After nearly 100 years of classic cartoons and appearances, the designs for Disney characters are nothing short of iconic. From Mickey Mouse's red shorts and yellow shoes, Minnie Mouse's polka-dot dress with matching bow, and Goofy's silly green hat, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't recognize these time-honored toons based on their looks alone. But if there's one thing that we can't help but notice on Disney characters, it's those big white gloves.
Many Disney characters were designed with white gloves over their hands. The look has become pretty synonymous with that of classic cartoon characters beyond just Disney, but it's a trend we can't help but notice with these mascots. Why are so many Disney characters wearing these puffy white gloves? Let's break down the history behind this design choice.
Why do Disney characters wear white gloves?
From the earliest days of Mickey Mouse's adventures to the electric 1990s vibe of A Goofy Movie, Disney characters can be seen wearing white gloves in several cartoons and films. And it's not as if any of them wake up in the morning and decide that today feels like a white glove kind of day. Everyone sort of just ... wears them. In a cheekily meta move, one character even questions the nature of everyone's cartoon gloves in 2000's An Extremely Goofy Movie.
Disney isn't the only one to be a part of this trend either. Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny also sport the white glove look. Other cartoons like Animaniacs and Woody Woodpecker are guilty of the same thing. Was there just a toon-related sale on ACME white gloves back in the 1920s, or is there a method to this madness?
In a 2017 interview with Vox, NYU animation professor John Canemaker addressed this very question. According to him, there's no one right answer to this.
"Animation of any kind, even with computers, is a very work-intensive or labor-intensive process," he told Vox.
When it came to the early days of hand-drawn animation, animators reportedly took any cost- and effort-saving method they could to create cartoons quickly and efficiently. This included hands with rounded edges, or just gloves.
But that's not the only reason. The age of black-and-white cartoons meant that characters were primarily black in order to stand out from the backgrounds.
As Vox's report continues, characters' hands posed a problem, as their dexterity and positioning were difficult to see against the rest of a given character's body. White gloves were added to provide much-needed contrast to a black-and-white cartoon's visuals.
For some, white gloves saved time and effort in animation. For others, it was a pointed attempt to make hands distinguishable from a monotone color palette. But now, these white gloves now wholly embody a classic cartoon aesthetic.
If you've ever heard comic book artists complaining that drawing feet is hard, that concept is in full effect when it comes to white gloves in cartoons. But today, these white gloves are simply woven into the identity of the most iconic cartoons in the world.