Disney store offers, then pulls, Mickey t-shirt based on iconic Joy Division album cover

On The Madeleine Brand Show (a radio program on which I'm a regular guest), Luke Burbank points to two strange Disney-related updates: first, Disneyland has finally relaxed their extreme rules banning all facial hair for staff/contractors—employees are now allowed to grow beards.

And in even odder news, the Disney Store is now offering was, until today, selling a new t-shirt design based on the iconic Joy Division "Unknown Pleasures" album cover, with Mickey Mouse's face inserted in those wavy lines. From Manchester to Mousechester!

There was backlash, and it looks like the item is no longer available in the online store. But Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook liked it.

Related news coverage: NME, Gothamist, Washington Post, Stereogum (where commenter Michael Robenalt 'shooped up what may be next: Donald Duck on the Joy Division album cover for "Closer.")

Update: The now-yanked Mickey Joy Division t-shirt is now on eBay! One of them, anyway. (thanks, Pesco)


  1. …which was an image of a pulsar. The real trick would be finding a pulsar that emits that curious series of return pulses to form Mickey’s ears.

  2. In the 1990’s there was a club in London run by Bruce Gilbert called ‘Disobey’ which reveled in avant-gardism of whichever kind took its fancy (I think Richard James’s famous DJing with bits of sandpaper and slices of log set premiered there). Anyway, the logo for the thing was a direct lift of the ‘Disney’ logo. Disney demanded they change it of course… ahh the hypocrisy.

  3. Maybe they pulled it because it looks less like Mickey and more like a baby shower cake from CakeWrecks.

  4. I really don’t get why this is perceived as ripping off the Joy Division shirt. This is a very standard type of graph. Also, what does the graph on the Joy Division shirt have to do with Joy Division? It just looks like a some random data set the sampled.

    1. Color and line weight are identical.  They probably could have made minor tweaks and ended the similarity.

        1. Yeah, Disqus is having the vapors again today.  It gave me an error message for the first one and then published it sometime later.

  5. I can’t see that there’d be much of an IP case if Joy Division decided to take it anywhere. That kind of display was quite common at one time (I think there’s one in Alien where it’s used as a landing radar display in the control room of the Nostromo), so there’s nothing original in the type of depiction. Simple white lines against a black background: no way you could claim that’s an original way of showing this kind of thing. The thing being displayed has nothing to do with Joy Division; it was just a science photo, presumably. And it’s a tee-shirt not an album. And the original’s not even a depiction of one of the band’s faces, which just might have had some weight.

    Really, you’d think Disney’s lawyers would have a bit more mettle to them, of all people. This clearly an homage, and not an attempt to steal IP.

    1. Really, you’d think Disney’s lawyers would have a bit more mettle to them, of all people. This clearly an homage, and not an attempt to steal IP.

      That’s the problem. If they do it, it establishes an awkward precedent.

      1. I was at Disneyland a couple weeks ago and saw this shirt on a rack out of the corner of my eye. Instantly I thought of the Joy Division album and thought it was cool. The second thought that followed was, if anyone used the mickey mouse shape for an album cover they would instantly be sued. The second thought made it impossible to buy the shirt.

  6. I work part time at the World of Disney Store at the Disneyland Resort, and I pulled the last one of these shirts off the floor last night.  No more in the store either.

    Tangent time–Disneyland is a weird place to work.  The wages are low. The organizational structure is stiff and Weberian.  And some of the managers–they are fucking deranged.  Some love the Disney brand so much, it seems like they would work there for free (given their wages and hours, they are quite close to doing so).  Also, when  talking to some of my coworkers about theft in the store, their eyes glaze over and they ramble on about how the CCTV surveillance system in the resort can spot any wrong doing at any time all the time.  It’s a fucking myth, and it’s somewhat frightening to see so many of my coworkers honestly believe it. But I’m hard up for money, so I’m sticking around untill I find something better.  Argh–fuck Disneyland.

  7. It showed up on Reddit yesterday, and it was already sold out except for XXL. No big conspiracy, no one noticed it until it was almost sold out. 

  8. employees are now allowed to grow beards

    Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I liked it better when Snow White and Cinderella were beardless.

  9. Whether or not it’s an hommage to Joy Division, it was being offered by a company more than happy to litigate others who repurpose their intellectual property (a company that, it’s worth mentioning, made its reputation on its versions of public domain intellectual property).

