A writeup in the New York Times asks Can Disney Build a Better Mickey Mouse?.
The company acknowledges that revenue from Mickey merchandise, measured as a portion of all consumer products, has shrunk significantly since 1997. What Disney doesn’t acknowledge is that Mickey’s reputation, measured in conversations with industry watchers, is shrinking even more. Still, signals of the Mouse’s distress have lately begun to seep out, almost unconsciously, from the soul of Disney’s business: its storytelling. In a video game called “Kingdom Hearts” which has sold more than 4 million units since its release in 2002 and is frequently cited as evidence of Mickey’s continuing relevance the mouse barely appears. Instead, he is relegated to a subplot that seems eerily allegorical. According to the game’s Web site, evil marauding aliens known as the Heartless are threatening the Kingdom. (Roy Disney has called the company under Mr. Eisner’s leadership rapacious and soulless.) “There’s turmoil in Disney Castle,” it says. “King Mickey is missing.”