In Honor of Mickey Mouse


Erika Marchant

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Walt Disney

A multi-billion dollar franchise (worth approximately 85 billion as of 2014), having manifested itself into 11 theme parks and nearly 500 films, found its humble roots in that small, round, yellow-shoe-d, red pants-cladden mouse that we all know and love– Mickey Mouse! On this glorious Friday, November 18th, we commemorate the 88th birthday of the mouse than built an empire.

Mickey, previously named “Mortimer Mouse” by Walt Disney until his wife Lillian convinced him to name him “Mickey”, was created as a replacement for Oswald the Rabbit after the Disney Brothers Studio had lost its rights to Universal Studios. Though the mouse starred in two other shorts, it wasn’t until his Steamboat Willie debut that Mickey gained traction. On November 18, 1928, Steamboat Willie premiered at Universal’s Colony Theater in New York, being the first animated film synchronized to music and sound effects. It wasn’t until The Karnival Kid (1929) that Mickey spoke his first words (being “Hot dogs! Hot dogs!”, voiced by Carl Stalling), and until The Band Concert (1935) that he appeared in color.

In Honor of Mickey Mouse

In the years to follow, Mickey Mouse would go on to make his appearance in over 130 films, most being short films shown before full length films (though he did star in feature-length films on occasion). Ten of his cartoons have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film (Lend a Paw won in 1942), and in 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Alongside his cinematic acclaim, Mickey has found great success in his merchandise. The first officially licensed Mickey Mouse product was a writing tablet, which was introduced in 1930; the famous mouse has since been produced as plush toys and figurines and being featured on T-shirts, lunchboxes, and (most famously) on wristwatches and alarm clocks manufactured by the Ingersoll Watch Company.

A clock hanging on the wall

By the 1950s, Mickey had his own theme park, newspaper comic strip, and own hit television show (The Mickey Mouse Club). However, Mickey Mouse was overshadowed by other Disney feature films (such as Bambi and Sleeping Beauty) for a 30 year period, between The Simple Things (1953) to Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983).

Mickey has retained his position as the official Disney mascot, playing a central role in the Disney parks since Disneyland’s opening (1955). At the parks, he has posed for photographs with every U.S. President since Harry Truman, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson. But, Mickey’s political affiliations and involvement don’t stop at that; in the U.S., protest votes are often made in his name. In fact, the earliest known mention of Mickey Mouse as a write-in candidate was in the 1932 New York City mayoral elections. Mickey’s roles, however, don’t stop at his cinematographic duties– he was a well-known patriot during World War II, appearing on various advertisements for war bonds and promoting national security. “Mickey Mouse” was even rumored to have been the password used in the Allied Forces during D-Day.

In 2008, Time declared Mickey Mouse one of the world’s most recognized characters (even when compared against Santa Claus!). It has been found that 98% of children aged 3–11 around the world recognize Mickey. Needless to say, Mickey Mouse has undoubtedly made the most profound impact on America and on the world, out of all cartoon characters. Let us take this day, this celebration of Mickey Mouse’s creation, to appreciate all the color and wonder that the little mouse has inspired into all of our lives– in accordance with the occasion, spend your Friday night marathoning a few of your favorite Disney movies. Happy Birthday, Mickey!

In Honor of Mickey Mouse 1