Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Zen Is Like Mickey Mouse

My Zen Is Like Mickey Mouse

“In perpetuity and throughout the universe.”

I’ve always loved the poetry of that phrase.
How simply and elegantly it covers…

Very zen!

It is also, on a personal level,
Very evocative to me,
As it reminds me of the years
I worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation.

You see, that’s what my Disney contract actually said,
“In perpetuity and throughout the universe.”
Meaning the company owned 
The work I produced for them 
Throughout the cosmos and for all time.

Forever and ever and everywhere.

I suppose that’s in case
I try to collect royalties from  
Martians of the future who
Land on earth and demand
To see Beauty and the Beast!

But you know lawyers.
Especially Disney lawyers.
They’re very thorough.

“So what?” I said. “I’m an artist!” 
I wanted to make 
Cartoons for Walt Disney,
The biggest damn cartoon-maker there ever was!

So I signed on the dotted line.

Of course, I never met Mr Disney,
Who died in 1966.
I’m old but not that old.

I worked there from 1989 until 2004.
Fifteen years.
The second golden age 
Of hand-drawn animation, 
It’s been called.
Although I don’t think I can seriously
Take all the credit for that one.

Maybe I was a small part of it.
Who knows?
A big thing is often made 
Of smaller things, is it not?

While working for Disney
I drew everything from 
Roger Rabbit losing his lunch…
To the little bear cub Koda…
Who loses his mother.

“Just like Bambi!” I used to brag,
Remembering that famous scene
Of a father explaining why a mother, 
“… can’t be with you, anymore.”

I don’t know about you, 
But that scene from Bambi
Still makes me cry today.
I wonder.
Have I worked on a scene
That made you cry?
Or laugh?
Or squeeze a loved one’s hand 
In the dark with excitement?

At Disney, there’s a lot of tradition
Behind every animated movie.
Almost a century of progressive filmmaking.
Over sixty animated features.
Uncountable hours of labor by
Generations of talented employees.
Think of it…

Millions upon millions of drawings!

That’s a lot to live up to
And sometimes it weighs heavily
Upon those who make these movies today.
They try so hard!

It was here that I learned, btw,
The most important lesson an artist can learn…
To trust yourself.

I loved them all,
My pencil’s creations!
As you should love your children.
But I have three special favorites
From my days at Disney.
They are Khan the horse from Mulan,
Whom I love for his beauty and strength.
Stitch the experiment from Lilo and Stitch,
Whom I love for his appeal and sense of fun.
And Mickey Mouse, the little guy who started it all,
Whom I’ve loved since I was a child,
For his bravery and humanity.

Which is maybe a funny thing to say
About a mouse.
His humanity.
But that’s the magic 
Of Disney animation, isn’t it?

Between features sometime in the early 1990s 
I finally got to work with Mickey. 
I drew him dancing with a German supermodel 
While endorsing an orange-flavored soda pop. 
A commercial.
Made for the European market. 
Never shown in America.

But still I worked with Mickey Mouse!

Luckily, he was a good dancer,
Because I cannot dance worth a darn.
He was a good actor too,
Which made it easier.
Claudia Schiffer, the German supermodel 
He danced with in the commercial, 
Said he was a good kisser, as well.

Which doesn’t surprise me.
Mickey always brings his “A” game!

He was difficult to draw though.
At least he was for me.
You had to get him just right
Or he didn’t look like Mickey Mouse at all.

And you know what?
When I worked with him I discovered 
That he was even nicer in person 
Than he is in the movies!

The really big stars 
Are like that, they say.
Hard working… 
Considerate of others…

Which reminds me of my zen.
And the reason I began this poem.
May I compare my zen 
To that great actor, dancer and kisser,
Mickey Mouse?

My zen is hard working, 
Like Mickey is,
Because work is love… 
And without it nothing is achieved.
My zen is kind, 
Like Mickey is, 
Because it’s not how smart 
We are that matters… 
But how kind we can be. 
My zen has consideration for others, 
As Mickey does,
Because even a cartoon mouse knows…

Without consideration for others you are just an asshole. 

Finally, my zen helps me understand 
My place in the scheme of things.
That I should try to be happy
And not worry too much 
About living in a world 
I cannot control… 
But must not fear!

That life is short 
And ought to be funny.
Just like a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

Yes, my zen is very much
Like Mickey Mouse.
Even more so than I thought
When I began this poem.
Which doesn’t surprise me.
That’s one of the reasons
I like writing them…
Anything can happen
In my search to express my zen,
So that I might,
With love and respect, 
Set it before you.

And let’s not forget the poetry
Of such wonderful phrases as
“In perpetuity and throughout the universe.”

Which makes me laugh.
As my zen commands I should!

Thank you, Mickey.
You make me laugh too.
You always have.
I love you.

Take care.

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