Mickey Mouse ears — one of the most recognizable shapes in the world
The silhouetted 3 circles, two small atop one large, represents the most iconic cartoon character of the last 100 years. Mickey Mouse is 90 years old, and still very popular. His first appearance is credited to the animated short Steamboat Willie. The short premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York City on Nov. 18, 1928. At this point, Mickey is older than many of my readers’ great-grandparents, and more recognizable than most Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Monarchs.
Mickey Mouse is ingrained in culture. That silhouette is everywhere. His ears are hidden in the most conspicuous and inconspicuous of places owned by Disney. This includes the parks, rides, cruises, movies and television shows. Discussing the culture of hidden Mickeys is a blog unto itself — trust me.
I remember my first pair of Mickey Mouse ears
My fondest memory of Disneyland was bringing home Mickey ears and a Mickey balloon. I dutifully watched that Mickey Mouse shape inside a souvenir round balloon float around my room and slowly deflate over the period of a full month. I vaguely recall having the Mickey Mouse Club hat with ears and I remember them being made of a soft felt. Oddly enough, the hat reminded me of a larger version of the Yarmulke. It’s almost certain that I bent up and destroyed that hat from wearing it too much.
They sure don’t make’ em like they used to — and in my opinion, they make’ em better! One of my older daughters has Maleficent Mickey ears, and they’re beautiful. My youngest little girl has a few pairs; one for a birthday celebration at Disneyland, and a beautiful puffy purple pair that I like.
I bet you’re wondering, “Why is a grown man waxing so poetic over some silly little ears?”
Because I bought a pair!
That’s right, Gemrs — I got a pair of Star Wars Mickey ears that light up! Officially titled “Star Wars Light-Up Mouse Ears Headband item # 7505057371031p.” Described as “translucent ears featuring X-Wing Starfighters, TIE Fighters, and the Death Star.” Total coolness! These ears to me may be better than having a Lightsaber, and are definitely much easier to travel with (not to mention get through customs).
Purchasing a set of Mickey ears is a wonderful memory not just reserved for children.
Micky ears are exciting and memorable for adults, too. Just walk through any Disney park, and you will find people of all ages, backgrounds, and orientations wearing them. I believe Mickey ears could unite the world if used as a political platform. Acquiring Mickey ears is a cherished moment that happens every day of every year for hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Magic Kingdoms all over the world. Generally, when you see someone in Mickey ears, that person does not lose coolness points.
Mickey ears have evolved from soft hats and headbands to high fashion designs. Celebrities are proudly donning them outside the parks on social media, magazine covers, and music videos. The edgy designer Jeremy Scott in 2009 created the Mickey Mouse-eared sunglasses that Lady Gaga wore in her “Paparazzi” video, and Beyoncé wore in her “Telephone” music video. Rita Ora wore designer Mouse ears on the cover of Elle magazine. Madonna wore a pair during a shoot with the famous Herb Ritts. Even the Spice Girl, Mel B., and her daughter have sported a pair out in public.
So where did the ears come from? Who created them?
Mickey Mouse ears originally appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club circa 1955. The kids on the show wore hats with ears attached and a logo on the front. Roy Williams, famously known as the Big Mousketeer, created the ears. An animated short called Carnival Kid inspired Roy. In the cartoon, Mickey Mouse removes his ears like a hat and tips them to Minnie Mouse.
Roy “Big Roy” Williams was an artist and entertainer for The Walt Disney Studios and was the adult Mouseketeer for four seasons on the Mickey Mouse Club. He worked on animated shorts and developed story ideas for Disney. Roy also produced one-panel gag cartoons for The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, and a few other magazines. During World War II he designed over 100 insignias for the U.S. Army. In an interview, one of the Mouseketeers described him as, “a warm guy, who liked kids, always had time for kids, and always helped us any way he could.”
In the 80s, the cap transitioned to a lighter, more fashionable headband. This made them even more popular at the Disney theme parks. A Minnie Mouse version with a red polka-dotted bow between the two round ears came soon after. The ears are still one of the best-selling souvenirs for the Disney parks. If you were to lay, end to end, all the “Mouse ear” hats sold each year, they would easily stretch 175 miles.
The modern Mickey Mouse ears
Disneyland in 2005 introduced a gold 50th-anniversary version of the classic Mickey ears, as well as Minnie versions. Those ears set off a chain of creative hats that sell every year in the form of characters past, present, and future. There are holiday versions of the ears as well, which include Easter, Halloween, Christmas and Presidents’ Day. Mickey Ears are so popular throughout the world that there isn’t a style that can’t be dreamed of, licensed or custom-made — Just check out sites like Etsy.
Getting a pair of Mickey ears is one of the hallmark experiences when going to the Disneyland theme parks since the 1950s. They are one of the souvenirs that can be engraved with your name, and that you can use over again when you return to the any Disney venue. From the youngest to oldest, Mickey Mouse Ears are a fashion statement that is not only timeless but ageless as well.
I’m 54, and I finally found a pair I would wear. I haven’t had a pair since I was 5 years old and I can tell you, I am just as elated as I was then. I love my Star Wars Mickey ears! Make sure you grab yourself a pair, and may the Mickey Force be with you.