By Robert Heide
As you approach the building at 60 Tenth Avenue between West 14th and 15th Streets in the Northwest corner of Greenwich Village you see a series of old style 1930s super huge painted Mickey’s in his red shorts and big yellow shoes in a variety of poses and facial expressions, wearing sometimes his winning fun time grin and at other times gnashing and showing his teeth in a fit of comical childlike rage. In another outdoor portrait on the building, one Mickey image is projecting a sense of wonderment and joy at simply being in the world and having a good time of it.
The entrance for this Mickey Mouse 90th birthday celebration/art exhibit is on the corner of 10th Avenue and 15th Street. Since there is no box-office, you must obtain tickets online in advance simply by connecting to: http://www.disney.com/
This ‘museum’, or ‘mouseum’ as someone called it, is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Online a specific time is assigned to the buyer such as say 4 p.m. because this is a guided walk-through of a series of rooms and galleries each of which covers certain themes related to artworks, collectibles and cartoons all centered on the great American icon—Mickey Mouse. Small groups come together in a cohesive manner moving from room to room, the groups regulated in size by the advance ticket reservations. Young friendly Disney guides wearing specially designed Mickey patterned shirts point the way; but at the same time you may wander about freely back and forth from room to room.
Many regard Mickey Mouse and his gal-mouse pal Minnie to be the most famous and artful characters at the very top of American Pop culture. His well-known entourage includes Pluto the Pup, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf and many others who all join in this magical Disney parade. Once inside the 16,000 square foot space you see a giant photo of the great man Walt Disney, just behind one of his many Academy Award Oscars, spotlighted in a Plexiglas display box. From here you enter a long darkened corridor featuring dozens of glowing bright red and blue life-size neon Mickey sculptures, followed by displays of marquee movie posters such as Steamboat Willie which was released in New York on November 18,1928. The first animated black and white talking short in history opened at the Colony Theater on that date and is regarded as Mickey’s official birthday. A host of Disney-Mickey cartoons followed one after another, including Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, even up to the present day with Flushed! in 2018.
As you walk on and turn a corner you suddenly enter an old-style ice-cream parlor; and the ice-cream served in Mickey movie paper cups is delicious and free of charge. This is a kind of Mouse-keteer 1950s style room with a brightly lit vintage-style juke-box at the center of it all playing Mickey Mouse songs. Other fun exhibition highlights include a Keith Haring room dominated by a gigantic black and white Pop Art image of Mickey by Haring covering one wall and part of the floor. The world renowned Pop-artist stated “Mickey is a symbol of America!” The ‘finale’ is a great high-ceilinged room featuring sculptures by contemporary artists like a huge piece made from recycled Mickey T-shirts and around the perimeter large Plexiglas display cases housing all sorts of Mickey ephemera and rarities primarily from the 1930s, the 1940s war years, as well as the 1950s Television Mickey Mouse Club merchandise centering on the ubiquitous mouse-ears. Special vintage Mickey toys are on display including a litho-on-metal play stove, a Mickey Mouse telephone, a snow sled, school supplies like Dixon pencil boxes, writing and drawing tablets, paint sets, and coloring books, remarkable 1930s hand-painted Japanese bisque figurines, a sirocco wood Mickey Mouse table-top Emerson radio, two famous Charlotte Clark baby-sized Mickey and Minnie dolls, one dressed up as a cowboy, and the first Mickey Mouse Big Little Books. Wherever you went: be it to a grocery store that sold Mickey Bread, cookies, and milk, the dime-store or department stores which sold Mickey sweaters, underwear, socks, ties, jackets, and sneakers, there he was— a merchandise superstar. Recently at the supermarket, a friend picked up a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup featuring a smiling Mickey Mouse on the paper label on the market for Mickey’s 90th birthday and sure to become a future collectible. I wondered what Andy Warhol would make of all this. How delighted he would have been to see Mickey on his favorite soup can.
At the exit point of this tour, you wind up in the Disney/Mickey Retail Shop (which is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a separate entrance on 14th Street) where you will find T-shirts featuring the Mouse, books and other great stuff to take home. And even a free exhibit, a special ‘cosmic cavern’ created by artist Kenny Scharf which features hidden Mickey Mouse watches in a dizzying day-glo psychedelic art experience. Like a trip to Disneyland or Disney World, even Mickey himself might say in his childlike falsetto voice (it was the actual voice of Walt himself in the early cartoons) “This show is the real thing—and it’s a lot of fun too.” It runs until the end of February, 2019.
Robert Heide’s latest book Robert Heide 25 Plays is available at the bookshop at the Whitney Museum, the Drama Bookshop, Three Lives in the Village, other select bookstores, and on Amazon. He is the co-author with John Gilman of three books published by Disney: Disneyana—Classic Collectibles 1928-1958, The Mickey Mouse Watch—From the Beginning of Time, and Mickey Mouse—the Evolution, the Legend, The Phenomenon!
West Village Images by Joel Gordon
Mickey Mouse: The True Original
The 16,000 square-foot interactive pop-up art exhibition celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Mickey Mouse will run from November 2018 to February 10, 2019.
Other examples can be found on my website www.joelgordon.com. Photo credit © Joel Gordon 2018—All rights reserved.