Mad About : M-i-c-k-e-y : South Pasadena Family Is Up to Its Collective Ears With 4,000 Items of Mousy Memorabilia
You can do Donald or Goofy or Pluto or, going way out on the specialty fringe, the Cheshire Cat. But the Trujillos are mainstream. They do Mickey.
Pat and Larry Trujillos’ house in South Pasadena brims with Mickey Mouse memorabilia. In 12 years of collecting, they have accumulated 4,000 examples of Mickeyana.
“It’s gotten worse,” says Pat Trujillo, a real estate agent, sitting amid models, gadgets and pictures of the adorable little guy with the pronounced overbite. “It hasn’t simmered down at all.”
Larry Trujillo, a staff member of the California Assn. of Certified Public Accountants, struggles to explain the family mania, which has propelled the couple and their 7-year-old daughter, Holly, to annual collectors’ conventions, to Walt Disney World in Florida and, countless times, to Disneyland.
“All our friends have a little kid in them,” he says.
“It gives us a definite lightness to what we do,” Pat Trujillo adds.
Mickey, who celebrates his 60th birthday this year, is literally spilling out of their home, which neighbors have affectionately dubbed the “Mouse House.” The brass faucet that the Trujillos use to water their front lawn is a replica of Mickey. A Mickey wreath is attached to the front door. The garage is full of, as Larry puts it, “boxes of Mickey” that won’t fit in the house.
The living room includes an oversized Mickey Mouse watch on the wall, a Mickey lamp and framed posters, such as the one of Mickey and Minnie as Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” farmers.
“In here, it’s actually kind of tasteful,” says Larry, handing you a soda in--what else?--a Mickey Mouse glass with Mickey ice cubes. “In a minute, you’re gonna get overwhelmed.”
He gestures toward a closed door with a Mickey-shaped brass knocker. “That’s the Mickey Room,” he says.
Larry does a double take as Holly, who has been going to Disneyland since before she can remember, comes into the room, calling, “Mickey! Mickey! Where are you?,” as if summoning a lost pet.
If all the replicas could respond, the walls would shake with a huge collective falsetto. But Holly explains that she is just looking for a particular stuffed Mickey, her favorite of the moment.
“People were afraid we were going to name our daughter Mickey,” Pat says.
“Or Minnie,” Larry adds.
For the Trujillos, the Disney connection goes way back, especially for Larry. He was taken to the Anaheim theme park in 1955 as a toddler, the day after it opened. He has worked there, spending a summer as the driver of the Tomorrowland submarine. And, before he married, he took dates there, especially Pat.
In fact, it was on July 16, 1976, in Disneyland’s Tiki Room, that Larry popped the question. They have the dated glass Mickey mug to prove it. “This is probably the first piece in our collections, isn’t it?” says Larry, now 35, holding it up.
“We were the last ones to leave the room after the show there,” Pat says, “and he asked me to marry him.”
Once exposed to Disneyland, no other entertainment will really do, according to the Trujillos, both of whom are active in South Pasadena civic affairs. Larry is chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission and Pat is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Holly, who describes Mickey as “a really nice mouse who lives with a lot of other people,” has been to Disneyland 119 times, and she has souvenirs from each visit. “You know the Disney characters that wander around there?” Pat asks. “They know who Holly is.”
The Mickey Room has a crammed, cluttered look. Mickey--stuffed, lacquered, enameled, gilded and felt-covered--is threatening to get out of control. Cases and bookshelves are jammed with little Mickeys. There are shelves full of “Mickey in vehicles,” with the little guy portrayed in dune buggies, trucks and tricycles. There is a talking floor scale, with a little squeaky-voiced message from Mickey himself. There are Mickey trains, including a replica of a 1934 Mickey and Minnie hand truck.
“We saw an original for sale once,” Larry says. “They were asking $1,600 and it wasn’t in very good condition.”
How much do the Trujillos spend on their collection? “It gets to be quite a bit,” is all Larry will say.
Each piece has a story, Pat says. Most come from the collectors’ store at Disneyland. “We stop in there two or three times during the course of a visit,” she says.
She points out a plexiglass-encased model of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice: “I saw it there and I put my hand on it. I told Larry, ‘We have to have it.’ We looked at the price, and we still didn’t know how we were going to pay for it. But I knew, if I took my hand off it, it was gone.”
The Trujillos, whose answering machine responds with a familiar falsetto, belong to both the National Fantasy Fan Club and the Mouse Club, the two major organizations of Disneyana collectors. They attend the groups’ national conventions in Anaheim.
“The organizations are international in scope now,” Larry says. “People like Steven Spielberg and Michael Jackson belong. There are maybe 10,000 collectors worldwide--serious people, willing to spend some bucks.”
Sometimes the Trujillos regret choosing a passion with as many possibilities as Mickey. “I don’t think there are 4,000 pieces of Pluto,” Larry says.
But they’re convinced that they’ve latched onto something deeply meaningful. “Once, at Disneyland, they had Mickey flying around in a motorized hang glider,” Pat says. “And I thought, what if he crashed? How could you explain Mickey dying? He’s just . . . special.”