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It defies rational explanation. His very name has become a term for something corny, trivial or escapist. But around the world Mickey Mouse's countless (and unaccountable) fans continue to hold the banner high. His face beams from the brightly custom-painted buses that hurtle up and down the provincial roads of the Andes, and from Soviet movie screens. Tokyo Disneyland, the Far Eastern outpost of his empire, attracts more than 10 million visitorsa year-roughly two thirds of them adults. In Mexico City's middle-class suburbs, drivers take pride in their bumper stickers from California's Disneyland. Florida's Disney World draws 25 million pilgrims a year, more than 1 million of them from outside the United States and Canada.

And, like magic, the empire is growing. Euro Disneyland, 20 miles east of Paris, is scheduled to open its doors in 1992. Eleven million visitors are expected in the first year of operation. But that's just a start. Only one phase, the 141-acre Magic Kingdom, will be completed then. By 2017 or so, when the whole project is finished, the complex will spread out over some seven square miles of French soil. But, hélas, not everyone is content to wish upon a star. Defenders of the nation's cultural purity have formed a group of 30 or sO politicians, intellectuals and local activists dedicated to monitoring Disney's doings. "We have to exercise a permanent vigilance in the cultural domain,' declares the group's founder, Socialist member of Parliament Jean-Pierre Fourré.