This week, the Disney documentary “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” debuted at the annual SXSW Film Festival to mostly positive reviews.
Directed by Jeff Malmberg (“Marwencol”), the film takes a look at the origins of Mickey Mouse back to Walt Disney first creating him.
With access to veteran Disney animators, as well as current ones, “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” traces the character’s vocal and visual evolution through the decades, and how Mickey influenced the culture, both good and bad.
But despite the mostly positive reviews for the documentary, one thing the reviewers touched on many times in their reviews was the way it seemed to gloss over the missteps and unsavory elements.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “You can tell Malmberg wants credit for including these chapters, for being sure to touch on Mickey’s period as a focal figure in actual war propaganda or for mentioning Mickey au Camp de Gurs, a comic booklet written in a French internment camp before the author was executed in Auschwitz. These things are much more interesting than the general puffery throughout, and stories of Mickey’s relevance beyond the Disney brand would feel less awkward if you didn’t also have people talking about how Disney has sued daycare centers for painting Mickey on their walls.”
Collider echoed that sentiment: “‘Mickey: The Story of a Mouse’ presents Mickey as a character with his highs and lows, that Disney has had to learn how to use this character, but notably, without ever apologizing for the character’s previous actions of appearing in blackface or his negative depictions of Native Americans. At the very least with Mickey, Disney is acknowledging that this version of their mascot does exist, but simply brushes off the past as part of the problematic evolution of this character.”
In their review, The Wrap said, “Malmberg’s documentary is quick to gloss over rough patches in both Mickey and Disney’s shared histories. In lieu of touching on Walt Disney’s history of anti-Semitism, Malmberg instead shows drawings of Mickey from Polish concentration camps during the Holocaust, as well as pages from the French artist Horst Rosenthal’s comic “Mickey au Camp de Gurs” (“Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp”), a 15-page booklet that shows Mickey in the camps alongside other Jewish prisoners under threat of being Jewish himself. The piece ends with Mickey deciding not to be Jewish, redrawing himself as escaping the camp, and walking back to America. In the documentary, this is framed as “Mickey disappears.” (Horst, on the other hand, was executed.)”
Even with that mild criticism, the overall consensus of the reviews is that “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” is a charming look at the history of Mickey and Walt, and worth a watch.
The documentary also contains a Mickey Mouse short film, animated by Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn, and Randy Haycock.
“Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” will premiere on Disney+ later in 2022. When we hear of a date, we’ll let you know.