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Mickey Mouse History

Mickey Mouse is a comic animal cartoon character who has become an icon for The Walt Disney Company. 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. This mouse has become one of the most recognizable 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 Universal Studios.

When Disney asked for a larger budget for his popular Oswald series, Mintz announced he had hired most of Disney’s staff, but that Disney could keep doing the Oswald series, as long as he agreed to a budget cut. Angrily, Disney refused the deal. Disney was dismayed at the betrayal by his staff, but determined to restart his business. 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 Mouse.

“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 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 and Minnie debuted in the cartoon short “Plane Crazy”, first released on May 15, 1928. The cartoon was co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Iwerks was also the main animator for this short, and spent six weeks working on it. In fact, Iwerks was the main animator for every Disney short released in 1928 and 1929. This short would be the last they animated under this somewhat awkward situation.

The plot of “Plane Crazy” was fairly simple. Mickey is apparently trying to become an aviator. After building his own aircraft, he proceeds to ask Minnie to join him for its first flight, during which he repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempts to kiss her. Minnie then parachutes out of the plane. While distracted by her, Mickey loses control of the plane. This becomes the beginning of an out-of-control flight that results in a series of humorous situations and eventually in the crash-landing of the aircraft.

Mickey, as portrayed in “Plane Crazy”, was mischievous, amorous, and has often been described as a rogue. At the time of its first release, however, “Plane Crazy” apparently failed to impress audiences, and Walt could not find a distributor. Though understandably disappointed, Walt went on to produce a second Mickey short: “The Gallopin’ Gaucho”.

The “Gallopin’ Gaucho” was again co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, with the latter serving as the sole animator in this case. The short was intended as a parody of “The Gaucho”, a film first released on November 21, 1928. Following the original film, the events of the short take place in the Pampas of Argentina. The gaucho of the title was Mickey himself. He is first seen riding on a rhea, instead of a horse as would be expected (or an ostrich as is often reported).

But he had trouble getting distributors interested in a character that looked more-or-less like Oswald with round ears. Then came sound. Disney was the first to use the new technology, which he did with the third Mickey cartoon, “Steamboat Willie” (1928).

“Steamboat Willie” was first released on November 18, 1928. It was co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Iwerks again served as the head animator, assisted by Johnny Cannon, Les Clark, Wilfred Jackson and Dick Lundy. This short was intended as a parody of Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”, first released on May 12 of the same year. Although it was the third Mickey cartoon produced, it was the first to find a distributor, and thus has been cited 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.

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 in the mid-1920s. 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. Walt Disney himself was voice actor for both Mickey and Minnie.

The script had Mickey serving aboard Steamboat Willie under Captain Pete. At first he is seen piloting the steamboat while whistling. Then Pete arrives to take over piloting and angrily throws him off the boat’s bridge. They soon have to stop for cargo to be transferred on board. Almost as soon as they leave, Minnie arrives. She was supposed to be their only passenger but was late to board. Mickey manages to pick her up from the river shore. Minnie accidentally drops her sheet music for the popular folk song “Turkey in the Straw”. A goat which was among the animals transported on the steamboat proceeds to eat the sheet music. Consequently Mickey and Minnie use its tail to turn it into a phonograph which is playing the tune. Through the rest of the short, Mickey uses various other animals as musical instruments.

Captain Pete is eventually disturbed by all this noise and brings Mickey back to work. Mickey is reduced to peeling potatoes for the rest of the trip. A parrot attempts to make fun of him but is then thrown into the river by Mickey. This served as the final scene of this short.

Audiences at the time of “Steamboat Willie’s” release were reportedly impressed by the use of sound for comedic purposes. The studio immediately added sound tracks to the two earlier Mickeys, and re-released them. Before long, everyone was doing sound cartoons, but by then, Mickey had become well established as animation’s reigning superstar. And this time, Disney’s studio got the profits. As a result, Mickey would soon become the most prominent animated character of the time. A fourth Mickey short was also put into production. It was “The Barn Dance”. However, Mickey doesn’t actually speak until “The Karnival Kid” in 1929 when his first spoken words were “Hot dogs, Hot dogs!”

