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Newest Miracle Arrives:
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.

I 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.

When 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.

The 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 half-circle ears.

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.

In 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.

For 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 area.

If 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!

The 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.

While 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.

This 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 the song. (The complete version, as well as seven other Miracle Melodies, is available for purchase on CD.)

See the World Premier of the commercial here!

Our 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.


Tom Hignite President / Founder, The Miracle Companies, Inc.

Tom Hignite

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