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Official Article

Mickey Mouse Magazine 1988

In the 80s every licensed property from The Muppets to G.I. Joe had their own children’s magazines. Promoted as educational literature and therefore an easy way to earn a subscription fee from parents concerned for their kid’s intellectual well-being, these periodicals found their way into our mailboxes multiple times a year. Mickey Mouse Magazine premiered in 1988 and I must say was a welcome alternative to Highlights (ugh…)

The first thing you’ll notice about this cover is that Mickey is sporting a hip new wardrobe that’s straight out of the latest episode of Growing Pains. Gone are the red suspenders and in their place are a blue blazer with rolled up sleeves. Mickey was either ready to hit the club or take down some drug dealers in ToonTown Miami Vice style.

As we can see from our Contents page, there was quite a bit of excitement packed into this issue which had a scattershot focus on New Years Eve, the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and Polynesian pop groups. But in addition to these features there were also lots of Disney merchandise ads, which we’ll be sampling as we flip the pages.

First up is a the Minnie’s Diary section where we see that Mickey’s gal pal has also gotten a makeover, which has found her rubbing elbows with pop music act, The Jets. This collection of Tongan siblings and cousins had quite a few radio hits back in the day, even being featured in anti-drug and Hi-C commercials, but never seem to get mentioned in 80s retrospectives. I remember a Tongan family in my neighborhood was was very proud of the fact The Jets were their cousins. At this time the group was promoting their new Christmas album and Minnie writes about attending a live concert.

Here’s an ad featuring the future star of Ducktales, “Uncle” Scrooge McDuck who seems to believe that these Disney storybooks are a great investment for the future, he may even put his nephews through college with the earnings. I personally had half of the books featured here and even came across that Snow White book just the other day at the thrift store. These storybooks were a part of almost every kid’s personal library growing up. The idea was that you signed up to receive the first 8 books at a discount, then each month were sent 2 new books to keep and pay for or return after 10 days. Kind of like the infamous Columbia Record Club for Disney loving parents.

Next we have a story about a 6 year old dedicated to the idea of staying up until midnight on New Years Eve. But this is no ordinary Kindergartner, it’s the “Cousin Oliver” of Family Ties himself, Brian Bonsall who played Michael J Fox’s baby brother on that show. This piece is presented in a poem as if it’s a modern day Twas The Night Before Christmas, with lines like, “ Now whisper ‘cause Brian has fallen asleep, the hour too late for this young star to keep, I guess my young friend will just have to wait, ‘til morning to welcome in 1988.” I didn’t post the whole story here, but the kid got high on candy and crashed hard before the clock struck midnight. Hey, it was the 80s after all.

Did adults ever try to sell you on the idea that collecting coins and stamps was a worthwhile hobby? If the coin was not a token for a video game arcade and the stamp was not attached to a package for a prize I mailed away for, I wasn’t interested. In this case the solid gold and silver coins had Mickey or Snow White on them, but this ad didn’t even try to sell direct, they wanted you to find your “Local Authorized Rarities Dealer”. The stamps on the other hand were a 54 item set for $29.95 plus S+H. For a few tiny pictures of Snow White with a sticky backing? No thank you, I’d rather buy the T-Rex from Dino Riders.

In the Family Times section the editors were promoting VHS and Beta tapes to pop into the VCR on a Friday night, but what’s odd is that only one is a Disney film. Lady and the Tramp gets a push, but next up is a Gumby tape of the recently rebooted TV series and most surprising of all, Don Bluth’s An American Tail. You see Disney animation was in the toilet by 1988 and Don Bluth was a former Disney animator, who had famously walked out with a bunch of their artists to form a competing studio a few years earlier. An American Tail was a huge hit that defeated Disney’s Oliver and Company at the box office in a big way, so for a Mickey Mouse Magazine to be promoting the competition was a major snafu.

Now here’s a completely obsolete concept that was once an essential part of every kid’s schoolwork, the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Promoted as the “answer to everything” book, I specifically remember flipping through the impossibly thin pages in order to gather enough info for a report on Antarctica in 4th grade and being bored to tears. But that was what we had to do pre-internet, find the alphabetically correct book in this “32 volume set” of incredibly heavy reference books, just so we could learn who Franz Ferdinand was. In my case these were hand me downs from my older siblings who got the books in the mid-70s, so much of the information I had on file was out of date. I’m telling you, when the Alta Vista and WebCrawler search engines came along it was a revelation!

