Posted June 3, 2014, By Jon Gower, Research Director
..AKA the house mouse. This diminutive rodent has established itself as a distinct and widely recognised domestic creature across the world. Rarely invited in to the domestic domain, the house mouse is perceived by adults as a sneaky invader, a pest and even a subject of fear. In short, he punches well above his tiny weight, prompting otherwise peaceful adult human beings to set all manner of devious and wicked traps around the home, in a desperate bid to catch, maim and kill.
However, the mouse is also cute. Children know this, and sometimes they like to remind us adults of this. The house mouse is also fast and characterful. He zips around at great speed, scurrying across the kitchen floor and into the safety of his hole in the skirting board. These rapid scurries cause musophobic Tom-and-Jerry-housewives to scream, and even the dourest homeowner to jump in surprise.
But if you are very still, and very, very quiet, you can sometimes observe the house mouse sitting in front of some crumbs, nose and whiskers twitching feverishly, as it nibbles away. All in all, the house mouse is characterful, cute and zippy.
And then there is the cat. Mice are scared of cats, and cats want to catch and eat mice, and that’s the way it’s has been ever since they were both created. However, human civilization has also exacerbated the eternal contest between these two foes. So, in many ways, there is a triangle of intrigue between man, cat and mouse - often with the former two ganging up on the latter. But we also have a deep-rooted appreciation of the underdog (or undermouse), and perhaps it this quality of defiance and tenacity against the odds that has endeared generations to rally behind the cause of Mus musculus.
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that designers of children’s characters have often looked to the simple house mouse for inspiration. In 1928 Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created Mickey and Minnie Mouse, who both went on to huge success, featuring in many cartoons, comics, films, theme parks and ultimately represent the core of what Disney means to generations of children. At 86 years of age, both Mickey and Minnie are still happily together and their relationship has survived a world war, cold war and endless other international crises.
Mighty Mouse (1942) has not endured such depth of fame and recognition as Mickey and Minnie, yet he has managed to survive into the 21st century. Initially designed as a parody of a superhero, Mighty Mouse is very much a heroic rodent, bold and adventurous in pulling off great deeds of valour. Whilst Mighty has been absent for just over a decade now, there have been rumours of a CGI feature film comeback, so perhaps we will see him once again shooting across our digital screens.
Jerry Mouse. Think Tom and Jerry. Yes - Jerry is the mouse! This dynamic duo have been entertaining children (and adults) for over 8 decades, and represent the very epitome of cat vs. mouse. Created by Hanna and Barbera in 1940, Tom and Jerry is one of the most successful cartoons of all time. Children have been captivated by the endless quest of Tom to catch Jerry, and Jerry’s continuous battle for survival. That this ongoing contest has at times been characterised by astonishing levels of violence (amidst other non-PC elements) has provided a sometimes criticised, but let’s face it, highly entertaining form of the cartoon genre.
However, after this glut of mice creationism, there followed a rodentian drought, until, finally, Danger Mouse was born in 1981. Danger Mouse was a very, very distinct character. Dubbed the ‘world’s greatest secret agent’, this maverick mouse also spoke 34 languages and was practiced in the martial art of ‘Kung Moggy’. Backed up by an exotic cast of characters (especially Penfold, with his dancing eyebrows) and a rampant, whirlwind of a theme tune, Danger Mouse was the kind of the show you just could not ignore.
After all this madness, It was clear that a quieter, calmer mouse was now needed. Enter 1999, enter Maisy. Created by children’s author Lucy Cousins, Maisy is an easy going mouse, and is designed for a pre-school audience. Maisy is usually accompanied by a range of other animal character friends, who together experience mini-adventures that help children understand the world around them, and Neil Morrissey’s narration on the cartoon series provides a mellow backdrop to the stories.
Could things get any mellower? Well, actually, yes they could. And they did, in 2011, courtesy of Webster and De Souza creating Rasta Mouse. The concept was simple. Create a colourful, laid-back mouse and instruct him in the ways of Jah Rastafari. Then, let him go about his business. Whilst Rasta Mouse created a mini stir amongst the tetchy upper classes, the fact is, kids love him, and that is usually what really counts.
So, what can we can conclude from this mousey tour? Well, it appears that the world of children’s mice has calmed down and matured. What would world-saving Mighty Mouse make of chilled out Rasta Mouse? What would exuberant Mickey make of calm Maisy? What would Rasta Mouse make of Tom trying to catch him? Probably not a great deal, because you see, these modern mice, they are chilled, characterful, and in control.
That’s all folks!