s films, “Haunted Spooks” featured a series of botched suicide attempts by the actor and Disney was (pardon) blown away by them. This was in 1920 and it was among Disney’s favorites. Why not try the same thing with Mickey?

In 1930 Disney started a comic strip for King Features Syndicate. Walt had originally written Mickey’s strip with Ub Iwerks illustrating. Iwerks would only work as the strip’s illustrator for a while handing over both writing and illustrating to Floyd Gottfredson within the same year. Walt would continue with some plotting and continuity for a while. We’ll let Mr. Gottfredson’s words from a past interview speak from here:     

"He would make suggestions every once in a while, for some short continuities and so on, and I would do them. One that I'll never forget, and which I still don't understand was when he said, 'Why don't you do a continuity of Mickey trying to commit suicide?' So I said, 'Walt! You're kidding!' He replied, 'No, I'm not kidding. I think you could get a lot of funny stuff out of that.' I said, 'Gee whiz, Walt. I don't know. What do you think the Syndicate will think of it? What do you think the editors will think? And the readers? He said, 'I think it will be funny. Go ahead and do it.' So I did, oh, maybe ten days of Mickey trying to commit suicide—jumping off bridges, trying to hang himself... I don't remember all the details. But strangely enough, the Syndicate didn't object. We didn't hear anything from the editors, and Walt said, 'See? It was funny. I told you it would be.' So there were a few things like that."
Floyd Gottfredson

The answer in reality is a simple and uncomplicated one; it was done for laughs. In our politically correct, focused grouped, socially conscience world “The Mickey Suicides” couldn’t and probably shouldn’t be published. I would like to think the cartoons, by showing suicide as folly prevented some potential suicides at the time of the strips publication. They are entertaining, humorous and life affirming.
Within the confines of the strip Mickey thought he had lost his great love, Minnie. We know that Mickey survived, he reconciled with Minnie and their romance (aside from a few expected bumps and minor bruises) thrives to this day. Mickey and Minnie are infatuated with each other and life as we continue our infatuation with them. 

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