Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy 85th Mickey!

When folks ask me who my favorite Disney character is, it doesn't really take me long to come up with an answer... MICKEY MOUSE. Without Mickey, the world would have indeed been a much sadder place to live. Of course the same can be said for Mickey's papa, Walt Disney. I can't imagine a world devoid of either of their happy contributions.

A "baby picture"

Mickey has had several dates credited to his "birth". A Hollywood testimonial party with stars Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and humorist Will Rogers in attendance was celebrated on September 30, 1933. Yet in "Film Pictorial" magazine just one month later, Walt Disney himself is quoted as saying, "Mickey Mouse will be five years old on Sunday. He was born on October 1, 1928. That was the date on which his first picture was started so we have allowed him to claim this day as his birthday."

"Steamboat Willie"

Two years after Walt's passing, Mickey's 40th birthday was held on October 28, 1968, and it seems that the dates fluctuated to any day from September through December for years. When Mickey's 50th approached however, the Disney Studios decided to make the date a specific one. Thereupon the studio held a year long celebration of everyone's favorite little mouse with the agreed upon date of November 18, 1928, the original release of "Steamboat Willie".

Now I'd to include a few words from Walt Disney himself, included in "Who's Who in Hollywood" printed back in 1948, Vol. 1, No. 3 April-June:

"I thought of him from the first as a distinct individual, not just a cartoon type or symbol going through comedy routines. I kept him away from stock symbols and situations. We exposed him to close-ups. Instead of speeding the cartoons as was then the fashion, we were not afraid to slow down the tempo and let Mickey emote. 

Walt and his "Alter Ego"

Naturally, I am pleased with his continued popularity, here and abroad, with the esteem he has won as an entertainment name, among youngsters and grownups. With the honors he has brought our studio. With the high compliment bestowed 
when his name was the password for the invasion of France, and with his selection for insignia by scores of fighting units during the war years. These are tributes beyond all words of appreciation. 

In his immediate and continuously successful appeal to all kinds of audiences, Mickey first subsidized our Silly Symphony series. From there he sustained other ventures, plugging along as our bread-and-butter hero. He was the studio prodigy and pet. And we treated him accordingly. Mickey still speaks in my own falsetto-pitched voice, as he has from the first. In the early days, I did the voice of most of the other characters too. It was not financially feasible to hire people for such assignments. In Steamboat Willie, in addition to speaking for Mickey, I also supplied a few sound effects for Minnie, his girl friend, and for the parrot. 

Psycho-analysts have probed him. Wise men have pondered him. Columnists have kidded him. Admirers have saluted him. The League of Nations gave him a special medal as a symbol of international good will. Hitler was infuriated by him and thunderingly forbade his people to wear the then popular Mickey Mouse lapel button in place of the Swastika. 
But all we ever intended for him was that he should make people everywhere chuckle with him and at him."  


Happy Birthday Mickey, and thank you Walt!