Today, Mickey Mouse is synonymous with DISNEYLAND. After all, he lives there now! It wasn’t always the case that Mickey would be found there, however, despite the fact that the park was originally called Mickey Mouse Park.
As Walt Disney’s dreams grew bigger and the projected costs for his Magic Kingdom grew, his brother Roy had pulled his support for the project. This so-called ‘Magic Kingdom’ would go forward without and funding or support from Walt Disney Productions. This meant that the company’s famous characters and trademarks could not be used inside the park. Not one to accept defeat, Walt Disney started up his own company- Retlaw Industries- and began planning out a Mickey-less Magic Kingdom.
Crossed wires, however, resulted in a Walt Disney Productions shareholder complaining to Roy about the Magic Kingdom. The shareholder felt that Roy needed to reign in his brother and threaten trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits if the park went forward. After all, didn’t Walt Disney Productions own the Disney name? Roy did some investigating and realized that it didn’t. The company had never had a formal agreement with Walt Disney to be ‘Walt Disney Productions’. If his brother found out, he could build Walt Disneyland and force Walt Disney Productions to remove his name from the company. Roy quickly fixed the problem by formalizing the agreement to use his brother’s name and make Walt Disney Productions the largest shareholder in DISNEYLAND, Inc.
This explains why the early Mickey Mouse costumes looked so odd and bizarre. They were originally designed by the Ice Capades and borrowed from the production for the early days of the park. Designed to be viewed from a distance and allow the skater a clear view of the space around them, they weren’t very appropriate for close-up viewing at a theme park. The delay in getting permission to use the characters forced the park to make do with what it had. Eventually the suits were replaced with a more theme park friendly design.