When movies started talking, Disney couldn’t wait to bring the new technology to cartoons. “Steamboat Willie” (1928) was the first sound cartoon, and from then on, there was no stopping The Mouse. Mickey acquired supporting characters, including a girlfriend, Minnie; an arch-enemy, Pegleg Pete; a bunch of pals such as Horace Horsecollar and Goofy; and a dog, Pluto. He switched to color with “The Band Concert” (1935), and never looked back.

Pluto has been Mickey Mouse’s dog for so long, it’s hard to believe when they first met, they were enemies. It’s true! In “The Chain Gang” (1930), Mickey was a prisoner (wrongly convicted). When he escaped, Pluto, making his first appearance in cartoons, was one of the dogs that tried to track him down.

In that cartoon, the dog character has no name. In his second appearance, “The Picnic” (1930), he is called Rover, and cast as Minnie’s dog. Only in the third, “The Moose Hunt” (1931) does he assume his now-familiar position as Mickey’s faithful pooch, Pluto (probably named after the planet, which was discovered in 1930, about the time “The Moose Hunt” was in production).

The character of Pluto has gone through some major changes through his existence. The first one happened with “The Pointer” in 1939, where he got more realistic eyes, skin colored face and pear-shaped body. In the 40’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 cartoons in the 50’s, he also got eyebrows, which were removed in the more recent cartoons.

The twelfth and last Mickey short released during the year was “Jungle Rhythm”, first released on November 15, 1929. Mickey is seen in a safari somewhere in Africa. He rides on an elephant and is armed with a shotgun. But the latter proves to be problematic soon after Mickey finds himself standing in between a lion and a bear. Mickey proceeds to play music to calm them down. During the rest of the short, various jungle animals dance to Mickey’s tunes. The tunes vary from the previously mentioned “Yankee Doodle” and “Turkey in the Straw” to “Auld Lang Syne”, “The Blue Danube”, and “Aloha ‘Oe”.

In 1929, Walt would also give Mickey another big boost and began the first of what would later be many Mickey Mouse Clubs, which were located in hundreds of movie theaters across the United States.

As the Great Depression progressed and Felix the Cat faded from the movie screen, Mickey’s populaity would rise, 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 Popeye the Sailor was more popular than Mickey. 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.

Later Mickey History

On November 18, 1978, in honor of his 50th anniversary, Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located on 6925 Hollywood Blvd.

Melbourne (Australia) runs the annual Moomba festival involving a street procession and appointed Mickey Mouse as their King of Moomba (1977).

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.

Many television programs have centered around Mickey, such as the recent shows “Mickey Mouse Works” (1999–2000), “Disney’s House of Mouse” (2001–2003) and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” (2006). Prior to all these, Mickey was also featured as an unseen character in the Bonkers episode “You Oughta Be In Toons”.

Mickey’s Voice

A large part of Mickey’s screen persona is his famously shy, falsetto voice. From his first speaking role in “The Karnival Kid” onward, Mickey was voiced by Walt Disney himself, a task in which Disney took great personal pride. However, by 1946, Disney was becoming too busy with running the studio to do regular voice work Mickey’s voice was handed over to veteran Disney musician and actor Jim MacDonald.

Electoral Career

In the United States, protest votes are often made in order to indicate dissatisfaction with the slate of candidates presented on a particular ballot, or to highlight the inadequacies of a particular voting procedure. Since most states’ electoral systems do not provide for blank balloting or a choice of “None of the Above”, most protest votes take the form of a clearly non-serious candidate’s name entered as a write-in vote.

Cartoon characters are typically chosen for this purpose; as Mickey Mouse is the best-known and most-recognized character in America, his name is frequently selected for this purpose. This phenomenon has the humorous effect of causing Mickey Mouse to be a minor but perennial contestant in nearly all U.S. presidential elections.

The Use of Mickey’s Name in Slang Expressions

“Mickey Mouse” is a slang expression meaning small-time, amateurish or trivial. In the UK and Ireland, it also means poor quality or counterfeit.

In the United States armed forces, actions that produce a good appearance, but have little practical use, are commonly referred to as “Mickey Mouse work”.

