Let’s take a look at the evolution of the Mickey Mouse costume, and exactly how it has changed in the last 94 years.
Mickey Mouse didn’t always have that fancy three-piece suit with tails and a yellow bowtie we see him in today. Mickey’s classic look had humble beginnings, with a simple black jumpsuit with red shorts and buttons. Now we’re not talking about animated Mickey – this is about the in-real-life-Mickey you can meet and hug in the Disney Parks, on Disney Cruise Line, and other Disney properties.
The Evolution of the Mickey Mouse Costume
According to the book The Art of Disney Costuming by Jeff Kurtti and the Staff of the Walt Disney Archives, Mickey has over a hundred outfits. Mickey has worn a spacesuit, golf sweater, and more than one style of overalls. How many of those 100+ outfits have you seen? Within those 100+ outfits is the classic Mickey look in Disney parks. Let’s take a look at how this has evolved over the last 94 years.
The First Real Life Mickey Mouse
It all started with a mouse, and Mickey made a few in-person appearances before he began entertaining guests at Disneyland. In this collage of photos, there are photos of Mickey dating back to 1929. You can even see behind the magic and know who’s helping bring Mickey to life.
In the 1930s, Mickey Mouse was seen once again at the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiere at Carthay Circle. The costume was still the same – a black leotard, shorts and gloves.
Mickey Mouse Costume in the 1950s
We’re going to jump forward a few decades into the 1950s. Disneyland is open and guests want to meet the character when visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. These characters and costumes were actually from the Disney Ice Capades, minus the skates.
This Mickey outfit looks a lot more like the 1929 Mickey that Walt had sitting on the roof of the Walt Disney Production truck.
Mickey Mouse Costume in the 1960s
It was in the 1960s that Mickey’s classic look really started changing. In 1961 the Mickey costume changed enormously. One big difference for Mickey was the sightline for “Mickey’s friend” through the top hat of the costume.
In this costume, Mickey was able to move his ears and nose. But let’s be honest, this Mickey is a bit scary-looking. Later in the 1960s, Mickey changed again and started to look more like the huggable mouse we see today.
How many fingers does Mickey have today? Can you count how many he has in the photo above? Yep, in the 1960s Mickey got two extra fingers to have five on each hand.
Mickey Mouse in the 1970s
The 1970s were the era of Mickey getting fur, a tux, but two fewer fingers. In this photo, you can see Mickey’s very large red-orange bow tie at the opening of Walt Disney World (WDW) in 1971.
Remember those two extra fingers Mickey had at the end of the 1960s? Well, it was in 1978 that he went back to the four fingers we see today. Around this time, Mickey is starting to move to the more classic yellow bowtie we see him in today.
Mickey Mouse Costumes in the 1980s
The 1980s brought a lot into the world of entertainment – new Star Wars movies, EPCOT, and the births of both Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kristen Bell. Just a few things that have greatly impacted the Disney we know today.
The 1980s also saw the beginning of an interesting Mickey Mouse costume trend – updating Mickey’s look whenever Disney had a new CEO. During the Michael Eisner era, the big update happened in 1987. Mickey’s classic outfit didn’t change too much, but the overall look of Mickey did, giving him a more rounded head, closer to the Mickey we see today.
In addition to updating the classic Mickey look, this was the era when Mickey started to wear different outfits in the parks more often. His wardrobe expanded to include a patriotic look when meeting the president, a scuba suit, and Mickey as the leader of the band.
Mickey Mouse in the 2000s
Mickey got another refresh in 2006 after Bob Iger became CEO in 2005. Did you ever get a chance to meet Magician Mickey in Magic Kingdom when he was able to talk to guests? It was very exciting to see. This was made possible, in part, by the introduction of articulated heads. This gave Mickey and other characters the ability to move their eyes and mouths.
You can still meet Magician Mickey at Town Square Theatre in Magic Kingdom but he no longer talks. Disney was concerned guests may get confused that they could talk to Mickey in one location but not in others.
Mickey Mouse Costume Today
These days finding Mickey in his classic look at Disney parks can be as challenging as teaching Goofy to surf. Pay attention during the nighttime show Fantasmic, and you may just get a glimpse of Mickey in a costume that looks a bit like the one back in 1929.
At Walt Disney World alone, between his meet and greets and character meals around the resort, you can see Mickey in more than 12 different outfits. EPCOT is typically the location of the classic Mickey look. And sometimes he just pops up in your Disney PhotoPass photo!
Tip: For Disney100 Mickey will be greeting guests at EPCOT in his platinum celebration suit. Disney has said this will run until December 31, 2023.
Mickey is always on trend! And over in Disneyland, Mickey’s classic look has moved to athleisure wear with red pants, a black hoodie, and a black and white striped shirt. He’s ditched the yellow bowtie for yellow sneakers.
Make sure to check out the November issue of WDW Magazine for more on Mickey’s looks in Walt Disney World parks.