Numerous pitches to bring back Mickey Mouse have been received at the Walt Disney Company over the past few years, but none were deemed worthy of the studio’s ultimate icon until executive producers Roberts Gannaway and Tony Craig pitched Disney’s Mickey MouseWorks, a short-form-based, music-oriented series to debut this fall on ABC Saturday mornings. The series unites Mickey with fellow classic characters Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck, as well as reviving Mickey’s sweetheart, Minnie.
The Gannaway/Craig pitch, made in November 1997, succeeded in showing the studio what it was looking for in a new Mickey property: ‘the sensibility of Mickey’s roots,’ says Barry Blumberg, executive VP of Walt Disney Television Animation. Blumberg greenlit the series, and worked in conjunction with Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s son, to ensure that each episode fulfilled that mandate. Blumberg says the Disney’s Mickey MouseWorks creators knew what was appropriate and what was not in character for Mickey, and the short-form cartoons they proposed-from 60 seconds to 12 minutes in length-were true to the Mickey Mouse formats from the `50s.
Wowing Walt Disney Television’s brass meant combing through the Disney archives, studying the original Mickey Mouse notes and storyboards, and adapting classic scores from the `50s. Sufficiently steeped in what made the original character and story lines tick (show bibles did not exist at that time), producers supervised the creation of storyboards for the series of shorts, many of which were then animated to the musical scores. In ‘Maestro Minnie,’ for example, Minnie and Mickey cavort in the toon equivalent of a music video, sans dialogue, highlighting a score derived from classic Mickey Mouse compositions. Series orchestrator and composer Stephen James Taylor combines classical and original music in the series. Taylor composed an original theme song, plus an original musical piece for each character in the series.
Will Mickey appeal to kids of the `90s? ‘Mickey is a timeless character,’ says Blumberg. ‘The emotions and interactions [in the series] are timeless.’ According to Blumberg, ‘nothing jarring’ has been done in terms of updating Mickey for the `90s.