Classic animation was incredible, back in the day. Long hours and micro-detailing went into each movie and short cartoon Disney created. And because everything was hand-drawn, nothing was unintentional. Every detail that went into creating Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the whole gang was because someone made a decision.
That includes their white-gloved hands.
You may be saying, “Gloves are part of their charm. Surely, it was only to make them look cute and funny.” This may have turned out to be true, but Walt Disney and his dream team had other aims in mind.
Animation was (and still is) a tedious process, so the creation of many characters movements was daunting. Animators had to seek out new techniques to make their jobs easier.
For example, it took over 250 thousand celluloids (plastic transparencies) to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That’s thousands of man-hours from the first sketch to the final paint/color.
So one time-saving strategy was to eliminate hard angles and use round edges instead.
This filtered down to hands – and as a result the job went faster. Disney told the New York Times in an interview,
“Mickey’s easy-to-draw circular shape helped the animators meet their film-footage requirements. He had to be simple…We had to push out 700 feet of film every two weeks. . . . There was no mouse hair or any other frills that would slow down animation.”
But that’s not all. When Mickey was first created, film was still black and white. According to Vox, that “made it more difficult for the audience to see characters’ black hands against their black bodies. Enter those crisp white gloves. Walt Disney very well might have been the first person to put white gloves on a character when he made The Opry House, starring Mickey Mouse, in 1929.”
Form and function. Genius.
Now back to that statement about gloves making the characters cute and funny? There is some truth to that. Back to the NY Times:
“We didn’t want him to have mouse hands,” Disney told his biographer, Bob Thomas, in 1957, “because he was supposed to be more human. So we gave him gloves. Five fingers seemed like too much on such a little figure, so we took away one. That was just one less finger to animate.”
There you have it! It appears the Disney cartoon crew were given the white glove treatment, and it just stuck.