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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #97: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Hubris in action.

As we wrap up our Florida family adventure with the Magic Kingdom, I have a confession to make. I don't much like Mickey Mouse. The squeaky little rat irritates me with his faux-folksy persona and casual tyranny over the Disney universe. I get the sense he fakes being buddy-buddy with Donald and Goofy and then laughs at them while he's drinking and counting his money.

But I do respect Mickey's work in Fantasia. That 1940 Disney effort is iconic for good reason: it's stirring, it's beautiful, it's poetic. The adaptation of Goethe's Sorcerer's Apprentice is the finest of the film's set pieces, and some of my favorite animation ever. Mickey as silent and subordinate is novel and effective, and the story itself remains a strong allegory today. Who doesn't want a magical shortcut to power that takes the drudgery out of our lives? And yet wielding forces we don't understand and aren't intellectually or morally ready to control is fraught with peril.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is cute musical fable, but one with a stern set of warnings: there are no shortcuts, power in unsteady hands is dangerous, and wisdom comes hard. Even for a cartoon Gatsby like Mickey Mouse.

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