The House of Mouse

The House of Mouse
Mickey, Donald, and You

Hilton Collins | 17 May 2011 15:19
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But our identification with Mickey and Donald doesn't completely stop at childhood. The games also show us how they handle their loves lives. Castle of Illusion's introduction goes like this: Mickey and Minnie skip in the woods holding hands until a witch kidnaps Minnie and locks her in the castle. Mickey goes there to rescue her, a dutiful prince trying to save his fair lady. Even before Minnie's taken, Mickey's happy just spending time with her. In QuackShot's introduction, Donald's supposed to have dinner with Daisy, but he stands her up so he can hunt gold and jewels. He's about to leave town by plane with his nephews when she shows up to confront him for ditching her. Donald says that something came up and that he'll bring her back something nice, and then he flies off leaving her fuming. It's the videogame equivalent of flaking out on a date to drink with your buddies. Swap "drinking" with "treasure hunting" and "buddies" with "nephews," and you've got QuackShot. Donald's inconsiderate and selfish. Add in his rage issues, and he's missing a lot in the romance department.

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You could basically assign each character one of two sides in the human psyche. Mickey's the moral and considerate half, and Donald's the mean-spirited and selfish half - the two halves each of us wavers between in our own heads.

That's why it's poignant when both characters share the spotlight in 1992's World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. They retain their personalities, but they must work together to survive. Donald still taps his foot and frowns if you keep him waiting, and Mickey smiles and stares in mesmerized, stupefied wonder no matter how long he waits. Once things get moving, it's all teamwork. If one player leaves the other behind on a platform, he lowers a rope to help him up. And when Donald gets stuck in tunnels, Mickey yanks him through from the other side. Our yin and yang unite to reach the same goal here, much like how we reconcile both the dual parts of ourselves to get through our lives.

But ultimately, the merry Disney spirit always shines through, no matter how dark any of the games get. Donald's weapon in QuackShot was a gun that fired plungers, popcorn, or bubblegum at adversaries - tame and harmless imagery compared to what some other 90s games had. And Mickey's face on a blimp flying by in the background on the rooftop stage in Duckburg served a reminder that this was all kid stuff under the surface.

No matter what happened in the games, the point was to relax and enjoy the fantasy. Mickey and Donald were just different cars in the same rollercoaster, and the ride was fun either way.

Hilton Collins loves all things science fiction and fantasy, and if he had to choose between videogames, comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he'd have a brain aneurysm.

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