It all began with a mouse

Mickey Mouse made his screen debut on November 18, 1928, as star of the first sound cartoon, ‘Steamboat Willie’. Since his debut, Mickey has become an international personality whose success laid the financial foundation upon which Walt Disney built his creative organisation. Besides being the personification of everything Disney, Mickey Mouse has become one of the most universal symbols of the 20th Century.

Mickey Mouse was born in Walt Disney’s imagination early in 1928 on a train ride from New York to Los Angeles. Disney was returning with his wife from a business meeting at which his cartoon creation, Oswald the Rabbit, had been wrestled from him by his financial backers. Only 26 at the time and with an active cartoon studio in Hollywood, Disney had gone east to arrange for a new contract and more money to improve the quality of his Oswald pictures.

The moneymen declined, and since the character was copyrighted under their name, they took control of it. Disney spent the return train ride conjuring up a little mouse in red velvet pants and named him ‘Mortimer’, but by the time the train screeched into the terminal station in Los Angeles, the new dream mouse had been re-christened. Disney’s wife, Lillian, thought the name ‘Mortimer’ was too pompous and suggested ‘Mickey’. A star was born! Walt and his head animator, Ub Iwerks, immediately began work on the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, ‘Plane Crazy’. The enthusiasm with which his small staff completed the project faded when no distributor wanted to buy the film. Refusing to give in, Walt forged into production on another silent Mickey Mouse cartoon, ‘Gallopin Gaucho’. However, late in 1927, Warner Brothers ushered in the talkies which soon signalled the end of silent films so, in 1928, Walt dropped everything to begin a third Mickey Mouse cartoon, this one in sound: ‘Steamboat Willie’.

Mickey Mouse moved to Disneyland in 1955 to become chief host of the theme park, welcoming millions of visitors annually, shaking hands, posing for pictures, and leading the big parades on national holidays. In 1971, he helped open the Walt Disney World Resort; in 1983 he donned a kimono for the dedication of Tokyo Disneyland; and in 1992, he sported a beret for the opening of what is now called Disneyland Paris. His other activities include public appearance tours around the world for The Walt Disney Company. It’s no wonder Mickey has so many friends like Donald, Goofy and his dog pal Pluto. Mickey is lucky in love for his beloved is the sweet Minnie Mouse. His voice was provided by Walt Disney himself for the first few years. Last year Mickey celebrated his 75th birthday with much pomp and show.

Mickey and the gang

Minnie Mouse: Mickey’s girlfriend. She was with Mickey right from the start, November 18, 1928 in the animated cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie’. She appeared in 73 cartoons with Mickey and Pluto. Minnie Mouse has two nieces, Melody and Millicent, who appeared in a few comic book stories. Favourite sayings: “Why, hello!”, “Aren’t you sweet!” “Yoo-hoo!” “Oh, Mickey...”

Goofy: Mickey’s tall, stupid dog friend. Goofy made his debut in 1932 in ‘Mickey’s Revue’. What makes him so unforgettable is his unmistakable laugh! But what makes him special is his big heart and his determination to succeed. Favourite sayings: “Ahooey!” “Gawsh!”

Pluto: Mickey Mouse’s best pal. On the screen there first appeared dogs that looked like Pluto in ‘The Chain Gang’ (1930), and then in ‘The Picnic’ (1930) he appeared again. That time he seemed to be Minnie’s dog, and his name was Rover! Later the same year in ‘The Moose Hunt’ he at last got his name and got to be Mickey’s dog. Favourite sayings: Woof! Woof!

Other characters:

• Gilbert — Goofy’s nephew

• Morty and Ferdie (Fieldmouse) — Mickey’s nephews

• Mortimer Mouse — Minnie’s rich cattleman uncle

• Horace Horsecollar — Mickey’s horse friend

• Butch — Mickey’s tough pal

• Eega Beeva — Mickey’s friend from the future

• Shamrock Bones — Detective friend of Mickey

• The Sleuth — Famous but clumsy London detective

• The (Phantom) Blot — A thief dressed up as a ghost

• Sylvester Shyster — An evil lawyer

• Eli Squinch — Evil miser

• Doctor Einmug — An atomic scientist