While cleaning our her room in her parents house over Thanksgiving, my girlfriend Lauren made a discovery. As yearbooks, awards and diaries were indiscriminately tossed into the garbage, one particular souvenir made it into the “Keep” pile:
Yes, it’s one of the infamous Italian Dancing Mickeys (Minnie Version). Though I only saw one of them on our trip to Italy last year, the site of the tiny plastic Mickey dancing on legs made of yarn brought on emotions that made the supposedly “awe inspiring” Sistine Chapel seem like Wall Drug. This thread on Metafilter, where they are for some reason referred to as “Dancing Bugs”, is the lone reference I can find to them online, though evidently they do appear in Neil Gaiman’s Endless Nights.
It’s really hard to describe what’s so incredible about them, and the vendors who sell them are notoriously protective, so below is a look at them in action, The only footage that exists is Zapruder-like in briefness and clarity:
The next guy managed to get a bit closer up. His body was found floating in the Trevi Fountain the next day:
So how do they work? Well, let’s flip them over and take a look
You slip that little plastic overhang over a fishing line (included). I believe the line is threaded between the boom box from which the thumping dance music eminates and a case for the boom box, which you’ll see them load the boom box into if the police are ever sighted (someone else took a picture of the setup.) But for the life of me, I can’t tell what is making the characters dance. It can’t be just the bass…
The instructions are not much help. Most vendors seem to disregard the advice that “it’s better to play with two persons.” Probably because it would be too difficult to decide which partner was responsible for “moving the threed” and which one would “make the show.” None of the vendors I ever saw were “making a show.” The Mickeys were the show. Just like the guy who found a picture of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese shut up and let the grilled cheese speak for itself, the Dancing Mickey vendors don’t feel like they need to do any huckstering to get you to buy.
The command to hang the puppet in your car when you are not using seems logical, but rather inconvenient. If you decide to store the puppet in this manner, it’s probably best to play with three persons, so that if one is all set up to move the threed and the other one is making the show, when all of a sudden they realize that you forgot the puppet, the third member can go and fetch it from the car.
For example, this clearly stoned hustler with Moe Howard’s haircut manipulates a Dancing Donald Duck, presumably to the delight of an audience of rubes. Why none of the rubes question why the man is waggling his index finger like Dikembe Mutombo is beyond me, but then again, they are rubes. The picture also contradicts the “Play with two persons” instructions, as the hustler attempts to both move the threed and make the show at the same time.
There we have it, a complete look at the Italian Dancing Mickey/Minnie/Donald/Bug phenomenom. Complete instructions are included below, with a shot of the magical string that is included with each purchase: