Mickey Mouse is arguably the most famous of the Disney cartoon characters. Making his debut in "Steamboat Willie" at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928, Mickey went on to star in over 120 different cartoons. He also starred in "The Mickey Mouse Club" television show of the 1950s. Mickey Mouse was born in Walt Disney's imagination early in 1928 on a train ride from New York to Los Angeles. Walt was returning with his wife from a business meeting at which his cartoon creation, Oswald the Rabbit, had been wrestled from him by his financial backers. Only 26 at the time and with an active cartoon studio in Hollywood, Walt had gone east to arrange for a new contract and more money to improve the quality of his Oswald pictures. The moneymen declined, and since the character was copyrighted under their name, they took control of it. "So I was all alone and had nothing," Walt recalled later. "Mrs. Disney and I were coming back from New York on the train and I had to have something I could tell them. I've lost Oswald so, I had this mouse in the back of my head because a mouse is sort of a sympathetic character in spite of the fact that everybody's frightened of a mouse, including myself." Walt spent the return train ride conjuring up a little mouse in red velvet pants and named him "Mortimer," but by the time the train screeched into the terminal station in Los Angeles, the new dream mouse had been rechristened. Walt's wife, Lillian, thought the name "Mortimer" was too pompous and suggested "Mickey." So, a star was born!
Upon returning to his studio, Walt and his head animator, Ub Iwerks, immediately began work on the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy. The enthusiasm with which his small staff completed the project faded when no distributor wanted to buy the film. Refusing to give in, Walt forged into production on another silent Mickey Mouse cartoon, Gallopin' Gaucho. However, late in 1927, Warner Brothers ushered in the talkies with The Jazz Singer, staffing Al Jolson. This soon signaled the end of silent films, so in 1928, Walt dropped everything to begin a third Mickey Mouse cartoon, this one in sound...Steamboat Willie.
Mickey Mouse's skyrocket to fame didn't take long. His cartoons became so popular that people would first ask ticket takers if they were "running a Mickey" before they would purchase admission. Soon, theaters were displaying posters that read "Mickey Mouse playing today!" It was not uncommon for patrons to sit through a feature twice to see him again. The thirties was Mickey Mouse's golden age; 87 cartoon shorts starring the multi-talented mouse were produced by Walt Disney during that decade. He played everything from fireman to giant killer, cowboy to inventor, detective to plumber. Technically and artistically Mickey Mouse cartoons were far superior to other contemporary cartoons and gave life to an entire family of animated characters...Minnie Mouse, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Peg-Leg Pete, and many others.
Mickey Mouse moved to Disneyland in 1955 to become chief host of the theme park, welcoming millions of visitors annually, shaking hands, posing for pictures, and leading the big parades on national holidays. In 1971, he helped open the Walt Disney World Resort; in 1983 he donned a kimono for the dedication of Tokyo Disneyland; and in 1992, he sported a beret for the opening of what is now called Disneyland Paris. His other activities include public appearance tours around the world for The Walt Disney Company. One of the finest tributes to Mickey Mouse was given by Walt Disney himself when, on his first television show as he surveyed Disneyland, Walt said ...
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