The Reason Why So Many Animated Characters Wear Gloves

Turns out, there are a few.

Ever notice that animated characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Bugs Bunny are all always wearing gloves? What is up with that? If you've ever wondered this, you're not the only one.

In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Max's friend Bobby Zimmeruski looks down at his hands and asks the question out loud. "Why do you think we're always, like, wearing gloves?" He didn't get the answer then, but the Vox team explores this very question in a new video. To get to the bottom of it, they spoke with animation historian and New York University professor, John Canemaker. 


What they found out is that there are actually a few reasons behind the gloves. Firstly, gloves require less detail than drawing actual hands so the choice helped animators save time and effort. Secondly, they stand out more. 

"Characters' hands in black-and-white film were difficult to see against their black bodies," Canemaker explains. 

The third reason comes from Walt Disney himself. The video points out that in his 1968 biography The Disney Version, Disney explains why they chose to have Mickey wear gloves. "We didn't want him to have mouse hands, because he was supposed to be more human. So, we gave him gloves." 

Lastly, the video explores the link between vaudeville performances and blackface minstrelsy to early animation. 

"Nicholas Sammond writes in Birth of an Industry that early animated characters like Felix the Cat, Bimbo, and Mickey Mouse weren't just like minstrels, they were minstrels," Estelle Caswell, who created the video, explains. "Both the cartoons and the stage characters were portrayed as mischievous and rebellious, yet good natured. They wore loose clothes, had painted faces, and they wore white gloves."

So, there you have it. Gloves on animated characters saved time, provided color contrast, made characters seem more human, and are linked to a historically racist practice. 


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