Once upon a time, there was Mickey Mouse, a mischievous cartoon character created by Walt Disney in 1928. Mickey flew planes and got into innocent scrapes, trying to woo Minnie all the while. He was, in short, a hit.
Fast forward 81 years, and the mouse has been reborn. Epic Mickey, a new computer game announced this week by game designer Warren Spector, is soon to be gracing Wii consoles the world over. Mouse-lovers are frozen in anticipation. If the publicity pictures are anything to go by, it's quite a leap for the round-eared rodent. He's still wearing the inexplicable white gloves, but he seems to have lengthened. Less cute, more athletic. And he has filled out at last - from his flat cartoon persona to the three-dimensional game hero, ready for action.
Mickey's world has transformed, too - traumatically, it seems. Says Spector: "We've pulled Mickey out of the world of cartoons, which is where he belongs and feels comfortable and safe". Instead, Mickey finds himself in the "Cartoon Wasteland" - a realm of forgotten cartoon characters who have been eclipsed by the mouse's meteoric rise.
Mickey (controlled by the player) has to choose whether to save or destroy them in a game, says Spector, of "choice and consequence". Mickey is now a complex hero, torn by his predicament. And that makes him a thoroughly modern mouse.