Natures and Cultures of Cuteness

Issue 09: Nature Loving (Fall 2005) Gary Genosko¬† Walt Disney is said to have pinned a note over each of his animators’ desks reminding them to “Keep it cute!” This demand for cuteness is not restricted to the cartoon bestiary, despite the remarkable array of cute mice and other rodents found there. Mickey Mouse was not always so cute. As he evolved, he became progressively more juvenile in appearance.1¬†The circles that gave form to his body – especially his ears which very early on ceased to be drawn in perspective – were subtlely adjusted to signify that his mean streak and off-color hijinks had been nipped in the bud: no more stripping and spanking frankfurters, hoisting Minnie by the knickers, and playing music on the bodies of animals. The biologist Stephen Jay Gould has argued that Mickey’s progressive juvenilization – what is known as neoteny – moved toward the features of his young nephew Morty. This was accomplished by an increase in eye size, head length and cranial vault size; Mickey’s arms and legs and … Continue reading Natures and Cultures of Cuteness