There’s a fine Disney tradition of “Hidden Mickeys”, whereby the famous three-circles shape of Mickey Mouse’s head is hidden in a piece of furniture, architecture, artwork or, really, where ever. The theme parks are crawling with them, and I had fun hunting down as many as I could when in the studio’s hat building.
There’s also a long line of cross-over works, very often T-shirts or posters, that see pop icons mashed up, sometimes aptly, sometimes in odd juxtaposition. I’ve got an image of Kermit “doing” the Born in the USA cover very vividly written to memory.
This new Mickey Mouse shirt design is, I suppose, both of these things – a Hidden Mickey and a pop mash up.
That’s clearly an homage to the cover of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album, which itself was a re-appropriation of a figure from an Astronomy text book.
I saw the design at Pitchfork. They really don’t seem very happy about it:
Uhhhhhhhhh…. Does Disney know that the singer of this band hanged himself?! Do they know where the name “Joy Division” comes from?!
I don’t see that this design has become any more encoded or tainted with Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide or the invocation of the band’s name than has, say, the rest of Curtis’ life, the music he made, his contributions to culture. These things don’t all run into one another and cause infestations that “rot” the separate parts. And neither should “serious” things be off-bounds for the less-serious – isn’t it all about the final message? And I can’t see any horrendous message in this mix. It’s an association of two positive things.
It’s also worth noting that we’re talking about a record cover here – something designed as a marketing device, to attract the eye, the intrigue that follows, and as a result, sales. It hasn’t suddenly been commercialised – it always was.
Of course, I’m acting surprised that there are people rushing to decry this shirt design. Stepping back just a little the patterns are familiar and obvious.
Selling this T-shirt will do no harm to either party.
And it’s not as if there’s no cross over in appreciation. I mean, really – hands up who likes both the mouse and the band? Surely I’m not the only one? Isn’t there space in life for both – and even this strange, singular junction of the two at once?