He's a familiar friend, a corporate icon and the leader of the club that's made for you and me. He has appeared in hundreds of animated shorts, feature films and TV shows, and serves as the official host of Disney theme parks around the globe. He's more recognizable than Santa Claus and represents the timeless spirit of Walt Disney. And as the world's most famous mouse marks 85 years of delighting the young and the young-at-heart, he's still as lively, playful and beloved as ever.
Mickey Mouse owes his existence to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the star of several successful Disney cartoons in the late 1920s. After falling out with his distributor, Walt lost not only his rights to Oswald but most of his animation staff as well. Down but not out, he began imagining a new character and used his wife, Lillian, as a sounding board. He described a mischievous yet charming mouse, and everyman who finds himself in scrape after scrape but always pulls himself out at the end. The legend goes that Lillian liked everything but the name-Mortimer-and suggested the more genial "Mickey" instead.
Working with close collaborator Ub Iwerks, one of the few animators who hadn't deserted him, Walt continued to develop his idea until Mickey Mouse, along with Minnie Mouse, made their public debut in "Steamboat Willie" on November 18,1928. The short- also the first-ever synchronized sound animation-was an instant hit, and a series of Mickey cartoons soon followed. By the 1930s Mickey was a genuine phenomenon, with his amiable grin appearing in cinemas across the country as well as on dozens of products such as toys, books and watches. In the decades that followed, he experienced myriad cosmetic and wardrobe changes but rarely strayed from his core traits: a cheerful disposition, an intrepid spirit and a calming voice of reason in often chaotic surroundings.
Of the hundreds of memorable and well-loved characters Disney has introduced to the world, none ever held the same place in Walt's heart as Mickey. The man and the mouse are inextricably linked: not only did Walt dream up his little friend and imbue him with much his own personality, he also provided Mickey's voice for many years. Sculptures of the pair grace Disney theme parks around the world, including the Partners statue in Disneyland Park (celebrating its 20th anniversary on November 18,2013), and the Storytellers statue in Disney California Adventure Park.
Reminiscing on his longtime "partner" who helped him create a global entertainment empire from scratch, Walt once said: "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing, that it all was started by mouse".
Not bad for 85 years young...Dr Lee