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March 3, 2011 by Mariel Gutierrez

Mickey Mouse Ears
By: Mariel Gutierrez

Oh funny little mouse ears, what would hat-loving, kids-at-heart do without you? OK, so maybe these plastic, circular disks snapped atop a felt beanie are not as convenient as a keychain. They may be twelve times larger than the sought after, limited edition pins. And yes, Vinylmations are so darn adorable! But, can you wear a keychain, pin, Vinylmation, shot glass, spoon, bell, or any other tiny collectible on your head? Without it falling off, of course.

I will admit: I'm a collector of collections. Many shoeboxes containing key chains, piggy banks, and shot glasses from around the world are collecting dust in my parent's basement. My Alice in Wonderland, Tinker Bell, and Cast Member pins occupy a few pages of my brother's pin book (I'm pretty sure if I buy my own, I would buy hundreds more pins that I don't have the money for). And the cute Vinylmations that I told myself to stay away from? I have three now, and I'm working on four blank ones.

As for Mickey Mouse Ears, they're more than a collection. They're not just a quirky hat -- actually six quirky hats -- bought on trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. These babies are the one collection out of my many collections that I treasure the most. One reason is probably because my family and I love us some hats; we can't get enough of them. In fact, hats in general is another collection to add to the list. Then there's the fact that if you're going to wear a hat in Disney, of course you have to wear the one type of hat that fails to shield your face from the sun. But, you can always do the creative thing and wear the ears on top of you baseball cap.

Also, like other collectibles, Mouse Ears become immediate keepsakes. Sometimes, Mouse Ears are the one item you purchase during your entire stay at Disney, so of course you're going to love it forever.  On rare occasions, like with me, it's the first Disney item you own. When I was barely six months old, my parents took me on my first trip to Walt Disney World. They bought me an engraved mug and of course, a baby set of mouse ears with my name embroidered on the back. And thus the seed of my little collection of Mickey Ears was planted.

       
Mickey Ears circa 1984. It still said Mickey Mouse Club
instead of Walt Disney World!

But the main reason why I and thousands of others adore those mouse ears? It's because once you don them, that's when a lot of the fun begins. It's worn during a first or tenth visit at Disneyland. It's given a "thumbs up" from the Big Cheese himself. It gets lost and found at Space Mountain. It gets stolen by Captain Hook, but subsequently returned when Peter reminds Hook that crocodiles enjoy the taste of rude pirates, true story!  It gets chased down Main Street when a surprising gust of wind blows it off because you were too stubborn to pull the string around your chin. They're more than an extra set of ears. They become a part of the experience, and a part of the memory. And if you own more than one set of ears, most likely each one has its own story.

My Safari Minnie Ears was purchased on my family's first trip to Animal Kingdom, and our first trip back to Walt Disney World after a four year absence. The St. Patrick's Day Ears was on a celebratory trip to Disneyland after I found out I would be moving to California. The prototype of the Golden Ears was when I participated in a Disneyland 50th Anniversary commercial. Those are just a few stories that each of my ears hold. Imagine the millions of other stories that ears around the world possess.


From top to bottom: Animal Kingdom Safari Minnie Ears, Disneyland St. Patrick's Day Ears, DL 50th Anniversary Golden Ears Prototype, DL 50th Anniversary Golden Ears, WDW College Program Graduation Ears, Baby Ears

Eventually the wonderful world that is Disney caught on to this sentiment. After selling millions of ears year after year, how could they not? Fifty odd years since the Mickey Ears hat conception, the ultimate personalization of Mickey Ears was created. In March 2008, Le Chapeau in Magic Kingdom was the first Disney resort shop to offer guests the opportunity to create their own personal set of Mickey Ears. In just four easy steps, guests could create their ideal hat to suit their personality or the occasion for their visit. Choose a base, choose some ears, choose a few patches, and embroider a name. That simple! And guess who did just that last month in Disneyland!

 
My 2011 Birthday Ears made in Disneyland!

Personalization is just one form of evolvement the Ears have gone through. Since Roy Williams, Chuck Keehne, Hal Adelquist, and Bill Walsh first created the Mickey Ears for the 1950s "Mickey Mouse Club," there have been myriad of Ear variations. The traditional hat consists of a black felt base, black plastic ears, and a Mickey Mouse patch. The Mickey Mouse patch originally had the words "Mickey Mouse Club" included, to be similar to the hats worn by the original Mouseketeers.

Eventually "Mickey Mouse Club" was replaced with "Walt Disney World" or "Disneyland," depending on the resort you're in.  Baby Mouse Ears popped up, as did Bride and Groom themed ones, then different colored bases, like pink or blue. And today, well, Mouse Ears are themed to mimic the appearance of everything from popcorn to mouse-eared ice cream, to R2-D2, to Kermit the Frog. So, whatever the occasion, a guest can find the perfect set of Mouse Ears to complement their Disney trip. And now with new limited edition hats popping up, like the Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Ears, you can bet that in the future more and more creative Mouse Ears will be joining Disney keepsake collections around the world.

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