Mickey Mouse

Pop culture, academic or just for fun?

Or like most everything, does it depend on the context? And for the purpose of mass education, does it truly matter how academic a subject is portrayed, as long as the viewers/readers/listeners, of all ages, are learning? Pop culture is often considered the more “fun” subject, possibly because more people are familiar and therefore open to say, the hula hoops of the 1950s as opposed to pipe stems from the colonial era. Look at the Smithsonian exhibits.  Right now exhibits range from the Appalachian trail to transportation to electricity to instruments to illustrations to Julia Child’s kitchen to dresses of the First Ladies, and so much more. All of the exhibits, some ongoing, some temporary, give glimpses into the American past in more approachable ways than textbooks (for most people). Visuals, text, conversation, all of these can combine to offer a greater appreciation of American history. (Note: this is not to imply that the Smithsonian is not considered or should not be considered academic. It is meant to imply that subjects that seem “more fun” on the surface are just as educational and of academic, historical integrity. Discussions welcome.)

What does this have to do with Mickey Mouse?

Walt Disney, a brilliant cartoonist and a visionary, altered much of pop culture, everyday life, design, animation, and truly had a lasting impact on the country and the world. Walt Disney is part of our history. Walt Disney is “fun” history. Disneyland and Walt Disney World are standing testaments, albeit perhaps not exactly what Disney envisioned all along. Still, Disney World and Disneyland mean something to everyone. Cartoons, movies, family vacations, the ideal place to be, the happiest place on earth, romanticized nostalgia, everyone feels differently. Now, when discussing design and districts we sometimes compare a place to Disney World, however this often means it’s too neat and tidy and romanticized, not real.

Regardless of your feelings for Disneyland and World, it has captured the imaginations of many. Cartoons, live action movies, too, play a huge role in children’s games and adults’ memories. So, how about a Mickey Mouse museum? Where do all of those movie props, costumes, and other memorabilia go? Just as Disney has changed America, Disney has changed over time, even Mickey Mouse. An article in The New York Times, “Blowing the Pixie Dust off Disney’s Archives,” introduces readers to the Disney archives, where all of these magical elements of movies live, stored away carefully along with Walt Disney’s possessions and other things. For young and old alike, for all who love Disney, it would be quite the trip to see inside the archives.

Disney is hosting D23, an exposition featuring a fair portion of this memorabilia, however it is nothing permanent. Instead, Disney hopes to make it annual exposition, according to the New York Times. Disney lends objects to the Smithsonian and for research, but much remains unseen by the public. For some of these images, view the New York Times slideshow of Disney artifacts.

So, that’s not the museum. The museum is actually called the Walt Disney Family Museum. Located in San Fransisco, CA, it houses videos, sound, technology based exhibits, drawings of the first Mickey Mouse, and the history of the Disney Family. Visitors can attend lectures, participate in family programs, see many documentaries, and much more. See this New York Times slideshow for a sneak peek at the museum. After all, there is no reason why the study and viewing of Disney company memorabilia cannot offer incredibly insights to how America has changed since Walt Disney got his start in 1923. Attitudes about society, race, relations, entertainment, leisure, and the American family have all changed. Looking at Mickey Mouse can offer clues to our societal values. At the very least, the world is a much better place when people are continuously learning and opening their minds, deepening their knowledge, and making connections from one subject to another or from one person to another.

The museum opens October 1, 2009. Anyone going? Come back with a report!

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