In schools a “Mickey Mouse course” or “Mickey Mouse major” is a class or college major where very little effort is necessary in order to attain a good grade (especially an A) and/or one where the subject matter of such a class is not of any importance in the labour market.

Musicians often refer to a film score that directly follows each action on screen as Mickey Mousing (also mickey-mousing and mickeymousing).

“Mickey Mouse money” is a derogatory term for foreign currency, often used by Americans to describe currency in a foreign country in which they are traveling. The term also refers to fake banknotes, especially in UK. (Disney theme parks and resorts have an actual kind of Mickey Mouse money, “Disney Dollars”. This money is worthless outside the Disney property and stores).

The Los Angeles Mafia was known, because of their disorganised behaviour and mess-ups, as the “Mickey Mouse Mafia”.

In the beginning of the 1980s, the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher once called the European Parliament a “Mickey Mouse parliament”; meaning a discussion club without influence.

British people call the MLS, or Major League Soccer, American sports league the “Mickey Mouse League”.


Задания викторины даются заранее, учащимся предлагается самим найти ответы.

1. When was Mickey Mouse born?

2. What was his first name?

3. Who created Mickey Mouse?

4. What was the first film with Mickey Mouse?

5. When did Mickey Mouse start to speak?

6. Whose voice spoke for Mickey Mouse?

7. How was Mickey’s dog named and how did they become friends?

8. When did Mickey Mouse put on his white gloves?

9. When did Mickey Mouse become coloured?

10. When did black and white Mickey appear last?

11. We are used to Mickey Mouse image in red shorts. When did he appear in the shorts last?

12. Why is Mickey Mouse considered to be permanent rival to all US presidents?

13. What awards did Mickey Mouse get?

14. What are the names of Mickey’s friends?

15. What cartoons are the final images of Mickey from?


1. November, 18, 1928.

2. Mortimer.

3. Walt Disney got the inspiration for Mickey Mouse from the 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 Mouse.

4. “Plane Crazy”.

5. In “Karnival Kid” in 1929. His first words were “Hot dogs!”

6. Walt Disney (1928–1947), Jim MacDonald (1947–1977), Wayne Allwine (1977-present)

7. Pluto has been Mickey Mouse’s dog for long, but when they first met, in “The Chain Gang” (1930), Mickey was an escaped prisoner and Pluto was one of the dogs tracking him down. In his second appearance, “The Picnic” (1930), he is called Rover, and cast as Minnie’s dog. Only in the third, “The Moose Hunt” (1931) he assumed his now-familiar position as Mickey’s faithful pooch. Pluto was probably named after the planet, which was discovered in 1930.

8. The “Opry House” (1929) – the first cartoon where Mickey wears gloves.

9. Parade of the Award Nominees (1932) – even though it isn’t an official Mickey cartoon, it is Mickey’s first color appearance. “The Band Concert” (1935) – first Mickey cartoon in color.

10. “Mickey’s Kangaroo” (1935) – last Mickey cartoon in black and white.

11. “The Little Whirlwind” (1941) – last appearance of Mickey in his traditional red shorts until 1995.

12. In many US states most protest votes take the form of a clearly non-serious candidate’s name entered as a write-in vote. Cartoon characters are typically chosen for this purpose; as Mickey Mouse is the most-recognized character in America, his name is frequently selected for this purpose. This phenomenon has the humorous effect of causing Mickey Mouse to be a minor but perennial contestant in nearly all U.S. presidential elections.

13. Amazingly enough, Mickey’s only Academy Award is for a film he was scarcely even in – “Lend a Paw” (1941), where the real star is Pluto. But Mickey wasn’t slighted by the Oscars – in 1931, Walt Disney was awarded a special one for having created him. Mickey cartoons nominated for Oscars include “Building a Building” (1933), “The Brave Little Tailor” (1938), “The Pointer” (1939) and “Mickey & the Seal” (1948). But possibly his most famous role was as the sorcerer’s Apprentice in “Fantasia”.

14. Goofy, Pluto, Donald, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Minnie Mouse.

15. “Steamboat Willie” (1928), “Fantasia”, “The House of Mouse”, “The Three Musketeers” (2004).

By Nina Bryusova ,
Gymnasium No. 1514, Moscow