The Life and Times of Miracle Mouse
Just in time for the Holidays,
Miracle Studios is releasing their second animated
commercial project. The 30-second fully animated 2D
project premiered on the animation
studio's Web site, as well as on Wisconsin broadcast
television, beginning Friday, December 2.
For our young one-and-a-half year
old studio, the project's completion represents another
step closer to reaching our overall goal of producing
our first animated feature. The premiere of this 30-second
commercial has been announced on the forum websites
of two of the animation industry's foremost sites:
"Animation Nation" and "Animation World
Network." Our "4ever Disney" site, as you have seen by now, is
also a link to viewing our new project, as well as
an early rough storyboard version called an animatic.
Besides playing on the web, this project (a 30-second
commercial for our home building division, Miracle
Homes) will be played locally during primetime ABC
and NBC holiday presentations of "Santa Claus
is Coming to Town," "Frosty the Snowman,"
and, most appropriately, "Miracle on 34th Street."
The idea is to link our classically
styled traditional 2D animation to mostly family oriented
animated holiday classics on television.
originally wrote and rough storyboarded both this
and our first commercial project a few months before
I traveled to California in early 2004 to interview
potential animators to begin our new studio. The actual
character of Miracle Mouse first appeared in 1998
when our Miracle Homes division wanted to place a
mascot-style character into our various new home brochures.
Miracle Mouse (we call him simply "Miracle"
for short) originally was born because the size of
a mouse was small enough to place into the bottom
corner of an interior picture of various rooms in
a home. Using any other animal, such as a dog or a
cat, would have been too big, and an insect would
have been too small.
we began to advertise on television, I approached
a small southern Wisconsin animation studio to provide
animations of Miracle Mouse, as a sort of cute creative
ending to our commercials. The idea was that Miracle
would find a different, surprising way to haul out
our logo onto the television screen. In
one version Miracle might stumble in, or even fly
in on a paper glider in another.
television commercial version of Miracle Mouse was
designed, or shall I say re-designed by myself, to
be what I thought would be an easy-to-read character
when used in such a small format. Unlike the earlier
print versions of Miracle Mouse, in which I gave a
sketch artist little direction, I set out to draw
our first model sheet (with various views) for the
character. Miracle's basic structure was to be a series
of half-circles. His head was to be like a perfect
ball with absolutely no nose snout-just a half-sphere
ball plunked onto his spherical face. He had no gloves,
and his bib overalls' front pocket flap was (brace
yourself!) to become alive, imitating every movement
of his mouth. His work boots were pointed; again,
half-spheres. The top of his eyes lay half over the
brim of his hard-hat. When he lifted his hard-hat
he had no head shape under the hat at all; the top
of his head was flat, in line with the top of his
My original intention was to keep
Miracle very flat and cubistically simple, with Power
Puff Girl influence. After a few years of our television
commercials always ending with a Miracle Mouse gag
routine, I decided to expand his role into a costumed
mascot character, complete with smiling "happy"
overalls. Using the same company that produces most
of Disney theme parks' costumed characters, we found
a way to transform this flat 2D character into 3D.
In doing so, the designer's first models all gave
Miracle a snout for a nose, ala-Mickey Mouse. I kept
insisting on no snout, while the modelers kept insisting
that a snout would give a better shape to the mouth.
We reached a compromise on the nose/snout issue, as
you can see in this photograph.
2003 Miracle Mouse would take another big mouse leap
forward, as we set out to design the most elaborate
home show display booth you could ever imagine. Shaped
like a cartoon style house, with smoke coming out
of the chimney, it had miniature home models of museum
quality automatically flipping in time to custom composed
music; meanwhile, a foot-tall Miracle Mouse pushed
a train cart around the gutters, while an additional
two animatronic models of Miracle Mouse emerged from
roof windows to announce a Hollywood-style video production.
The thought was to merge the image of our Miracle
Company with the idea of sheer creativity: We were
branding ourselves as creative innovators, with Miracle
Mouse becoming our official Mascot of Creativity.
his new animatronic speeches, I decided Miracle now
needed a fuller, better-defined personality. Choosing
to place him as an eternally optimistic kid from the
wholesome era of the l950s, I played around with phrases
such as "golly," "gee willickers,"
"gosh," and "gee whiz." One Mouse
Thought leads to another, and the end-result was that
I gave him his habitual phrase of "cheese whiz!"
With three scripts in hand, we then proceeded to test
fifteen voice actors to realize Miracle's earnest,
yet eager, optimistic voice. We finally decided on
using Jeannie Elias, who lives in the Los Angeles
you press here you can hear one of Miracle's early
script readings: His audio animatronic figure is being
thrust out of our show booth window, even as the board
on which he sits becomes cut halfway through-by his
elbow leaning upon the saw handle!
next step in Miracle Mouse's evolution would cause
the biggest leap forward yet as my family took a 2003
tour of the animation studio at the Walt Disney World
Disney-MGM Studios theme park. I had taken this brief
"staged" tour before; this time, however,
the recently vacated desks led me to feel as if some
dear friends had passed away. And then it struck me-if
ever there was a time to begin a 2D animation studio,
this was it! Even though my determination and enthusiasm
were no substitute for experience, I now had available
some of the best animators ever trained, able to provide
me with that expertise and experience. If you click
on our first demo sample you will see Miracle Mouse's
first starring role in a commercial.
this took nearly four months to complete, most of
that time was spent with a primarily storyboard experienced
animator and two talented students from CalArts (a
California college renowned for teaching animation
skills). I began gaining enough animation knowledge
to understand the real needs of a studio, and the
next few months became our most productive. While
the end result was still less than it could be, it
was a satisfying first attempt.
second commercial, just as the first, was envisioned
to be an ideal training ground in which artists would
be able to become familiar with the characters, and
learn to work together as part of a growing team.
This new project introduces Miracle's best friend,
a good-natured beaver named Okey Dokey. While our
first commercial's message was to display Miracle
Homes as not the cheapest builder or the most expensive,
but as the "just right" one, the message
in our second commercial is that Miracle Homes uses
great quality and pride throughout all of our homes.
Both commercials have the same look and feel about
them, as they are meant to be extensions of each other.
They were both scored, orchestrated, and conducted
by the same Wisconsin composer during a single recording
session in Indiana this past June. The vocalists you
hear singing here were a part of that session; their
voices were also recorded for the Miracle
Theme Song, now playing in a Miracle Mouse Theatre
production, which shows regularly in one of our model
homes. You can click here to listen to a portion of
complete version, as well as seven other Miracle Melodies,
is available for purchase on CD.)
the World Premier of the commercial here!
new project, in which Miracle Mouse, Okey Dokey (voiced
by Danny Mann), and their many friends appear, is
currently being animated. By late summer 2006, Miracle
and Okey hope to be appearing before audiences in
the Animation Studio Tour, taking place in our brand
new building! This nearly five minute musical and
narrative tale has a present staff of ten artists
collaborating on it; soon to expand to thirteen, the
studio hopes to continue growing month by month. Eventually
this animated segment will become a key part of our
first 2D animated feature, entitled "The Many
Stories of Miracle Mouse." Two other non Miracle
Mouse features are being conceived to follow.
Hignite President / Founder, The Miracle Companies,