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Today in History (1928): Mickey Mouse Makes His First Appearance on ‘Steamboat Willie’

The world’s most iconic and well-loved animated mouse celebrates his 85th birthday today!

Mickey Mouse on “Steamboat Willie.” Photo via Blogspot

Mickey Mouse, which was said to have been created to replace the Disney Studio-created, Universal Studios-owned cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit following a dispute between the two entities, was the product of a collaborative work between legendary animator Walt Disney and his head animator Ub Iwerks. The character was fashioned after a tamed mouse that Walt would find at his desk in the Laugh-O-Gram Studio. The then-newly revamped Disney Studio included Walt, Iwerks, apprentice artist Les Clark, and Wilfred Jackson.

Animals such as a female cow, a male horse, and a male frog were first pitched by Iwerks before Walt finally gave his approval on Mickey Mouse. Mortimer was supposedly the original name for the mouse and was only changed after Walt’s wife Lillian persuaded him to do so.

“Steamboat Willie” video via Disney Animation on YouTube

Mickey Mouse made his debut on “Steamboat Willie” on this day in 1928. It’s a black-and-white short which was among the first to feature sound. However, just months earlier, Mickey actually made his first appearance on the test screening of the cartoon short “Plane Crazy”, which initially turned out to be a flop. Fortunately, following the success of “Steamboat Willie,” the cartoon eventually saw the light of day and became the fourth Mickey short to be released on March 17, 1929.

“Steamboat Willie” was directed by Walt and Iwerks, who also served as its head animator. It was said to be parody of Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner’s silent comedy feature, “Steamboat Bill Jr.”.

“The Karnival Kid” video via YouTube

However, it should be noted that Mickey did not talk until his ninth film, “The Karnival Kid,” having only expressed himself through laughing, whistling, and making other sounds. “The Karnival Kid” was released on May 23, 1929.

Two of the most-associated characters to Mickey are his perennial love interest Minerva “Minnie” Mouse and his pet dog Pluto. Minnie made her debut at the same time as Mickey, while Pluto made its first appearance on “The Moose Hunt” in 1931.

Mickey’s popularity continued to surge upwards and by 1932, he received his first Academy Award nomination for “Mickey’s Orphans” which was released the year before. Meanwhile, “The Band Concert” (1935) marks Mickey’s first official appearance in color.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from “Fantasia.” Video via YouTube

The year 1940 saw Mickey appearing in his first feature-length film, “Fantasia”. In 1943, Mickey won his first and so far only Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film via “Lend a Paw” (1931). All in all, he has received nine nominations from this prestigious award-giving body under the same category.

“The Simple Things”, released in 1953, was the last regular installment of the Mickey Mouse film series. The following decades would see Mickey appearing more often on television and direct-to-video features. In these years, some of Mickey’s most notable appearances in theatrical animation were “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) alongside rival Bugs Bunny and “Runaway Brain” (1995). However, fans would be happy to know that their favorite mouse is set to star in two films in the future!

Other voice actors who have lend their voices to Mickey were Jimmy MacDonald (1947-1977) and Wayne Allwine (1977-2009). Since 2009, Bret Iwan has been voicing Mickey.

Photo via Wikipedia

Aside from film and television, Mickey has also been appearing on comic strips, video games, other merchandise, and of course, in the Disneyland theme parks. On his 50th anniversary, Mickey received the distinction of becoming the first cartoon character to have received a star on the world-renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame.

By 1994, four of Mickey Mouse’s films have been included in the book, “The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals”. These were the “Clock Cleaners” (1937, #27), “Brave Little Tailor” (1938, #26), “Steamboat Willie” (#13), and “The Band Concert” (#3).

Mickey Mouse through the years. Photo via Flickr

Mickey Mouse’s physical appearance may have changed a lot since his creation, but he remains a beloved cartoon character for generations now. His influence has been so great that his name had actually become part of pop culture as a slang expression (good or bad, depending on which part of the globe you’re in), and has become a symbol not only of the company he represents but also its originating country.

All information in this article were sourced from Wikipedia.

Further reading: The Mickey Mouse and List of Mickey Mouse films and appearances pages on Wikipedia.

Like this article? Check out more stories from our Today in History series in the Lomography magazine!

You might also like these articles:

American Masters: Walt Disney

Today in History: Walt Disney is Born (1901)

written by chooolss

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano.