An anthropomorphic mouse who typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves, Mickey is one of the world's most recognizable characters. Created as a replacement for a prior Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit , Mickey first appeared in the short Plane Crazy , debuting publicly in the short film Steamboat Willie , one of the first sound cartoons.
Mickey appeared primarily in short films, but also occasionally in feature-length films. In , Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Beginning in , Mickey has also been featured extensively as a comic strip character. The Mickey Mouse comic strip , drawn primarily by Floyd Gottfredson , ran for 45 years.
He also appears in other media such as video games as well as merchandising and is a meetable character at the Disney parks. Mickey generally appears alongside his girlfriend Minnie Mouse , his pet dog Pluto , his friends Donald Duck and Goofy , and his nemesis Pete , among others see Mickey Mouse universe. Though originally characterized as a cheeky lovable rogue , Mickey was rebranded over time as a nice guy , usually seen as an honest and bodacious hero. In , Disney began to rebrand the character again by putting less emphasis on his friendly, well-meaning persona and reintroducing the more menacing and stubborn sides of his personality, beginning with the video game Epic Mickey.
Mickey Mouse was created as a replacement for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit , an earlier cartoon character created by the Disney studio for Charles Mintz , a film producer who distributed product through Universal Studios. But Mintz instead demanded that Walt take a 20 percent budget cut, and as leverage, he reminded Disney that Universal owned the character, and revealed that he had already signed most of Disney's current employees to his new contract.
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 , who together with Wilfred Jackson were among the few who remained loyal to Walt.
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 , Disney asked Ub Iwerks to start drawing up new character ideas. Iwerks tried sketches of various animals, such as 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. A male frog was also rejected. It would later show up in Iwerks' own Flip the Frog series. These inspired Ub Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney. Disney had Ub Iwerks secretly begin animating a new cartoon while still under contract with Universal. The cartoon was co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Iwerks was the main animator for the short and reportedly spent six weeks working on it.
In fact, Iwerks was the main animator for every Disney short released in and Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising also assisted Disney during those years. They had already signed their contracts with Charles Mintz, but he was still in the process of forming his new studio and so for the time being they were still employed by Disney.
This short would be the last they animated under this somewhat awkward situation. Mickey was first seen in a test screening of the cartoon short Plane Crazy , on May 15, , but it failed to impress the audience and, to add insult to injury, Walt could not find a distributor.
Though understandably disappointed, Walt went on to produce a second Mickey short, The Gallopin' Gaucho , which was also not released for lack of a distributor. Steamboat Willie was first released on November 18, , in New York. It was co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks.
Although it was the third Mickey cartoon produced, it was the first to find a distributor, and thus is considered by The Disney Company as Mickey's debut. Willie featured changes to Mickey's appearance in particular, simplifying his eyes to large dots that established his look for later cartoons and in numerous Walt Disney films.
The cartoon was not the first cartoon to feature a soundtrack connected to the action. Fleischer Studios , headed by brothers Dave and Max Fleischer , had already released a number of sound cartoons using the DeForest system in the mids. However, these cartoons did not keep the sound synchronized throughout the film. For Willie , Disney had the sound recorded with a click track that kept the musicians on the beat. This precise timing is apparent during the "Turkey in the Straw" sequence when Mickey's actions exactly match the accompanying instruments.
Animation historians have long debated who had served as the composer for the film's original music. This role has been variously attributed to Wilfred Jackson, Carl Stalling and Bert Lewis, but identification remains uncertain. Walt Disney himself was voice actor for both Mickey and Minnie and would remain the source of Mickey's voice through for theatrical cartoons.
Audiences at the time of Steamboat Willie' s release were reportedly impressed by the use of sound for comedic purposes. Sound films or "talkies" were still considered innovative. The first feature-length movie with dialogue sequences, The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson , was released on October 6, Within a year of its success, most United States movie theaters had installed sound film equipment. Walt Disney apparently intended to take advantage of this new trend and, arguably, managed to succeed. Most other cartoon studios were still producing silent products and so were unable to effectively act as competition to Disney.
As a result, Mickey would soon become the most prominent animated character of the time. Walt Disney soon worked on adding sound to both Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho which had originally been silent releases and their new release added to Mickey's success and popularity. A fourth Mickey short, The Barn Dance , was also put into production; however, Mickey does not actually speak until The Karnival Kid in when his first spoken words were "Hot dogs, Hot dogs!
