Pine Nuts: Taking on Mickey

Mickey Mouse was a relative of mine, or at least I thought he was. His cheerful presence warmed every room of our cozy home when I was a boy, probably because Uncle Bill was an artist for Walt Disney and worked on the early animated movies. If you Google-images, “Bill Layne artist,” you can see some of his early Disney work.

Well, Uncle Bill arranged for our family to visit Disneyland on opening day back in 1955 and I got to meet Mickey. At eleven years old I was the proud owner of a Brownie Camera and I took several pictures that day, only one of which survives today …

A photo of the stern of the paddle-wheeler Mark Twain, taken in 1955.
Photo by McAvoy Layne

Propitiously, the grainy black and white photo that remains today is not of Mickey or Uncle Bill, but the stern of the paddle-wheeler Mark Twain. My Brownie Camera must have known something back then that I didn’t.

So I was surprised to read that the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis was yanking Mickey’s special district permit and demanding that Mickey pay a little more cheese in taxes.

Walt Disney World is the largest employer in Florida and Governor DeSantis is a Republican.

Historically Republicans have indulged big business, but I guess in this case, culture wars got in the way. Everything has become politicized in our over-heated society, but how can you take cheese away from Mickey during a pandemic? Strike up, “It’s a Small World!”

This is not your grandfather’s politics. Mark Twain recalls a childhood friend telling him, “You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.” Samuel Clemens would not recognize the political landscape of today’s America.

In Florida it has become a political game of, “Whack-a-Mouse,” as Mickey has become a political pinata. Some folks in Florida protest that Disney should not have a say in cultural matters concerning Florida, as Disney is headquartered in California, and yet Florida’s Disney World has been dubbed, “A Vatican with Ears.”

As an impressionist of Mark Twain I had work in Tampa once and an old timer there told me, “We old folks live here in Tampa, but our parents live in St. Pete.” So of course, having been over 150 years of age at the time, I felt right at home.

And, they took me on a tour of the American Attraction at Epcot, where mechanical images of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain told a short story of America’s history. When the show ended I jumped up and gave those two mannequins a standing ovation. These several years later I might elect to stay seated and begin revising the Twain script just a little bit.

But help is on the way for Mickey in this ostentatious theater of politics. The gracious governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, has offered Mickey political asylum. Uncle Bill would be smiling …


Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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