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“Now, a Sorcerer is kind of like a magician. And this sorcerer was a very fine sorcerer. He could do all the very best Magic Tricks; like changing bats into butterflies, making diamonds of of warts, and changing small black cats into large white elephants.”
Yen Sid is a powerful sorcerer and teacher of Mickey Mouse, who first appeared in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a segment of the 1940 animated compilation film, Fantasia. Named and modeled after Walt Disney, Yen Sid was once an obscure character, but gained a resurgence in the 20th century, making appearances in media raging from video games to the Disney theme parks.
According to the filmmakers, Yen Sid was apparently modeled after Walt Disney right down to signature facial features recognizable by the animators. Yen Sid's name, which is not given in the film itself, was given to him by the animators. It is "Disney" spelled backward which pays tribute to Walt Disney, himself.
Being rather mysterious, not too much is known about Yen Sid. He is wise, practical, and most often seen with a serious tone in such a way that it often quashes Mickey's playful nature into obedience. Most who encounter Yen Sid often can be bound to be intimidated by his appearance but underneath his fierce look, lies a heart of gold. Surprisingly, he is very forgiving and actually has a sense of humor. He is more than aware of Mickey's mischief and willing to deal with this; putting it aside to teach his apprentice. Underneath his harsh exterior is a man who strongly believes in his apprentices, no matter what mischief they may get into.
Yen Sid is a stern-looking elderly gentleman with his signature sorcerer hat atop his head. He has a long gray beard reaching down underneath his chest. He has small eyes with tiny pupils as well as a long aqua-colored vestment which he wears in all appearances.
Powers and abilities
Most of Yen Sid's magic is obtained through his sorcerer hat. With the hat, he is known to conjure up mystic clouds taking the shape of bats and such, and bring to life inanimate objects, like broomsticks and even broomstick shards. (He would have done this or something very similar for Mickey to start getting any ideas.) It is said that he can make diamonds out of warts and elephants out of cats.
Despite this, he has abilities without the hat, presumably through years of study and discipline in practicing the arts of sorcery. When Mickey accidentally flooded the tower with the hat, Yen Sid stormed in and forced the water to dissolve and while so, he created large waves—all without the hat.
Yen Sid first appeared in the Fantasia short The Sorcerer's Apprentice, as Mickey Mouse's master. He owns a magical hat, which is apparently the source of his power. In the short, he performs magic while Mickey completes his chores. Satisfied with his work, Yen Sid yawns and puts down his hat to retire for the night.
During his absence, Mickey takes the hat and begins to play with its magic. He creates a living broom and orders it to take water and place it in a vat (which is his chore). After falling asleep and dreaming of becoming the most powerful sorcerer next to his beloved master, he awakens to see the broom flooding the tower. He chops it up, but this only creates several more. The tower is nearly flooded completely until Yen Sid returns from his chambers and stops the chaos with his powers. He is furious that Mickey had disobeyed him. Humbled, Mickey returns his hat to him as he slowly goes to finish his chores. Yen Sid shows a small mischievous smirk at Mickey, who gives a weak smile and to make sure he has learned his lesson, Yen Sid smacks him once in the buttocks with the now inanimate broom, making Mickey get his chores done a lot faster.
In this episode of the Disneyland TV show broadcast in 1971, Yen Sid (incorrectly referred to as "Merlin the Magnificent") interrupts the Disney characters' dancing show by making them all disappear except Mickey. In a booming voice, Yen Sid questions if Mickey really plans on making a good show without any magic, an idea he finds nonsensical. A lightning strikes the stage and when the lights come back, Mickey finds himself in his "Sorcerer's Apprentice" costume; Yen Sid advises him to look in his pockets, and the mouse finds pixie dust in it, which he then uses to put together a magic act with help from Yen Sid's disembodied voice.
