What makes a theme park a Disney park? Is it the castle? The princesses? The other Disney characters and IP? The cast members?
How about all the people walking around wearing some form of Mouseketeer ears?
If you've spent any time on social media, you've probably seen how people use Mickey ears - or, let's be honest, more often Minnie Ears - to send an immediate visual signal that they are coming to you from a Disney theme park. Disney has encouraged the trend by selling a wide and growing variety of ear-themed head gear, though some devoted fans pride themselves on making their own ears for use when visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World.
The ears first appeared as the head gear for the Mouseketeers on the original The Mickey Mouse Club television show in the 1950s. These are the classic ears - shaped black felt with two black plastic disks attached. In the parks, fans could personalize the ears they bought by getting their name embroidered in yellow thread - something that used to be one of the great freebies in the parks but that Disney eventually made an upcharge.
Today, it's rare to see the classic ears amid the sea of other options available in the parks and online. But it's even harder to go a minute inside a Disneyland or Disney World theme park without seeing someone wearing some form of Disney ears.
So... do you?
There is no wrong answer here, of course. You do you. No matter your style, you either can find a pair of ears for you on sale at Disney or you can find plenty of fans online willing to help show you how to make your own unique pair.
As someone who covers the Disney theme parks for a living, you might think that I would have a large collection of ears for use whenever I visit the parks. And I thought I did, too, having gotten many ears from Disney at various press events over the years. But when I went looking around the house to find them, I discovered that I have kept just two:
All the rest I have given away, as I do with pretty much all the stuff I get from press events. I can't remember buying a pair of ears since graduate school, when I took a spur-of-the-moment roadtrip from Indiana University in Bloomington down to Orlando and bought several pairs to bring back to my friends as proof that I had gone to Disney World for the weekend. (I had the ears personalized with my friends' names, too, which was free back then.)
And this is the only photo I could find of me wearing a pair of ears.
Yeah, it's been a minute.
Disney ears provide a wonderful way for park guests to express themselves and, maybe, to stand out in the crowd. But I prefer to blend in and not draw attention to myself while reporting in the parks. (This is probably a horrible strategy for me professionally, alas.) If you ever see a photo or video of me wearing Mickey ears, consider that my secret signal to you that something has gone terribly wrong. Send help, immediately.
What's your favorite pair of Disney ears, either that you've had or that you have seen in the parks?
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