Mickey Mouse remixed: The cartoon icon returns in new Disney shorts

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After 85 years in the fame game, the world’s most famous mouse has had a makeover. Laura Davis charts the changing face of Disney’s leading man

Today’s Disney stars grow up in the spotlight – and then leave the House of Mouse to pursue their serious acting/singing/falling-out-of-nightclub careers. Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears are long gone, Lindsay’s in rehab, Miley’s doing a nice line in undercuts and sideboobs, and Selena Gomez recently indulged in armed robbery and drug taking. For her part in the film Spring Breakers, of course. But there’s one Disney name who, in his 85 years, has never fled the Magic Kingdom for the fleshpots of Hollywood. And while he’s been a bit quiet of late, this summer he’s on the comeback trail. Mickey, we’ve missed you.

Next week, Mickey Mouse is set to return to our screens in a series of 2D shorts. But while his wild-child colleagues tend to go for makeovers that are designed to break their ties with all things childish, it’s good to see Walt Disney’s 1928 creation return to his retro roots.

Since his debut in 1928 ’s Steamboat Willie, generations have grown up with Mickey as he’s starred in countless films, television shows, comic books and video games. Now, as well as the cartoon that starts showing on the Disney Channel on 12 July, he’ll be entertaining a new, tech-savvy generation on their iPads, with the launch of Where’s My Mickey? It’s the latest in the puzzle-solving Where’s My...? series, which features animation based on the cartoon shorts.

The original face of Disney was the first cartoon character to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 1978 – but he hasn’t let the success go to his ears. Instead of hanging out on yachts with Leonardo DiCaprio, the latest incarnation of Mickey is all about cultural experiences, with the new cartoons showing his travels around the world. Fortunately, Disney decided against taking the easy route of appealing to children by having Mickey poking Goofy on Facebook, or sending selfies to Minnie. Instead, we’ll see him delivering croissants to a café Minnie works at in Paris, visiting Beijing Zoo, and going to a football match in Brazil – plus Fantasia fans will be relieved to know there’s a musical episode. That’s how you stay classy, Disney kids of 2013.

But maybe he does have something in common with his young colleagues. Back in the heyday of his fame, there were some complaints that Mickey was too naughty, though there will be “no cigarettes, guns or animal cruelty” this time round, says artist and director Paul Rudish. However, we will see cheeky Mickey in the nuddy in the fantastic “No Service” episode by a beachside snack shack.

Having seen exclusive previews of the shorts, it’s clear these are intricately crafted cartoons that hark back to a bygone era, when artwork and slapstick comedy in storytelling was key. Each of the 19 three-and-a-half-minute cartoons has a very different look and feel – drawing on inspiration from former Disney visual highlights, such as artist Mary Blair’s Alice in Wonderland, or Ken Anderson’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Mickey may have spent the best part of a century in the spotlight, but he’s still going strong – and there’s not an edgy video shoot or bad-boy boyfriend in sight. Let’s hope the current Disney starlets are taking note…

Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts premiere on the Disney Channel on Friday

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