Mickey Mouse was created in
1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks and voiced by Walt Disney. The
Walt Disney Company celebrates his birth as November 18, 1928
upon the release of Steamboat Willie. Mickey Mouse has gone on
to be one of the most recognized symbols in the world.
Mickey was created as a
replacement for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an earlier cartoon
character created by the Disney studio for Charles Mintz of
When Disney asked for a
larger budget for his popular Oswald series, Mintz announced he
had hired the bulk of Disney's staff, but that Disney could keep
doing the Oswald series, as long as he agreed to a budget cut
and went on the payroll. Mintz owned Oswald and thought he had
Disney over a barrel. Angrily, Disney refused the deal and
returned to produce the final Oswald cartoons he contractually
owed Mintz. Disney was dismayed at the betrayal by his staff,
but determined to restart from scratch. The new Disney Studio
initially consisted of animator Ub Iwerks and a loyal apprentice
artist, Les Clark. One lesson Disney learned from the experience
was to thereafter always make sure that he owned all rights to
the characters produced by his company.
In the spring of 1928, Disney asked Ub Iwerks to start drawing
up new character ideas. Iwerks tried sketches of frogs, dogs and
cats, but none of these appealed to Disney. A female cow and
male horse were also rejected. They would later turn up as
Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. Walt Disney got the
inspiration for Mickey Mouse from his old pet mouse he used to
have on his farm. In 1925, Hugh Harman drew some sketches of
mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. These inspired Ub
Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney called Mickey
"We felt that the public, and especially the children, like
animals that are cute and little. I think we are rather indebted
to Charlie Chaplin for the idea. We wanted something appealing,
and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have
something of the wistfulness of Chaplin — a little fellow trying
to do the best he could."
"When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it's because he's so human;
and that is the secret of his popularity."
"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing — that it was
all started by a mouse." — Walt Disney
Mr. Disney originally named the character Mortimer Mouse, but
his wife insisted that this was a poor name choice.
Mickey's popularity kept rising, and by 1932,
the Mickey Mouse Club would have one million members and Walt
would receive a special Oscar for creating Mickey Mouse as well;
in 1935, Disney would also begin to phase out the Mickey Mouse
Clubs, due to administration problems. Despite being eclipsed by
the Silly Symphonies short The Three Little Pigs in 1933, Mickey
still maintained great popularity among theater audiences too,
until 1935, when polls showed that
the Sailor was more popular than Mickey . By 1934, Mickey
merchandise had also earned $600,000.00 a year . In 1935, the
first full-Technicolor Mickey Mouse cartoon appeared, The Band
Concert, distributed by United Artists. In 1994, it was voted
the third-greatest cartoon of all time in a poll of animation
professionals. By colorizing and partially redesigning Mickey,
Walt would put Mickey back on top once again, and Mickey would
also reach popularity he never reached before as audiences now
gave him more appeal; in 1935, Walt would also receive a special
award from the League of Nations for creating Mickey as well.
However, by 1938, Donald Duck would surpass Mickey, and Mickey
was redesigned entirely as a result; the redesign between 1938
and 1940 also put Mickey at the peak of his popularity too.
However, after 1940, Mickey's popularity would decline Despite
this, the character continued to appear regularly in animated
shorts until 1943 winning his only competitive Academy
Award--with Pluto--for a short subject for Lend a Paw(1941) and
again from 1946 to 1952.
On November 18, 1978, in honor of his 50th
anniversary, Mickey Mouse became the first cartoon character to
have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located
on 6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Throughout the decades, Mickey Mouse competed
with Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny for animated popularity. But in
1988, in a historic moment in motion picture history, the two
rivals finally shared screen time in the Robert Zemeckis film
Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Warner and Disney signed an agreement
stating that each character had exactly the same amount of
screen time, right down to the micro-second.