Toying with Corporate Narratives: The Genesis of Mick(e)y Mouse

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David J. Puglia


One of the most important functions of local legendry is explaining the significance of a place. In this essay I refer to this phenomenon as the “Horton Effect”—named after Dr. Seuss’ elephant who famously exclaimed “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” It is my contention that much of local legendry seeks to explain the importance of overlooked and underrepresented places. These local legends enable residents to performatively explain to themselves why their town is important, to attempt to make small voices heard, to ask for recognition and respect, and to prove significance happens outside of major metropolitan centers. In my case study, I look at small town Middletown, Pennsylvania. In Middletown, the legend of the Performo Toy Company, the proclaimed original inventor of Mickey Mouse, is ostensibly a legend about corporate treachery on the part of Walt Disney. But on closer inspection, the legend proves to function as a communal source of pride and as a valuable reminder of the vital contributions of the oft-overlooked.

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How to Cite
Puglia, D. (2013). Toying with Corporate Narratives: The Genesis of Mick(e)y Mouse. New Directions in Folklore, 11(2), 84-95. Retrieved from
Author Biography

David J. Puglia, The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg

David J. Puglia is a Ph.D. candidate in the American Studies program at Penn State Harrisburg. He is the author of South Central Pennsylvania Legends and Lore (2012) and forthcoming articles in Contemporary Legend and The Folklore Historian.