“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Walt Disney, October 27, 1954, Season 1 Episode 1 of Disneyland.
Walt spoke it, so it is accepted. Choosing to overlook The Alice Comedies as well as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, both of which were distributed by outside companies, Walt chose to look at Mickey Mouse as the cornerstone of which his company was created. His company, his rules.
Regardless of how it was all started, November 18, 1928 is considered to be Mickey Mouse’s birthday, as it was the day Steamboat Willie premiered at Universal’s Colony Theatre in New York City (Broadway and 53rd to be exact).
Celebrated for being the first synchronized-sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie was co-directed by Walt Disney and Disney Legend Ub Iwerks. Iwerks also worked on the animation of the short with Wilfred Jackson and Dick Lundry. Walt Disney provided the “voices” of all the characters in the cartoon, although no true dialogue takes place. Steamboat Willie also makes the debut of Minnie Mouse (but not Mickey).
Mickey Mouse actually made his big screen debut on May 15, 1928 in the animated short Plane Crazy. The cartoon premiered as a silent film in short release, but distributors passed on the film. Despite the short not being picked up, Walt and his animation company pressed on, and released the Gallopin’ Gaucho on August 7, 1928. Again a silent film release, Mickey Mouse failed to pick up a distributor.
Knowing he was on the right path, despite not having a distributor Walt worked with Ub Iwerks and the animation team to create a film with sound. Success came with the synchronization of sound in Steamboat Willie. In its two week run in New York, the nearly eight minute short was so popular is was taken from theater to theater by bicycle courier as not enough reels were produced.
Because of the two animated shorts released before Steamboat Willie, there has been debate of when Mickey’s actual birthday should be. Because of the success of Steamboat Willie, Chief Archivist Emeritus at the Walt Disney Company Dave Smith declared November 18, 1928 to be Mickey Mouse’s official birthday. For this reason, I say Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse.
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