Disney: Happy 80th Birthday…er, Anniversary, Mickey Mouse!
The best known spokesmouse in the history of the entertainment business officially sprocketed to life 80 years ago today (November 18th) when Walt Disney’s first synchronized sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, premiered at the Colony Theater in New York City in 1928.
This celebrated event came a scant five years after Walt and Roy Disney launched their Disney Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, an organization which cut its teeth on two series of silent shorts featuring other leading characters: Alice (of the Cartoonland series) and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
For the record, Mickey was actually given animated life six months prior to the November date. His first two silent cartoon appearances (in unofficial screenings of Plane Crazy on May 15th and The Gallopin’ Gaucho on August 2nd) didn’t bring the Disney brothers a distribution deal, but the third cartoon (and the addition of a soundtrack) was the charm. After Mickey’s “sound” success with Willie, soundtracks were quickly added to Gaucho and Crazy, and the two were finally released on December 30, 1928 and March 17, 1929, respectively. All three shorts were largely animated by Walt’s long-time associate, the prolific and multi-talented Ub Iwerks.
After a few years of confusion on Mickey’s origins, The Walt Disney Company finally chose to recognize the November 18th date as Mickey’s official “anniversary” (The company prefers the term “anniversary” rather than “birthday,” since Mickey remains ageless).
So happy 80th anniversary, Mickey!