When Mickey Mouse debuted in 1928 in the "Steamboat Willie" short, audiences everywhere were charmed by his spunk, and 90 years later, the mouse is synonymous with joy, fantasy and childhood.
Disney is celebrating his anniversary with the opening of "Mickey: The True Original Exhibition" on Thursday as a sort of museum of the mouse or homage to the ears that have brought happiness to so many for so long.
Until Feb. 10, visitors to the art exhibit at 60 10th Ave. can revel in all things Mickey Mouse across 16,000 square feet, starting with a large-format video introduction setting Mickey to contemporary music with a really good beat.
This isn’t the Mickey you were expecting.
More than two dozen artists have taken Mickey or his elements — the gloves, the yellow shoes and his three-circle silhouette — and used them in new ways to pay homage to the character.
The pop-up includes artist Jeff Shelly’s wall of neon characters with design notes like "can have shoulders when needed" and "pants have pockets" to London Kaye’s vibrant "crochet bomb."
Visitors can climb on a "steamboat" surrounded by Shelly’s neon art, a huge wall mural made from acrylic and spray paint of Mickey and Minnie by Brooklyn artist Katherine Bernhardt, and a painting of Mickey inside someone’s home by Ariana Papademetropoulos.
There are several interactive pieces to the exhibit as well, including "Steamboat Willie Redux," a compilation of about 50 artists’ takes on the short with each of the 35 scenes taking on a different animation style, from stop-motion to computer-generated animation.
"Redux demonstrated the power of Mickey Mouse and animation," artist John T. Quinn told amNewYork. "Mickey has had an impact on generations of artists from all over the world and this gives everyone a chance to geek out and be a part of it."
Visitors can also pose and post photos of themselves with a large fiberglass Mickey by Daniel Arsham that seems to be coming out of or being sucked into the wall, a huge Keith Haring painting, black-and-white cutouts based on an early short by Walt Disney (it was released after "Steamboat Willie") "Building a Building," a Mickey T-shirt by Amanda Ross-Ho that could fit Mickey’s nemesis Pete, and duck inside Kenny Scharf’s "Cosmic Cavern" and the exhibit’s "Sorcerer’s Way."
Entering through an arch made of wooden buckets straight out of "Fantasia," guests are greeted by an infinity mirror of enchanted broomsticks and wells that show moving images of Mickey before any color was added to him in film.
Selfie enthusiasts can take photos under a large sorcerer’s hat before heading to the Mickey Mouse Club room, where Ample Hills ice cream awaits with two new flavors celebrating the 90th anniversary — "Confetti Celebration" and "Triple Chocolate Surprise" — and artifacts from the original Mouseketeers.
More pieces of Disney history follow, with merchandise from the 1930s through today, including a tea set, an oven for children, dolls, Vans shoes, pens, lunch boxes, board games, watches, Levi’s jeans, plushies and more.
The exhibit’s curator, Darren Romanelli, wanted to incorporate the feeling that anything is possible, a sense of adventure and feelings of happiness that he experienced in the city’s parks while growing up, he said.
Merging contemporary art with the history and development of Mickey was a way to excite fans once again in New York City, he added.
"Steamboat Willie" originally premiered here in 1928 and so we wanted to bring that energy back," he said.
The exhibit is open Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $38 online at showclix.com.