In the animated television series House of Mouse, Yen Sid makes a few cameos, usually alongside the magic brooms from the Fantasia short. In the episode "Rent Day", Mickey needs to find a book for Belle and asks Yen Sid for it until he reveals his strict face and Mickey quotes "Never mind.", forcing him to break the trade altogether. In "Pete's Christmas Caper", Pete steals Yen Sid's hat and uses it to control the brooms as they steal everyone's Christmas gifts. Yen Sid was seen staring harshly at Mickey with his hat in the "Magic Mirror Consultant" advertisement in "House of Magic". Yen Sid also made a cameo appearance in Mickey's Magical Christmas where his hat was turned into that of Santa Claus' (like the one Pete gave him in Pete's Christmas Caper") as the club undergoes a Christmas makeover. For some reason, Yen Sid's beard is much shorter than usual.
Yen Sid resides on the Isle of the Lost as the science professor of Dragon Hall. He was sent on behalf of King Beast to teach the next generation of villains how to live without magic and using science instead. Despite leaving Auradon, Yen Sid takes the obligation in stride and eagerly teaches the students, good or bad.
He rarely appears in the Mickey Mouse stories, but there are some cases:
In the story Case of the Hovering Wolf (INDUCKS W WDC 133-03), he gives magic powers to the Li'l Bad Wolf.
In the Brazilian story O Novo Aprendiz De Feiticeiro (INDUCKS B 74024), he takes Fethry Duck as a new apprentice.
In the story Consider the Sorcery, in which Sorcerer Mickey is depicted as an ancestor of the current Mickey Mouse that's actually named Moustradamus, Yen Sid is gone and has left the position of village's sorcerer to Mickey/Moustradamus. However, when he's in trouble, Mickey seems able to contact Yen Sid thanks to a magic potion that makes Yen Sid's face appears in its fumes; whether it's a mean of communication while Yen Sid is alive and retired, or if Yen Sid is dead and Mickey is invoking his ghost, is not clarified.
In 1983, Atari released Sorcerer's Apprentice for the Atari 2600. The Sorcerer makes an appearance in the game, but is not named in the description nor in the game story poster. "Based off the animated Disney classic "Fantasia", Sorcerer's Apprentice puts players in charge of Mickey Mouse as he collects and shoots stars and meteors on the mountaintops to keep the walking brooms from filling the Sorcerer's cavern below."
Yen Sid appears as a retired Keyblade Master, renowned for his wisdom and command over the arts of magic; though no longer an active Keyblade Master, he still keeps a close watch on the balance between Light and Darkness. He was once Mickey Mouse's master and taught him everything he knows about magic and the Keyblade.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Yen Sid's tower is invaded by the Heartless (led by Pete) in an attempt to turn the old wizard into a Heartless, as well. Sora, Donald, and Goofy arrive and defeat the enemies. They then meet Yen Sid, who informs the duo of the challenges they will face on their latest adventure. He also introduces Sora to Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, who bestow new powers and clothing. After returning them to their Gummi ship, Yen Sid vanishes for the remainder of the story.
At the end of Re:coded, Yen Sid has a meeting with Mickey discussing the current circumstances of Sora's success. He explains that the defeat of Heartless Ansem and Nobody Xemnas has led to the restoration of their original form, Master Xehanort. With such a threat, Yen Sid demands that Sora and Riku be summoned to undertake their Mark of Mastery exam.
In Dream Drop Distance, Yen Sid's oversees the exam and puts Sora and Riku to the test by assigning them to awaken several worlds which remained in a state of "deep sleep" following Ansem's destruction. By the time of the exam's completion, Yen Sid only declares Riku as a Keyblade Master, since he managed to unlock two keyholes of sleep, while Sora failed to resist the darkness and ended up in a magical sleep induced by Young Xehanort. Meanwhile, having realized Master Xehanort's plan to recreate the χ-blade by pitting his new Organization XIII against the seven Princesses of Heart, Yen Sid devises a plan to counter Xehanort by gathering seven Keyblade wielders of Light to protect the Princesses, and orders Riku to bring Kairi to him to undergo training with the Keyblade she received from Aqua.
In Kingdom Hearts III, Yen Sid guides Sora on his quest to obtain the power of waking, while Riku and Mickey venture off to rescue Aqua. In the end, however, it's Sora that rescues Aqua, who later awakens Ventus, allowing for the seven guardians of light to finally band together against the Organization. During the final showdown at the Keyblade Graveyard, the guardians are overwhelmed by an onslaught of Heartless. They are nearly killed until Yen Sid makes a miraculous appearance and uses his power to fend off the hoard. While Sora and the guardians go forth, Yen Sid stays behind with Donald and Goofy to fend off the Heartless. In the end, Xehanort meets his defeat at Sora's hands, restoring peace. In the epilogue, Yen Sid is seen at Disney Castle, where he and the others are greeted with celebratory fireworks.
Yen Sid serves as the narrator of the game, looking back at what events followed. Years ago, Yen Sid created a home for the forgotten and retired aspects of Disney, serving as a benevolent, albeit unseen creator, watching from "on high" and enjoying their antics. But one day, his magic mirror opened into the home of Mickey Mouse. When he entered Yen Sid's workshop after he was resting from that evening's work, Mickey played with the magic paintbrush and created a monster, ruining Yen Sid's creation in the process, now dubbed the Wasteland.
In the end, Mickey returns home and is apparently locked out of Yen Sid's studies. Although it seems to be impossible to return, Yen Sid remembers he is Mickey Mouse and with that personality will eventually find a way to return.
Yen Sid appears in the game as the creator of the primary world known as Castleton, which is the peaceful home of dozens of citizens and Disney characters. Aside from appearing in the opening cinematic for the game, Yen Sid also summons the player to seek help in defeating an army of ghosts that have been invading the tranquil realm.
In Disneyland, Yen Sid played a major role in Mickey and the Magical Map, appearing in animated form on the theater screen, interacting with the live Mickey Mouse. In the show, Mickey uses Yen Sid's magic to travel along a special map showcasing various Disney locations. Throughout, an ink spot causes mischief, which is revealed to have been Yen Sid watching over Mickey the entire time.
Yen Sid can be easily spotted as a statue at the Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf at Walt Disney World. He is featured at the final hole of the Gardens course, showcasing him controlling the water (which functions as the ball return). Additionally, Hole 6 of the Fantasia Fairways course is named "The Legend of Yen Sid."
The first appearance of the name Yen Sid was in the 1940 screenplay Walt Disney's Fantasia written by Deems Taylor. It is the story he narrated live during road show performances of Fantasia that year. The audio of Deems calling the Sorcerer Yen Sid in the original monologue was never included the film version, most likely because Deems would have called the Apprentice Michael, not Mickey. That same year (1940), Walt Disney Productions published "Fantasia in technicolor and fantasound." The name Yen Sid does not appear in this Disney publication.
The Disney animators used Disney's "dirty look" (which was the look that Walt gave his animators when he disapproved of their work) for the sorcerer by lifting his eyebrow.
Yen Sid himself did not appear in the film The Sorcerer's Apprentice, but his hat did at the end of the end credits for the film, although he was the inspiration for the wise sorcerer character Balthazar Blake.
"Yen Sid" backward is "Dis Ney", which without the space makes "Disney". Due to this, he is probably meant to represent Walt Disney himself.
"Yensid" (Disney spelled backward) is the last name of Retlaw Yensid (Walter Disney), a pseudonym Walt Disney sometimes used instead of his real name.
In the book Walt's People (pg. 167), Bill Walsh talks about Walt handing the story for Lt. Robin Crusoe USN to him: "That's interesting because it was the only story Walt ever wrote. He wrote it on the back of an envelope on the plane or the back of a throw-up bag or whatever it is. At the end of it, I said, "Walt, you don't want your name on this, do you? "I do, too!" he said. And by God, he did it. Only he reversed it, "Retlaw Yensid." He wrote his name backward. That's the way it's on the screen. That's Retlaw Yensid."
Elements of Yen Sid's character-notably his title of sorcerer, his having an apprentice, and owning a magic hat-were applied to the character of Merlin in Once Upon a Time.