MICKEY CHEATER ! Semiological chronicle

05 July 2008  |   0 Comments   |    |  

The ears of Mickey

This morning is Saturday morning. Early morning, TV on, cup of coffee, cartoons. I slowly emerge in a climate of cathodic insouciance. It's almost like before, except for one detail: nowadays everything is in 3D, and even Mickey and his friends don't escape this visual upheaval.

For American stars, I'm surprised to see that it's a rather discounted style. No textures, it's smooth and it glitters so much that my eyes want to shoot themselves. I have the unpleasant impression to be in front of an old cd-rom of educational pleasure. The 3D doesn't help, I still don't like their colorful delirium. Then I think of the Teletubbies who have the delicacy of opting for live recording in shoody costumes, all in a setting that looks strangely like the Windows wallpaper.

Anyway, it's always gesticulating in the jar:

Donald runs away I don't knows where, Goofy nods I don't know what and Mickey looks at me with a happy face. Then he turns around. I see him in profile and it's a shock! An enigma that haunted my summer readings of Mickey Parade and put my eye of future graphic designer on alert has finally disappeared!
I'm talking about Mickey's ears that always refuse to be in profile. Did it ever strike you? Let me explain : Mickey's ears from the front are two black discs. Simple. So logically from the side we should only see one disc thickness. Result, a black line as ears!
Of course this is not at all what happens on paper and on screen. Walt was not going to leave his creature idle with a hair on its head! Ignoring the rules of perspective, he simply invented a bastard position, neither in profile nor in three-quarter view, so that we could see both ears of his mouse at all times. The 3D realization could have rationalized this problem but to my great surprise, it kept this trick: Mickey turns his head, his ears always slide in the same frontal plane, they get out of alignment, one of them remaining alone on the top of the skull while the other one starts to fall to finish almost on his neck.

Indeed, his creator intended him a worldwide success. Mickey had to be identifiable at first glance, especially by children. It was therefore necessary for him to be cunning to correct this ontological bug. Intuition or genius, he was able to transform this flaw into a signature:
flag ears that behave like real parabolas that constantly follow you with their eyes. With 3D, the symbolic nature of these ears bursts into the open. Unlike the rest of the body, which is now represented in volume, they remain a pure graphic sign that floats above his head like a halo. This graphic principle can be found in the representation of the divine attributes that adorn the headdresses of the ancient Egyptian gods. The solar disk of Râ is a good example. This "dimensional" conflict makes him a character out of the ordinary - he does not fit easily into our modes of representation - and introduces him into the sphere of the sacred. It is an icon! And then, a hypothesis that only commits me, we can see another will from his creator (conscious or not) in these two black ears. Because Mickey, child of the modern Hollywood cinema, is an incarnation of the cinema itself, that is to say a camera on legs and his ears of the reels on which the film is rolled up. A mouse god of the seventh art it is strong! It's a great lesson in graphic design that Mister Walt gives us! It has also influenced other designers. Take a look at Astroboy by Tezuka, and San Goku by Akira Toriyama and you will see.

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