Simpler Times seeks to excavate and luxuriate in the pop culture relics of yesteryear by sifting through the staticky depths of the Internet Archive’s VHS Vault.
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the world knew two things: It loved catching up with the affable drunks of Cheers, and it loved to see cartoon characters interacting with real human actors. This was the era of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Cool World, of Paula Abdul dancing with MC Skat Kat in “Opposites Attract,” and of Arnold Schwarzenegger starring alongside yet another anthropomorphic cat in Last Action Hero.
It makes a certain kind of sense, then, that 1988 would give us a television special where Mickey Mouse in all his animated, falsetto-voiced glory, would take his sorrows over to Cheers, where, of course, everybody knows his name.
It’s best to watch the scene without too much context, if possible. An ideal viewing should astonish and delight with the dreamlike experience of hearing Woody Harrelson, having just watched a news report about Mickey Mouse being missing, deliver a straight-faced, “Well, his birthday’s coming up. He’s gotta show up for his presents!” before a living cartoon walks into the bar. It only gets weirder as Mickey orders a “double” root beer float, finds himself unable to pay (the billionaire degenerate), and ends up singing happy birthday to Kirstie Alley before, uh, flirting with her and leaving on a date as the cast sings his theme song.
Having absorbed this, know that Mickey’s journey into the fleshrealm didn’t stop at Cheers. As part of the Mickey’s 60th Birthday TV special, the dejected rat, tasting humility for once in his charmed life, ended up visiting a real who’s who of 1988 American pop culture. According to the show’s Wikipedia summary, Mickey was cast out into our world by a mean sorcerer and soon met up with celebrities like Bette Midler, Cheech Marin, Phil Collins, and Burt Reynolds as well as cast members from Family Ties, Hunter, The Golden Girls, and L.A. Law.
These were truly simpler times. Now, looking back on Mickey’s tour of the late ‘80s network TV landscape, we can see that he was simply scouting for more intellectual properties to absorb. He may have pretended at humanity with the cast of Cheers, but, really, it’s likely that the greedy little rodent was actually sizing them up for acquisition into his ever-hungry empire. Maybe, in hindsight, they shouldn’t have been glad he came.