The Mouse Does Steampunk

A few months ago, Disney announced something called “The Mechanical Kingdom,” a set of collectable pins featuring steampunk versions of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, etc. Here’s the wallpaper:

You can get more wallpapers right here.

Of course, once a massive entertainment consortium like Disney gets involved with something alternative and kewl like steampunk, it gets sort of, I don’t know, Disneyfied, and certain people will decide it’s totally over. Check out the debate raging here at Brass Goggles.

But here’s the thing: Disney has always been at the forefront of steampunk, even before there was such a thing. In our panel discussion from two posts ago, Cherie Priest and I both confessed that our nascent fixation with steampunk was inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And we weren’t talking about Vernes’ novel or even the movie, but the frickin’ ride. And let’s not forget Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Oops: CCBB was not made by Disney,it just feels like it was), The Rocketeer (1991), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), or even the vine-and-coconutpunk stylings of Swiss Family Robinson (1960)!

I mean, we’re talking about Disney, an organization that owns multiple mechanical Abraham Lincolns! How steampunk is that? About this much:

Image by Scott Wegener.

So let me put it this way: everyone who’s complaining about Disney’s “Mechanical Kingdom” had best step off and go learn some history. And also get used to the fact that subcultures don’t just start off cool and then go mainstream to die. Rather, cool stuff bounces back and forth between alternative and mainstream in ways that are both unpredictable and awesome.

I, for one, welcome our new mouse-eared overlords. After all, they’ve been here all along.

People who know much more about this than me and have written about it more eloquently include Cory Gross and Mike Perschon. Go read them.


44 thoughts on “The Mouse Does Steampunk

  1. this is like so awesome!!!! steampunk RULES!!!!!!!!! (i have never been the first person who’s posted before yeah!)

  2. Ha–I love “vine-and-coconutpunk.”

    Disneyland itself (the original, in Anaheim) is kinda steampunk, now that I’m thinking about it…at least certain parts of it are. Not just the mechanical Abe Lincoln, either.

    Plus, Disney absorbs and spits out everything, sooner or later. No sense in getting worked up about it. 🙂

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. People shouldn’t trust stereotypes and decide for themselves.

    Speaking of steampunk (you know where this is going) I can’t wait for Behemoth. 😀

  4. (I know I said this on Twitter, but I’m saying it again.)

    I just realized, thanks to this post that Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective is classic steampunk. It has all the elements

    -Victorian England


    -Cool mechanical inventions

    -Giant Machine of Death

    -Evil plotting to put a steam-powered robot on the throne

    -Climactic fistfight in and around the gears of Big Ben

    And since I have loved that movie it came out in 1986, I’m pretty sure that makes me an early adopter instead of a slightly-behind-the-trends pseudo-nerd. I now feel 33% cooler than I did when I woke up this morning. Thanks!

  5. I have found that Disney has been behind this sub-genera of science fiction for a long time. Not only due to its making of most of the most popular H.G. Wells and Jules Verne works into movies, but also the lighthearted side in such movies as Doctor Doolittle and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

  6. Still, steampunk Mickey? Eh. 🙂 But I definitely agree that people suck when they attack a situation without even knowing the background.

    Plus, the more Disney gets blatantly into steampunk, the more people will find out about it and get really into it. I’m not sure if I consider this a good or bad thing.

  7. I think that looks cute. Kinda reminds me of Kindom Hearts with all the Disney characters. Mickey and crew have always had a positive influence on things and I like how they’re introducing steampunk to a wider audience including kids. Maybe people don’t like it is because it’s cool to be talking about this genre not a lot of others know about. But spreading the word is cool too. 😉

  8. Me too Cyndy; my sister loves collecting pins 4 her purse. I want that Abe Lincoln poster. ;-D

  9. Very, very cool. And as i said on FB, Steampunk Lincoln is ALWAYS a good thing.

    I like Disney. I like steampunk. I absolutely LOOOOOVE the Great Mouse Detective…

    Pete looks awesome, by the way. Now after those pins. Mmyes.

