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History of Mickey Mouse – The Birth of a Mouse

Mickey Mouse turns 92 years old this year. What a great run it has been for the animated cartoon whose name is more popular globally than that of Santa Claus.

To think that Mickey almost didn’t come to be is crazy.

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He was however lucky enough after a series of events happened to lead to his creation. Here is the story of the world’s most famous mouse.

Before Mickey mouse existed, there was a rabbit. In 1923, Walt and his brother Roy founded a small animation studio in Hollywood which got into a deal with Universal Pictures who would provide distribution.

Disney then came up with the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who brought in big bucks and was an overnight success. Disney took this opportunity to ask for a promotion which was declined.

The company stated that they owned rights to Oswald. Disney, on the other hand, was left out of a job.

He then went on to modify the look of Oswald by reducing the ears and transforming him into a mouse.

At first, he named the character Mortimer. It is widely suggested that he renamed him to Mickey after his wife’s insistence. According to reports, Lillian, Disney’s wife, thought the original name Mortimer was too pompous and hence, Mickey mouse was created.

Disney And Ub

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Disney and his remaining animator, Ub Iwerks, released the first few silent cartoon shorts including Plane Crazy which never got much attention.

Six months later, in 1928, they released their third short and their previous luck changed. The black-and-white film short titled Steamboat Willie which premiered in New York on Nov. 18, 1928, was an instant hit.

It was the first animation featuring synchronized music and sound effects to hit the screen. The tiny-sized and falsetto voiced mouse became a national fad by the end of the year.

He and his wife Minnie Mouse premiered on the same day and have played a couple ever since the cartoon’s inception. They have celebrated their birthday on the same day every year.

Within just two years, Disney had already created Mickey Mouse merchandise and the Mickey Mouse Club for children was already up and running. Over the years, Mickey Mouse has gone through several transformations to his physical appearance and personality.

Early Years

In his early years, the impish and mischievous Mickey looked more rat-like, with a long pointy nose, black eyes, a smallish body with spindly legs and a long tail.

After some complaints from worried parents,  a young animator named Fred Moore gave Mickey his first makeover. He gave him a pear-shaped body, pupils, white gloves and a shortened nose, to make him cuter.

Mickey also appeared in color for the first time in 1935.

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By the 1950s, Mickey had a theme park, a newspaper comic strip, and The Mickey Mouse Club, the hit television variety shows that has launched the careers of teen stars from Annette Funicello and Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake. 

He went on to appear in over 130 films, including The Band ConcertBrave Little Tailor, and Fantasia. Mickey appeared primarily in short films, but also occasionally in feature-length films.

Mickey generally appears alongside his girlfriend Minnie Mouse, his pet dog Pluto, his friends Donald Duck and Goofy, and his nemesis Pete, among many more.

Mickey was the first cartoon to get a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 1978. In 1942, the cartoon won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Mickey Mouse Today

Today, Mickey Mouse is a universal and much-loved figure that is the heart and soul of the Disney organization.

Despite fading to the background when Disney started releasing films like Bambi, Mickey is still very relevant today and sales on his merchandise make up about 40% of sales and income for the company.

Mickey has also been voted for by citizens during elections and posed for pictures with many of USA’s presidents.

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