Mickey: The True Original Exhibit

by Feb 1, 2019

Mickey Mouse becomes Mickey the muse for artists from around the world in a delightful art installation that’s full of whimsy in New York City. The exhibit, dubbed Mickey: The True Original, takes guests on a journey through Mickey’s history starting with his first appearance in 1928’s “Steamboat Willie” all the way to today, where Mickey’s influence circles the globe. The exhibit is a testament to this simple character who could just be the most recognizable face on the planet. Enchanting tributes to that familiar face are featured throughout 16,000-square-feet of space in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood. And in true Disney Parks fashion, there are hidden mickeys tucked away throughout the exhibit.



After watching a brief video celebrating Mickey’s history, we meet one of Walt Disney’s Academy Awards statues encased in glass. That leads to a long hall filled with Mickey shaped neon light sculptures. The room opens up to a life-size steamboat, a perfect spot for posing for pictures at the helm. Another room depicts Mickey, now joined by Minnie, in all his black and white glory. Visitors can immerse themselves in the art, putting themselves into the classic short “Building a Building.” There’s also a fascinating anamorphic sculpture that only looks right from the proper perspective.

Another long hallway filled with colored light takes us into the world of color and features archival photos featuring some of the women who brought Disney animation to life through brilliant color in the Ink & Paint department.


Next up is a tribute to my personal favorite Mickey toon “The Bandstand,” which was the first time the world saw Mickey in technicolor. Color pops off the walls thanks in part to a crocheted take on a scene from the short that fills an entire wall with yarn. On the other end of the artistic spectrum, another wall features more than a dozen iPads that show the short in a series of GIFs.



Around the corner is an archway made of mop buckets from the most popular portion of 1940’s Fantasia, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” A giant sorcerer’s hat hangs at a perfect height to put yourself in Mickey’s shoes. You can look down into big wells in the room and see Mickey bailing water in rough animation sequences. Another unique piece by Oliver Clegg depicts Mickey’s sorcerer costume on a canvas made up of wooden canvas chairs.



The most delicious room recreates the clubhouse from the Mickey Mouse Club and features an ice cream counter offering free samples of ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery, which created special flavors in honor of Mikey’s 90th birthday including Triple Chocolate Surprise and Confetti Celebration. The original Mouseketeers are represented by Cubby and Annette’s shirts, while more recent Mouseketeers including a very young Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake singing and dancing.



After finishing our ice cream, a more modern and internationally flavored look at Mickey filled the next room. My eyes were captivated by a wonderfully in-depth and layered psychedelic piece by 82-year-old Keiichi Tanaami from Japan.



The exhibition officially ends in a room filled with every product imaginable that’s been emblazoned with Mickey’s likeness. It’s a testament to the amazing work of Walt Disney as a marketer and salesman to see Mickey’s face on everything from shoes and purses to TV antennas and tricycles. There’s a mountain of plush Mickeys and a 10-foot tall Bearbrick sculpture of Mickey adorned with vintage pieces of t-shirts featuring our favorite mouse.



A quote from Walt Disney that’s posted on the wall as you exit sums up the exhibit and the past 90 years of Mickey’s influence on pop culture around the world: “I hope that we never lose sight of one thing- that it was all started by a mouse.”

Rest assured, Walt. No one will ever forget.

Mickey: The True Original will be running Tuesday-Sunday from 10 am – 8 pm through February 10, 2019. Tickets are $38 per person. For more information, please visit this site




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Ivy Eichmann

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