  10. Just saying, making a steampunk mickey mouse is kind of weak. I mean, it’s not like those punks who invented it actually care about the coolness of steampunk, or the history behind it. They just want to make money in as many ways as possible, and if there is a new mickey mouse, you can bet that a lot of people will buy it. And before long, steampunk will be some sort of cheesy Disney thing for little kids, and all of the “big kids” will think it isn’t cool. They’re sullying the name of steampunk. And anything Scott wrote is like manna from god, so they’d better back off.

  11. J’adore The Great Mouse Detective!

    and steampunk Mickey Mouse makes sense to me, so I don’t get what any fuss ia bout.

  12. I think the idea is pretty nifty. It will introduce a lot more people to steampunk, and everyone knows that if a lot of people enjoy the same thing, the ideas they share make it even better. Think of it, thousands of young, impressionable minds who are interested in steampunk! Also, HPF, Scott-la said in the panel that part of steampunk is that adults still maintain the child-like fascination with dressing up and pretending to be in a different time. So wouldn’t some cool pins that feature neat, vintage Disney characters, made by Disney, who has the technology to make anything look awesome be right up their alley? Besides, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. We have a capitalist society for a reason. And finally, Scott-la didn’t invent steampunk and doesn’t own the genre, no matter how spectacular he is.

  13. Just want to point out another possible Disney steampunk title: Treasure Planet. Widely panned and reviled, but I have to say, I always loved it when it was in heavy rotation in our house when my son was five or so. Martin Short at the robot B.E.N., Emma Thompson as the feline and acrobatic captain. The emotional relationship between scoundrel Silver and fatherless Jim is one of the more convincing Disney love stories, in my book. I’m always amazed by how much of a minority opinion that appears to be!

  14. I loved Treasure planet :)…….I first watched it because we saw an awesome clip on disney scene it of it and thought it looked good(it was a sound clip of the farting alien ) Great movie!

    It’s not so much Disney that ruins things, it is the Disney channel that ruins things. Walt Disney is still amazing…..but only movies before 2001 😛

    ….oh and the sims3 has a steampunk set at the sims store 😛

  15. I agree with Kristina-la on the Disney Channel thing. They’re probably the worst channel on television other than MTV. So as long as it stays away from the evil folks at Disney Channel, I’m okay. 😀

    And while we’re on the topic of Disney movies, Anastasia is kind of reminiscient of Leviathan. Barely. Just with the whole European royalty running away thing. Plus, they’re in the same time frame. Not steampunk, but close enough to Scott-la’s works to be observed.

  16. OMG!!!! OMFin’G!!!!! I’M TOTALLY FREAKIN’ OUT! I’m a huge disney fan/disney goer. My Family and I are DVC members and we love pin trading down there. And you can bet that’s going to be the first set I’m going to try and collect next time we go…. which is this summer! I can’t wait!

  17. I think this is soo coool! Atleast these are original disney characters..not..Hannah Montana dressed up in her version of victorian garb. Oh and by the way, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Love that movie!) and Dr. Dolittle ( <3) are not Disney. ^^;;

  18. This is awesome! My Disney-loving side is gushing right now; time to go dig up my Chitty Chitty Bang Bang VHS- this post has unleashed a craving.
    Thanks a bunch for blogging about this, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have found out about it at all. 😀

    I really couldn’t care less about people needlessly debating things going “mainstream” or whatever term they choose to describe it as. If I like something, I like it, and I’ll enjoy it regardless of how “popular” it becomes. If popularity causes new people join in on the fun, it doesn’t mean they’re horrible trend-hopping monsters out to destroy someone’s “holier-than-though shrine of all things elitist in this certain hobby.”

  19. I am neither here, nor there on this subject. There are some major pros and cons, but most of all I am worried about the direction Disney will take steampunk in. I hope they can do it to where people’s interest in steampunk grows, instead of Disney making Steampunk less popular. I really hope for the best Scott.

  20. Oh, how I have missed your blog, Scott! (I remember posting on like every post back in like 08 when I was so into Uglies it was crazy-making)

    I, for one, am loving the steampunk thing, weather it be Disney-inspired or not. I just learned the term today actually. I always seem to be a little behind on the times, but I’m only halfway through with Leviathan and just read the interviews with Scott and Keith (what an extraordinary artist he is!!) and I can’t believe how huge this thing is! I mean, I even own the movies Wild Wild West and Swiss Family Robinson and had no idea there was a who genre called steampunk especially for these types of stories.

    So, go Scott for spreading such an amazing movement to little people like me with huge imaginations 🙂 I can’t wait to finish the book and I’m already excited for book 2 to come out in October!!

  21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was not Disney (just because it has Dick Van Dyke and two kids that look like the ones from Mary Poppins doesn’t mean it was from Disney). The production company was an English outfit called Dramatic Features. Anastasia was a Warner Animation production (just because it was animated and involved a princess, everybody presumes it was from Disney). The “only” Dr. Doolittle (1967, with Rex Harrison) was APJAC Productions. “Steamboat Willie” wasn’t steampunk (no retro-futuristic gadgets). I think the only Disney that qualifies as steampunk were the aforementioned “Rocketeer,” “The Great Mouse Detective” and “Treasure Planet.” Disney hasn’t been edgy or innovative since the 1960’s, so at this point they’re cashing in on a trend instead of setting one.

    And “here, here!” to everything Hoverponies Forever said. (cool name, BTW!)

  22. Woah. Bubbly Killer Abe Lincoln! Putting it on my desktop wallpaper NOW! Then again it’s 1:03 AM, (No blue time here, pretty sure.) It could just be my tired brain talking, still jacked up on Naruto comics…

    -_-zzzz… *SNORE!!!!!* …. ! … O_O huh?! hwah?

    fike hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    fallin asleep on my keyboard… better go.
    Sweet dreams everybody! I’ll be sure to read your comments tomorrow? Or would that be today? Okay okay, when it’s bright outside.
    ^_^ 😀

  23. Ok, I have a few things to say.

    First of all, a lot of people automatically think “Oh, Disney’s just for wimpy little kids. It’s so lame. I wouldsn’t be caught dead doing anything that’s connected to Disney.” And I must say, I personally take offense to that. I grew up with Disney and still watch the classics. Even the silent black and white Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and all of it is super cool. Anybody who says Disney isn’t cool or fun or anything is a waste of gravity, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. Just watch Cinderella or Rescuers or anything and you should change your mind.

    OK, sorry about that rant, I just needed to get that off my chest.

    Second, disney invented a lot of things like that too. He invented audioanimatronics, the “Theme Park” (different from an amusement park), and that one camera that I forget the name of that has different levels for one painting and to zoom they move the backround paintings instead of the camera so when you’re zooming through the woods the moon doesn’t grow bigger to look more realistic (Sorry about the run-on.), and in Disney WORLD (Florida) the Adventure land and Tomorrow land in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot they both have somewhat of a steampunky feel (Though maybe a little more science fictioney).

    So to all of you Disney doubter bleah >:P. Disney will be around for a looooooong time, so you’d better get used to this happening. Disney is at the front of every trend After all;
    It was all started by a mouse. 🙂

  24. Thank heavens for a little perspective. Being offended that your subculture is being invaded by some of the very things that popularized your subculture– like mainstreaming Jules Verne for kids– is so…gauche.

  25. Disneyana doesn’t have much relevance in today’s world anyway, to consider “Disneyfication” a valid threat. Disney has, in fact, been brought so far to the fringes that it has become as much a novelty as steampunk itself (see: Disney and steampunk obsessions at

    Now, if MTV somehow catches on to this, then we are surely seeing the end times.

    Also, don’t forget Disney’s Tale Spin! Though more “Diesel Punk”, it still has fighting air ships, adventure, and sky pirates. My first exposure to steam/diesel/whatever-punk ever!

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  29. I know this thread is old and Boone will probably read this but I had to weigh in. Disney introduced me t steampunk, when I was four Treasure Planet came out and I loved it. It had all of my favorite things pirates, space, cool technology, and awesome weapons; it was basically the stuff of my dreams (yeah I was kind of an odd little girl). It was my favorite movie and the first thing I thought of when I learned about steampunk a few years ago and so it makes perfect sense to me for Disney to have steampunk pins. As a huge Disney fan I love it!

  30. P.S. Actually was watching Treasure Planet as I wrote that, the captain actually kind of reminds me of Dr. Barlow.

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