In a risky step, Walt Disney Co. has unveiled a nasty new version of Mickey Mouse, the iconic rodent who drives over $5 billion in annual merchandising. Though still adventurous, this “cantankerous and cunning” incarnation of the heretofore perky character—created for “Epic Mickey,” a Nintendo Wii video game—will even turn into a rat at one point. Though most commentators agree that the “bland” Mickey could use a refresh, does he have to become such a, well, rat? (Watch the sweet, old-school Mickey attend a picnic in a clip from 1930)

Disney has no choice—Mickey has no relevance: “There’s a distinct risk of alienating your core consumer when you tweak a sacred character," but it’s a risk [Disney executives] have to take, says branding expert Matt Britton, quoted in the New York Times, (which notes that “Epic Mickey” also features a “disemboweled, robotic Donald Duck” and a “twisted, broken, dangerous” version of the Disney ditty, “It’s a Small World").
"After Mickey's makeover, no more Mr. Nice Guy"

Has Disney gone insane? Why are the folks at Disney trying to “scare the hell out of young kids,” asks Jonathan Elias at This “scary makeover”—turning the “cute, lovable” classic Mickey into a “maniacal” rodent—is baffling. Mickey and Co. have “thrilled kids for years”—they certainly don’t need “an edge” now.
“Mickey Mouse goes mean?”

A ‘naughty’ Mickey is disturbing: Is it just me, or is there a subtle element of “sexual creepiness" here, asks Azaria Jagger in Gawker. The word “naughty” should really be “off-limits to people whose jobs involve children.” That said, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised: “In retrospect, [Mickey] always did dress a bit like a Chippendale dancer.”
“Mickey Mouse’s ‘naughty’ makeover promises to be disturbing”

Disney waited too long: It’s too late for the cartoon mouse, says Bruce Watson in Daily Finance. Mickey is “one of the world’s most recognizable corporate logos,” but he has “long since receded into irrelevance as a cartoon character.” Kudos to Disney for finally realizing this, but “more than two generations have grown up with a Mickey that is flat and boring.” Better luck next time.
“Mickey Mouse gets a makeover”