“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”
-Walt Disney, 1954
Disney’s Mickey Mouse has always been an iconic cartoon character–until today, 90 years after his debut. The classic red shorts, white gloves, falsetto voice, and cartoonishly large yellow shoes— these four signature attributes of Mickey are recognizable around the globe.
Even the outline of Mickey’s head has become a recognizable symbol and one of the logos of The Walt Disney Company, the multinational, multimedia entertainment empire that was originally created from simple beginnings by founder Walter “Walt” Disney.
And today, as we celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday, let’s take a look at how a humble cartoon mouse captured the world’s imagination.
Interestingly, Mickey Mouse was not Walt Disney’s first successful cartoon character. Disney had begun his career in cartoon animation in 1921 after he and his partner Ub Iwerks closed down their earlier business— Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. They had been offering services as commercial artists and illustrators but failed to attract a lot of customers.
Disney became convinced that there was a brighter, more lucrative future in cartoon animation. His first batch successful cartoon series, shown in movie theaters, were called Laugh-O-Grams. These were short cartoons based on fairy tales and fables.
Eventually, Disney bagged a contract with Universal Studios to produce an animated series starring a cartoon character called “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit”. Things went well from until 1928, when Universal took Oswald, saying it owned the intellectual rights to the character.
This was what prompted Walt Disney to create Mickey Mouse, as a replacement for the unlucky Oswald.
Mickey made his first public appearance in November 18, 1928 in one of the first sound cartoons of the era, Steamboat Willie (1928). Since then, Mickey has continued to entertain audiences with his charismatic and cheerful personality.
Mickey became a favorite among audiences and he went on to appear in over 130 films, both short and feature-length films. He even received a total of eleven awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was nominated ten times for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in which Lend A Paw won the award in 1942.
This continuing success over the course of 50 years made Mickey Mouse the first cartoon character to ever receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1978.
Mickey’s trademarked character and personality
Mickey Mouse has a charismatic personality that’s a combination of nice and not so nice traits. He’s optimistic and friendly, adventurous and clever. However, he could also be mischievous and stubborn. Some say it’s this combination of traits that keep Mickey Mouse interesting to fans.
Interestingly, historians, critics, as well as Walt Disney’s friends and even his wife Lillian regarded the Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney as “alter-egos.” They pointed out that both the cartoon mouse and its creators shared personality traits.
It’s no surprise then, perhaps, that the stars of both Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse rose alongside each other, reaching the pinnacle of Hollywood success together.
Considering all that, it’s probably not such a bad idea to make the image of Mickey Mouse part of the official logo of The Walt Disney Company.
Mickey Mouse started out in Steamboat Willy as a cocky, even aggressive, and impatient character. Later on, he evolved into a big-hearted, selfless, and adventurous, optimist kind of friend to Donald Duck and Goofy, to his pet dog Pluto, and especially to his romantic partner, Minnie Mouse.
His creators and animators had rebranded him, shifting from a “cheeky lovable rogue” to a nice guy, who always does honest and heroic things.
Today, Mickey Mouse is most remembered for having positive and cheerful vibes. Generations of children and adults have Mickey Mouse as a huge part of their childhood and growing up years.
To the mouse who helped start Disney’s world domination–and in the process gave kids countless moments of delightful fantasy and creative imagination, from the Disney Channel to Toy Story, to The Avengers to Star Wars–happiest birthday to you, Mickey!