    Maybe they were sensitive to the inconsistency. But I doubt it.

  10. Huh, my comment about Mighty Fine (the manufacturers of this tshirt) just plum disappeared when I submitted. 
    What’d I do wrong?

    1. It was in the spam bin, and now that you’ve posted it three times, the filter will be convinced that you’re a spammer and hold all your comments for a week or two.

  11. The image the Joy Division used is from Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy and is the pulses from the first pulsar discovered. Joy Division reversed out the image, from black on white to white on black, and viola. I actually bought this shirt this summer and like it. I was also wearing the Disney Logo/Mordor mashup at the Magic Kingdom and cast members just about crapped themselves laughing. They loved it. But I like weird merging of fandoms. Besides, riffing on something goes in many directions. There was also one based on London Calling, see below.

    Instead of seeing it as Disney being evil, I just figured they finally got someone cool working in the products division. But, then, I liked the shirt so I guess I’m the demographic.

  12. I saw the shirt a couple of days ago.  But it pales in comparison to that album for closer.

    I don’t have a problem with Disney’s shirt, so long as they agree not to object to other joy division/disney crossovers put out by joy division fans.  I think a new video for “she’s lost control” that features exclusively disney princesses would be wonderful.

  13. I’m just gonna try to post this again. According to Mighty Fine, the manufacturers of the tshirt:

    “This is a tee we designed at Mighty Fine and sold exclusively to Disney Parks some time ago; it was also since available at the Disney Store online. We’re hearing reports that it sold out there since yesterday  (—) The origin of the waves image comes from a readout of the first radio pulsar discovered in space in 1967, but of course it became popularly associated as the cover image of Joy Division’s debut album

    Link: http://www.welovefine.com/wp/?p=1012Mighty Fine is worth checking out anyhow, their business model is an interesting merge of old and new practices. They acquire licenses for brands like  the Muppets or doctor Who, and then they let the fans of said franchises create and submit the artwork themselves. Fans know what fans want.

  14. I understand Disney employees and contractors are allowed to HAVE beards/facial hair, not grow them. You can either have it when you start or grow it during a vacation. But you are not allowed to gradually go from no facial hair to facial hair while working.

    Full disclosure I was once told by a big name Disney artist “they won’t even let you near the door.”

  15. Seems like a perfect transformative / fair use case to me.  I wouldn’t – and in fact don’t – have a problem with it and love it.  But given Disney’s litigious history I can understand some uproar.  But anyone complaining that it’s a ripoff has no business doing so.  It’s an homage, an adaptation, a remix.  It’s no more a ripoff than any other creative endeavor.

  16. Disney, get out of my closet!  Thats my go-to shirt, when I don’t want to be Too Biker, or Too Geek, or, uh thats pretty much it. Who can take issue with waveforms and still give a nod to those in the know?  Need to order another Unknown Pleasures shirt. Last one came from Retail Slut in Hollywood, which I’m pretty sure is no longer in existence. :(

    Really, I blame Tim Burton for all this. Goths & Disneys, buying together, mass hysteria.

  17. This was actually the second Unknown Pleasures/Mickey hybrid. Disney Couture put out the following limited edition shirt back around 2006 that I got for my wife:

  18. Oh, for Ghod’s sake.  This is a common information-display technique.  White-on-black is what you get on the video display/CRT; black-on white is what you get when you print it out. (Saves ink, doncha know.)

    The image used for the Joy Division album is a superimposition of pulses from the first pulsar discovered, aligned on the pulsar’s period.  Joy Division got the image from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, where it was printed black-on-white.  It had previously appeared in Scientific American, reversed white-on-blue.

    This is like having Disney create a jokey Venn diagram or a bar graph. only to be accused of ‘ripping off’ some band that used a Venn diagram or a bar graph on their album cover.

    Just because you’ve never seen a graph like this except on a record album cover doesn’t mean that the idea is orginal to that record album.   Joy Division didn’t invent this any more than they invented the bar graph.

  19. Right. This is the kind of thing copyright was Not meant to inhibit. This is art building on past art, and should be encouraged.

  20. From the linked Hook article.

     “The original image, a diagram of waves from the first known pulsar recording published in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, is in the public domain.”

  21. There’s a restriction on the amount of facial hair you can have though. I think it’s a 1/4 inch or something like that.

  22. It’s not so much copying the image, but associating Disney with Joy Division, when you consider what the name Joy Division stood for and their rather independent spirit.

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