She may be turning 90, but animated film, TV and fashion icon Minnie Mouse is as vital as ever.
She has a starring role on a Disney Channel show, tirelessly greets fans at Disney theme parks around the globe, and has inspired top fashion designers well into her octogenarian years. She is a licensing powerhouse. And on Jan. 22, she will receive her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Fittingly, Minnie’s longtime boyfriend, Mickey Mouse, will accompany her when she receives the honor. Mickey was the first cartoon character to get a star in 1978, when he was 50, and was later joined by other Disney toon characters.
Now it’s time for the winsome Minnie with the big bow and polka dot dress to join Tinker Bell, Snow White, Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck and Mickey on the iconic walk. Minnie was unavailable for comment, but Russi Taylor, who has voiced her for more than 30 years, believes she’d be “absolutely thrilled beyond words” to be getting her star.
“Minnie is one of the most universally recognized animated characters in pop culture today, and her timelessness allows her to transcend boundaries and appeal to a multi-generational range of consumers,” says Josh Silverman, executive VP, global licensing, Disney Consumer Products. “From young adults who connect to her individuality, style and flair, to adults who have gravitated towards her classic personality and look for decades, to the children who currently see her on ‘Mickey and the Roadster Racers,’ Minnie’s appeal reaches fans of all ages.
“She has been brought to life on everything from handbags to toys to cosmetics.”
But it was in the early Disney shorts that Minnie got her start. Minnie’s official big screen debut was in November 1928 alongside Mickey in the landmark short “Steamboat Willie.”
“Since then, she’s been an integral part of Disney’s animation legacy, and continues to inspire fans around the globe through her independent, optimistic and adventurous outlook,” says Disney archivist Kevin Kern.
Minnie has appeared in more than 70 theatrically released shorts and featurettes, he says.
“Though when you factor in her commercial, feature film, television and home entertainment work, she’s made an impact on nearly 100 productions, if not more.”
But it was those early shorts that put her on the Hollywood map.
“I think Minnie first stands out in some of the company’s classic animated shorts,” Kern says. “Titles like ‘Brave Little Tailor,’ ‘Mickey’s Surprise Party,’ ‘First Aiders’ and ‘Bath Day’ help show a few of the narrative and design developments of the character toward what we know her as today.”
He also cites strong appearances in the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” series, and her “Minnie’s Bow-Toons” shorts, praising “knockout performances” in the “Mickey Mouse” television series, and the 2013’s animated theatrical short “Get a Horse!” as further illustration of Minnie’s enduring appeal.
Animator Rob LaDuca, executive producer of Disney Channel TV series “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” says “it was love at first drawing” when he began working on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” more than a decade ago.
“Her personality almost draws itself. Her graceful and feminine nature helps guide her animation.”
“I had never worked with a character that seemed so easy to construct, but with a nuance and ease of posing that can switch from coy to sassy,” he says. “Her personality almost draws itself. Her graceful and feminine nature helps guide her animation. It lends itself to dancer-like posing and acting, and her simplicity allows an ease of connection with the audience in any part she’s given.”
That’s not to say she hasn’t changed with the times.
“In her earliest cartoons, batting her eyelashes and trying to get Mickey’s attention with a ‘Yoo-hoo’ were always her hallmark actions,” LaDuca says. “Through the years, she has become a strong and independent counterpoint to Mickey. She’s smart, resourceful, and a wonderful friend who will do anything to help in any situation.”
“Minnie loves everyone, unconditionally,” says Taylor. “That’s the way she sees the world, which is probably one of the reasons she is as popular as she is. She, along with many other characters, has the power to help people, especially children who are suffering and in need. I try to put as much love into what I do in hopes that the audience will be able to hear that she is loving them.”
Taylor got the role after audititioning for TV’s “Totally Minnie” in 1986 and considers herself “very, very lucky to have gotten that job.” In a fairytale twist, she married her Mickey — her late husband, Wayne, was voicing the big-eared character when she got the job. “Voicing the role of Minnie has deeply affected me in many ways,” she says.
When voicing the character, she tries to pull together all of the different sounds Minnie’s voiceover artists have used from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
Over the years, Minnie has followed the current fashion, and she, in turn, has helped influence it, inspiring designers including Marc Jacobs, Ana Sui, Lanvin, Comme des Garcons to create Minnie-inspired garb over the past decade.
Fittingly, the style icon will receive her star on National Polka Dot Day.
But it’s her character that has made Minnie such a lasting star. LaDuca says he has to be careful when animating her inner strength not to make her come across as angry.
“Anger is a very rare emotion when it comes to Minnie. Her graciousness always shines through,” he says. “What I love most is her caring and loving nature.”
Her bravery also shines through.
Says Kern: “While she’s always been there to support Mickey and her friends, she’s rarely afraid to get in on the action of any given situation, and is just as interesting of a heroine today as she was in 1928.”