Mickey Mouse gets his edge back


Quick! Describe Mickey Mouse's personality in six words or less. Having a hard time? All right, what was the last wacky thing you saw him do? Still stumped?

Mickey is a lot of things, but specific he isn't. One of the world's most identifiable characters has become little more than a corporate mascot who is rolled out whenever the Disney company needs to sell something. Mickey is a placebo, a blank slate of a cherub upon whom children and adults alike can project their fondest make-believe fantasies. Even when he makes personal appearances, he's usually silent.

Mickey could be said to be stuck in 1955, but Disney is aware it's nearly 2010. So its image-makers, aware that Mickey's "aw-shucks" act has grown stale and won't last forever in a world filled with ironic and savvy kids, are taking a risk with their flagship character. Breaking the code Mickey has followed for the past half-century, it has authorized a new image for His Mouseness, which could turn off millions of parents who treasure the genial personality they're used to. Harking back to his early years, he'll become a colorized version of his 1930s self: wiry legs, sharp angles, a stockier belly, a whip-like rodent tail, and a peaked brow that can twist into a variety of perturbed expressions to match his flashing temper.