Consistently, Warhol mentioned Walt Disney as the artist he most admired and the earliest artist to influence him. In light of this fact, it seems obvious that Warhol would turn to one of his earliest influences during the last decade of his life. As an image, Mickey Mouse not only suited his pictorial means but was also laden with meaning: there is perhaps no bigger emblem of popular culture itself than Mickey Mouse.
By the time Warhol created Double Mickey Mouse, the Disney brand was nearly sixty years old and a global entertainment phenomenon, first appearing to major audiences in the black-and-white “talkie” Steam Boat Willie in 1928. Almost immediately, the Mickey Mouse character spread around the globe, making him the most recognizable cartoon character in history and—perhaps more importantly—a symbol of American innovation and spirit. The influential American novelist and critic John Updike has written, “The America that is not symbolized by that imperial Yankee Uncle Sam is symbolized by Mickey Mouse. He is America as it feels to itself—plucky, put-on, inventive, resilient, good-natured, game” (J. Updike, “The Mystery of Mickey Mouse,” The Best American Essays, Boston, 1995, p. 388)
The similarities between Warhol’s factory and Disney’s production studios have been oft-cited, but it is each artist’s iconic dominance of the globe—both culturally and commercially—as well as their enduring appeal that most closely links them. Traveling the world, nearly everyone recognizes “Mickey” or a “Warhol” so that the images themselves transform from mere depiction to something larger and more symbolic, achieving icon status.