02 July 2010

Wander back

An innocuous sidewalk stamp on Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is tread upon more often than it is noticed. While it may seem like a minute detail, this small stamp says as much about the era as the architecture of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and offers a narrative about the Disney story that can scarcely be offered this side of One Man’s Dream.

Starting with the stamp itself, contractors used these stamps from the 1900s through the 1970s. Harkening back to the spirit of taking pride in one’s work, the stamps allowed contractors to showcase their craftwork. From a historical perspective, the contractor stamps allowed the monitoring of urban sprawl and development, as well as marking the dates of specific construction projects.

This particular contractor stamp found on Sunset Boulevard has two intriguing elements that tie into a singular event, the date of 1928 and the name Mortimer. It was in the year 1928 that Walt Disney lost his control of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and, on the train ride home, created the single most recognizable cartoon character in the world, Mickey Mouse. It is said that, during the trip home, he discussed the character with his wife, Lillian, and gave the little guy the name Mortimer. The name had no appeal to Lillian and she thought Mickey sounded better, and so the mouse was monikered.

It is worth noting, however, that Mortimer Mouse did turn up in 1936 as the title rogue in the short, Mickey’s Rival. The wisecracking schemer in pursuit of Minnie’s affection has since appeared in a variety of modern shorts, including a recurring appearance on House of Mouse. It goes without saying that Minnie’s heart belongs solely to Mickey, but that the clever reemergence of the name Mortimer in 1936 as Mickey’s Rival is a nod to the rivalry the two names once shared for the same animated mouse.

The next time you are wandering down Sunset, take a few moments to think about the craftsmanship presented in the bland contractor stamps, and all the history portrayed in that one little patch of sidewalk. Then stop to ponder what other treasures are hidden in plain sight all throughout Walt Disney World.

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