If I’m being honest, the non-ad based representation of Disney characters in this magazine so far has been disappointing, so with Goofy’s Giggles it was nice to at least get a page full of cartoon characters. I have to admit, some of the jokes are pretty clever. “What does Scrooge McDuck like about winter? SNOW BANKS!” Others are terrible puns like, “What did Mickey get his girlfriend for Christmas? A MINNIE-skirt!” Still others raise more questions than laughs, “Why does Pluto’s pal act so silly? Because he’s GOOFY!” Huh? Since when are Goofy and Pluto buddies? Plus, it brings up the whole issue of Goofy being a dog who acts like a person and Pluto being a pet even though they appear to be a similar species. Neurotic kids like yours truly were not ready for this brand of humor.

This issue was being published in the Winter and so had to have some tie to Christmastime. Thus we have this awesome ad for Tonka brand playthings. First of all, Santa looks like Bob Hoskins’ Smee from Hook playing Jolly Old St. Nick, but that’s besides the point, look at the toys! Those Super Naturals with their holographic innards are the definition of rad, though I can’t admit to having a connection to Spiral Zone figures other than knowing it had a tie-in comic book from DC. My wife still has her Maple Town animal figurines and I remember thinking as a boy that even for a girls toy, Keypers had a great gimmick. They were animal shaped treasure chests with a little key to open them up, that’s just neat.

One more feature is Sport Goofy’s report on the Olympic games. Yes, just like Minnie’s Diary they have someone writing in Goofy’s voice to tell kids about Figure Skating, Skiing and more snow based competition. What strikes me as odd is the moniker of “Sport Goofy”. I’ve seen this title used online and even on vintage branded lunchboxes at antique stores and it makes me wonder if this is the Goofy we know and love or an extended member of the Goof clan. I mean back in the day you didn’t have NFL or MLB commentators calling themselves “Sport John Madden” or “Sport Bob Uecker”.

Closing out the issue is a recipe for how to make Mickey Mouse pancakes and what could be more thematically appropriate? How about a pancake that actually looks like the star of your magazine! Look, I know there are certain limitations with food artistry, but they’ve added way too many extra details that take the whole character off model. Number 1: Mickey does not have whiskers. Number 2: His nose has never been red. Number 3: What is that white stuff? Dandruff? Mickey is no slob and definitely has enough cash to invest in some Selsun Blue. Number 4: The world’s most famous mouse does not wear a yellow had with a feather, represented here by a dollop of butter and a toothpick. This is something you’d order at a roadside diner that didn’t want to pay the Disney licensing fees called “Most Famous Mouse Cakes”, certainly not worthy of endorsement by The Walt Disney Company.

Also included in the issue was this beautifully illustrated fold-out poster of Cinderella. I mean it only appealed to half the audience (I never would have put it up on my wall) but it’s still a great representation of what was the core appeal of Walt Disney’s output from the 30’s until the then present day.

There you have it, Mickey Mouse Magazine from 1988. Thanks for the turning the pages with me. If you want more Disney fun, I have a new podcast called The 2 Goofs Podcast where my best friend and I share out stories from working in costume at Disneyland. Lots of fun behind the scenes tales in this 12 part series that you can find on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube or stream on Podbean at this link https://twogoofspodcast.podbean.com/

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OldSchool80s Posted on Apr 03, 2019 at 01:53 AM

Love this! Thanks for sharing.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Mar 29, 2019 at 05:52 PM

@jkatz What, you don't think kids are getting a decent education from all their apps? Yeah, me neither.

@Benjanime Yeah, I have a few issues of Nintendo Power with retro celebrities like Wil Wheaton and Michael Dorn from Star Trek: The Next Generation, New Kids On The Block and then some totally forgotten performers like The Jets.

jkatz Posted on Mar 27, 2019 at 07:06 PM

It's so wholesome to see a children's magazine promote reading.

Benjanime Posted on Mar 27, 2019 at 03:00 AM

i got a nintendo power vibe from that minnie's diary magazine section, the layout reminded me of the early issues of the magazine when they would feature celebrity interviews like tim allen. love coming back to nostalgic memories like this.

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