By , Felix would lose popularity among theater audiences, and Pat Sullivan decided to produce all future Felix cartoons in sound as a result. In Mickey's early films he was often characterized not as a hero, but as an ineffective young suitor to Minnie Mouse. The Opry House March 28, was the first time in which Mickey wore his white gloves. Mickey wears them in almost all of his subsequent appearances and many other characters followed suit. The three lines on the back of Mickey's gloves represent darts in the gloves' fabric extending from between the digits of the hand, typical of glove design of the era.
Although Mickey and Minnie still maintained their anthropomorphic characteristics, they were depicted as the size of regular mice and living with a community of many other mice as pests in a home.
Mickey and Minnie would later appear the size of regular humans in their own setting. In appearances with real humans, Mickey has been shown to be about two to three feet high. The Barnyard Battle April 25, was the only film to depict Mickey as a soldier and also the first to place him in combat. The Karnival Kid was the first time Mickey spoke. Before this he had only whistled, laughed, and grunted. His first words were "Hot dogs!
Hot dogs! Mickey's Follies introduced the song "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" which would become the theme song for Mickey Mouse films for the next several years. The "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" song sequence was also later reused with different background animation as its own special short shown only at the commencement of s theater-based Mickey Mouse Clubs. Shortly before the release of the film, Iwerks left to start his own studio, bankrolled by Disney's then-distributor Pat Powers.
Powers and Disney had a falling out over money due Disney from the distribution deal. It was in response to losing the right to distribute Disney's cartoons that Powers made the deal with Iwerks, who had long harbored a desire to head his own studio. The departure is considered a turning point in Mickey's career, as well as that of Walt Disney.
Walt lost the man who served as his closest colleague and confidant since Mickey lost the man responsible for his original design and for the direction or animation of several of the shorts released till this point. Later Disney Company reissues of the early cartoons tend to credit Walt Disney alone. Disney and his remaining staff continued the production of the Mickey series, and he was able to eventually find a number of animators to replace Iwerks. As the Great Depression progressed and Felix the Cat faded from the movie screen, Mickey's popularity would rise, and by The Mickey Mouse Club would have one million members.
Despite being eclipsed by the Silly Symphony short the Three Little Pigs in , Mickey still maintained great popularity among theater audiences too, until , when polls showed that Popeye was more popular than Mickey.
About this time, story artists at Disney were finding it increasingly difficult to write material for Mickey. As he had developed into a role model for children, they were limited in the types of gags they could make. This led to Mickey taking more of a secondary role in some of his next films allowing for more emphasis on other characters.
The tempestuous duck would provide Disney with seemingly endless story ideas and would remain a recurring character in Mickey's cartoons.
Mickey first appeared animated in color in Parade of the Award Nominees in , however, the film strip was created for the 5th Academy Awards ceremony and was not released to the public. Mickey's official first color film came in with The Band Concert. The Technicolor film process was used in the film production. Here Mickey conducted the William Tell Overture , but the band is swept up by a tornado. It is said that conductor Arturo Toscanini so loved this short that, upon first seeing it, he asked the projectionist to run it again.
In , The Band Concert 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 reach popularity he never reached before as audiences now gave him more appeal. However, by , the more manic Donald Duck would surpass the passive Mickey, resulting in a redesign of the mouse between and that put Mickey at the peak of his popularity.
Together, Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy would go on several adventures together. Mickey was redesigned by animator Fred Moore which was first seen in The Pointer Instead of having solid black eyes, Mickey was given white eyes with pupils, a Caucasian skin colored face, and a pear-shaped body.
In the s, he changed once more in The Little Whirlwind , where he used his trademark pants for the last time in decades, lost his tail, got more realistic ears that changed with perspective and a different body anatomy. But this change would only last for a short period of time before returning to the one in " The Pointer ", with the exception of his pants. In his final theatrical cartoons in the s, he was given eyebrows, which were removed in the more recent cartoons. In , Mickey appeared in his first feature-length film, Fantasia. His screen role as The Sorcerer's Apprentice , set to the symphonic poem of the same name by Paul Dukas , is perhaps the most famous segment of the film and one of Mickey's most iconic roles.
The segment features no dialogue at all, only the music.