Working my way through the Disney cartoon canon, it’s interesting to note how the Disney characters don’t only work in concert to entertain us, but they seem to function as components of myth/psyche (depending on how you want to approach this). Furthermore, at any given time, any one of them can function as a hero (especially Mickey, Donald and Goofy) or a group of heroes (especially Mickey, Donald and Goofy). At different times in Disney’s history, some characters have been more popular than others, but because each character has his/her own distinct personality, they can be used to represent different things. I hesitate to make a simple chart of comparison (Mickey is ego, Donald is shadow, etc.), but they each bring a different component to to the Everyman archetype that is dominant to the Disney Doctrine.
Mickey is everyman. He’s the gentle character of good middle American values. He’s a natural leader because he’s so well-put together. As Mickey evolved into a symbol for the Disney Corporation, it became more important that he behave as an upstanding citizen, which lead to the creation of others. Mickey holds it all together, which is where Walt’s reminder rings true: it all started with a Mouse.
Donald is a perfect foil to Mickey, often stealing the scene from the mouse. He is temperamental, mischievous (sometimes malicious), and prone to devilish vices. Because his character was created this way, he was allowed to get away with more questionable behavior than Mickey. As Leonard Maltin(?) says somewhere on the Walt Disney Treasures discs, if Mickey was the star of the 1930s (and thus the Depression), the 1940s (and the war) belonged to Donald. Donald gets drafted and we share his struggles through basic training and interactions with authority figures. This is provided an outlet for some pent-up frustrations culturally, especially toward limitations on the home front because of the war.
Goofy. Well, the name really just says it all doesn’t it?
Pluto seems to be the dog that belongs to everyone. He is the one Disney animal that was created to be an animal, and is so spot-on as a dog, it’s sometimes hard to forget that he’s just a cartoon character. He represents animalistic behavior, but I think he really is more about simplicity, nature, and romanticism. Perhaps we could say that Pluto is Disney’s Green Man?
Minnie/Daisy seem to be the same character and they both are the aspect of the feminine, however you want to read it. They are the balance factors.
There are many different characters to explore, but these are the main ones. In a way, they form the Disney pantheon, which is really just a fancy way of describing psyche.