Murray and Mickey

Published June 30, 2009 by Graham

maurice-mickey1

As the opening page of Selma G. Lanes’ definitive resource, The Art of Maurice Sendak, makes exceedingly clear, Sendak’s life has been entwined with Mickey Mouse’s since the very beginning. Born one month after Walt Disney’s radical rodent first flew onto silver screens, the artist grew up enthralled by Mickey. Serving as the source material for his first color illustration (completed at age six, and far more impressive than the work of most adult illustrators) and, much later, inspiration for In the Night Kitchen’s euonymous plane-flying hero, Mickey Mouse is described by Lanes as a dominant force in Sendak’s childhood.

The young Maurice, like countless other children from coast to coast, chewed Mickey Mouse chewing gum, brushed his teeth with a Mickey Mouse toothbrush, played with Mickey in a seemingly endless variety of games, and read about his adventures in all shapes and sizes of comic strips and storybooks. “Best of all,” Sendak says, “was seeing him on the movie screen. In the darkened theater, the sudden flash of his brilliant, wild, joyful face–radiating great golden beams–filled me with an intoxicating unalloyed pleasure.”

While it may lack the atmospheric magic of a golden age picture house, YouTube provides us with instant access to the classic Disney cartoons of which Maurice was so fond. Check out the 1929 film Mickey’s Choo Choo below, an early black and white short that seems to run on the same punchdrunk surrealism that personified Betty Boop, rather than the character-based humor that took hold after the advent of Donald Duck and Goofy.

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3 comments so far

  1. Are you trying to tell me that Murray is short for Maurice? Really?

  2. weecho says:

    Mickey sure is one smooth operator.

  3. Graham says:

    Yes, really! At least, that was his childhood nickname according to Lanes… the backside of the aforementioned primordial Mickey Mouse drawing was signed by “Murray Sendak”

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