The new Mickey shows a mean side.（21ST）
Warren Spector is working on something, something Disney and Spector have been quiet about for a long time. （Internet）
THERE's been a lot going on at Disney. The company announced last Tuesday that, after about 20 years of negotiations, a Disneyland-style theme park is finally coming to the Chinese mainland. Meanwhile, there's another big move underway, maybe a risky one-giving its most remarkable creation, Mickey Mouse, a makeover.
Eighty-one-year-old Mickey, one of the most familiar Disney character ever, has been redone to star in a new video game, Epic Mickey. It will come out next year for the Wii console. In the game, the old nice, clean character can be ill-tempered and cunning as he traverses a forbidding wasteland.
"I wanted him to be able to be naughty-when you're playing as Mickey you can misbehave and even be a little selfish," Warren Spector told The New York Times. He's the creative director of Junction Point, a Disney-owned game developer that came up with Epic Mickey.
“我希望它顽皮些，让玩家化身为米奇时，能够做些失礼的行为，甚至有点自私。” Warren Spector在接受《纽约时报》采访时说。他是Junction Point的创意总监，是迪士尼的游戏开发者，也是《传奇米老鼠》的制作人。
For years, Mickey was best known for his bland friendliness. And he's been a character that the Disney Corp. dare not tamper with: a potent corporate symbol of the Disney enterprise, and a perfect example of both cultural phenomenon and commercial success. In 2004, Mickey was rated by Forbes as the world's most valuable character, generating $5.8 billion (39 billion yuan) a year in sales worldwide.
Mickey maintained his unshakeable reputation for decades. But to recent generations of ironic, tech-savvy kids in the US, he has become more of a Disney mascot than a beloved character. This has been shown by the decline in domestic sales. Of Mickey's $5 billion (34 billion yuan) in sales worldwide for 2009, less than 20 percent will come from the US.
For a generation who grew up on Pixar, DreamWorks and Nickelodeon animations -strong Disney competitors -here's what it's like: They know Mickey Mouse, but may not love him. There are so many new cartoon personalities that seem to drag Mickey down on the list of "most popular cartoon characters" nowadays.
You might say that today's children are too mature to like those new naughty characters. But, these characters' sharp personalities help them stand out. Mickey's blandness has almost made his character dumb.
Now, it may sound strange, but when Mickey was first created in 1928 he was a mischievous, amorous "rogue" who got into fights, played practical jokes.
By the 1930s, when the US was threatened with a depression and political radicalism, the conservative, communist-hating Walt Disney decided to tone down Mickey's behavior. That was when he created the bland, all-American mouse that Mickey has been ever since.
But, Disney has continuously failed to profit for years in its theme parks abroad, including Paris and Hong Kong. Disneyland Tokyo is the only theme park outside the US that shows a profit. So, it has started to target the video game market, spending at least $180 million (1.2 billion yuan) on game development this year alone.
That's business. In addition, Disney is trying to recover from its seemingly "failed Americanism". It's overhauling its most identifiable character and finding him a new place in the fast-growing entertainment world.
"There's a distinct risk of alienating your core consumer when you tweak a sacred character," Matt Britton, the managing partner of Mr Youth, a New York brand consultant, told The New York Times. "But, at this point, it's a risk Disney has to take."