“Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!” – The Mickey Mouse Club
On Nov. 18, Mickey will celebrate 90 years of making the world smile! It’s hard to believe just a little old mouse could be one of the most recognizable characters in the world (even above Santa Clause!), but when you think about Mickey’s little red pants, yellow shoes and his one-of-a-kind personality, it isn’t so hard to imagine after all. But do you know how Mickey’s story, and the story of The Walt Disney Company, began? Some like to say it all started with a mouse, but really, it all started with a rabbit!
In 1927, Walt Disney created a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Oswald was a smash hit all across the country, but unfortunately just a year later, Walt would lose Oswald over a clause in a contract he held with Universal Pictures and his ownership rights. Being the optimist and hard-worker he was, Walt didn’t let this road bump stop him. He worked with Ub Iwerks, one of his longtime employees and dedicated artists, to create a new character that audiences would fall in love with. The result was a fun, carefree mouse with a name we all know and love today – Mortimer! Wait…that’s not quite right. Oh yes, it’s Mickey! Walt’s wife Lillian Disney suggested to Walt that Mortimer wasn’t as fun as the name Mickey, and so his name was changed to the one we all know today.
Mickey’s big break came in 1928 when he was featured in “Steamboat Willie” – the first animation to feature synchronized music and sound. Audiences loved the quirky, mischievous mouse leading the show, and within a matter of months a number of Mickey shorts appeared, including another famous Mickey short that previously hadn’t had much of a reception, “Plane Crazy”. Walt Disney himself provided the voice for Mickey, and it has been said by members of Walt’s family that Mickey was an extension of Walt’s fun-loving personality. Fans couldn’t get enough of Mickey, and within two years a Mickey Mouse fan club – the Mickey Mouse Club – was up and running all across the country.
Since then, the Mickey fandom has only grown and the big cheese’s wholesome, loveable character is known the world over. For instance, Mickey has posed with almost every U.S. president since Harry Truman, he has been seen on the runway at Paris fashion week, and you can pay him a visit in any of the twelve Disney theme parks around the world. As you can see, Mickey is quite the world traveler!
But why do we love Mickey Mouse? Is it the harkening back to our childhoods when we spot him, his timeless sense of style or maybe his small-but-mighty determination? Perhaps we’ll never really know, but I do know one thing for sure – he represents a little piece of all of us in some way.
So here’s to 90 magical years and many more! I can’t wait to see what’s next for this true original. Oh, boy!