Japan may have forgiven the rip-off Disney star, but they have not forgotten what he did 80 years ago on that blood soaked Pacific island beach.
The year is 1936. The first edition of a new novel called Gone with the Wind was released just as African-American runner Jesse Owens dominated at the Berlin Olympics bemusing his host Adolf Hitler. Also, a baby by the name of Dennis Hopper was born, destined to go on to greatness as the true star of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, by far the best in the series.
But in Japan a historical battle had taken place. Often overlooked in other countries, it was a battle that rocked the nation to its very core. Waves of pain and regret rippled through the generations and can still be felt today in the hearts of Japanese people.
I’m talking about the 1936 “Mickey Mouse” bombing raids of a Japanese island in the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to this preserved archival footage of the incident we can all know what it was like so hopefully atrocities like that may never be committed again.
It was a fine day on the island on which Felix the Cat had been invited for a dance party on the beach.
Then out of the blue, Mickey Mouse (or at least a character that looks an awful lot like him) flew in on a really big bat and dropped a message for the residents there.
▼ “Vacate the island”
Felix the Cat unilaterally decides the fate of the island by setting the message on fire…and right up Mickey’s butt. Historians to this day debate whether that was the prudent move.
Mickey then called in battalions of snakes, fleets of alligators, and squadrons of bats to take the island by force…or liberate it, depending whether you’re a fan of Disney or not.
The survivors of the initial strike called upon Japan’s greatest fairy tale heroes to strike back at Mickey’s sizable army. Legendary characters Momotaro, Kintaro, Yoshitsune, Benkei and Issun-boshi all answered the call.
Naval forces were led by Urashima Taro, a young man who vanished to the castle of the dragon god for 300 years but did not age. He unfurls a quote from Marshal-Admiral Heihachiro Togo saying “The Empire’s Fate Depends on this Battle.”
After a fierce dog fight between Mickey’s bats and Momotaro’s dragonflies, the two commanders fight it out man-to-man on top of a cloud.
In the end Mickey is bested by Momotaro, and after falling through the cloud and getting hit by lightning half a dozen times, he is turned into an old mouse by the box containing Urashima Taro’s old age (it makes a lot more sense if you’ve read the fairy tale).
Finally, the fairy-tale characters ask Hanasaka Jiji to restore flowers to the island, and the celebration resumes. Only this time they are rejoicing over their victory against Mickey Mouse.
The description on the video’s YouTube page lists it as a “propaganda” piece. However, I don’t think it is quite meant to be one, despite the militaristic themes which were prevalent in Japanese society at that time. Called Toybox Series Part 3: Picture Book 1936 and produced by J.O. Studio and directed by Yoshitsugu Tanaka, it’s kind of like an Avengers of its time with all of Japanese folk-lore heroes coming together.
The villain in the short appears to be Mickey Mouse, but the look is almost certainly coincidental and just a stock rat character. With Japanese animation in its infancy it obviously borrowed heavily from its American counterpart in terms of style, much like China is doing now with Japan. How else would you explain why Felix the Cat sided with Japan?
I actually do have a detailed conspiracy theory that Felix was likely a double agent spy for the Japanese government in exchange for being transformed into the immortal cybernetic cat Doraemon…but that will have to wait for another day.
▼ The more you learn about these two, the more it makes sense…
Since that isn’t really Mickey Mouse, Toybox Series Part 3 doesn’t seem to be intentionally directed at a foreign enemy. I would say its more likely in reference to the previous wars against Russia and China than an attempt to vilify the USA through Mickey Mouse seven years before Pearl Harbor took place.
There is one mystery about this short that I just can’t figure out. Toybox Series Part 3 was released in 1934, and yet the title and story refer to 1936. “Mickey” even breaks several laws of physics and biology to point out what year it is in the very beginning.
Why on earth would they set this story two years in the future? Perhaps it was scheduled to be released then, but if that were the case, then why mention the year at all. Also, there was no sci-fi element as far as I could see that would require a futuristic setting, unless Japan was expecting bat-jet technology to explode in the next two years.
Was the reference to 1936 significant? Or was it just a loose end that was never tied up by the makers of Toybox Series Part 3: Picture Book 1936 and yet inexplicably put in the title? Whatever the truth is may have died with its creators and left a mystery forever…