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Image / Editorial

Walt Disney’s much-loved Mickey Mouse turns 90 this week


by Grace McGettigan
14th Nov 2018
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On Sunday, November 18 2018, Walt Disney’s much-loved character Mickey Mouse will turn 90 years old.

The small mouse figure – with his famous red shorts, yellow shoes and white gloves – has been part of children’s lives for generations. Here’s how the world-famous mouse came to be.

Related: Why we should let our daughters watch
(and fall in love with) Disney fairytales

From Oswald and Mortimer

It’s a common misconception that Mickey Mouse was Walt Disney’s first animated character. In reality, many characters came before him; most notably Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

However, in February 1928, during a meeting with his film distributor (whom Walt had signed the rights to Oswald), Walt learned his contract would not be renewed. Instead, Universal Pictures were taking the rabbit in a new direction – and with a new animator.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Suddenly, at the age of 27, Walt realised the importance of maintaining all copyright to his creative work in his name. He just needed to come up with a new idea – and fast.

The idea for Mickey Mouse came to him while on the train home from New York to Los Angeles (though he wanted to call him Mortimer). After some gentle persuasion from his wife Lillian, he settled on the friendlier name of Mickey.

According to the Disney archives, Walt said, “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.”

Visually, the mouse was very similar to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (minus the rabbit ears). Both wore shorts and had the same cheery smile; Mickey was cuter though, and Walt was determined to make him a hit. To achieve this, he needed to combine animation with sound.

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While the idea of animation with sound wasn’t new, Walt Disney set about making sure his version was better than anything else on the market.

Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse’s first venture onto the big screen, was the first animated short film to use music and sound for comedic purposes. What’s more, the music and animation were recorded alongside one another, live-in-studio; rather than being edited together in post-production. It was unlike anything people had ever seen.

As for Mickey’s voice; Walt did that. He simply couldn’t find another voice actor who could to do the mouse’s character justice.

 

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Mickey Mouse’s legacy

It was the animator’s success with Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Willie that motivated him to create further animated films; including Snow White and Pinocchio. All the while, Mickey went on to appear in over 130 films; 10 of which received Oscar nominations.

Ninety years on, Mickey is just as popular as he was in 1928. Today, the friendly mouse is king of five Disney resorts all over the world; from Hong Kong to Orlando.

 

 

 

 

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His large, round ears are instantly recognisable and appear on all types of merchandise; from kitchenware to bed linen. There are even Mickey Mouse-shaped pizzas and ice-pops for sale around the world.

Factor in clothing, VHS and DVD sales, (not to mention the increasingly popular Disney on Ice dance shows), Mickey Mouse has proved more valuable to The Walt Disney Company than his creator ever imagined.

 

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Celebrations

There are many ways to join in on Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday celebrations; whether it’s watching your favourite film at home (cough: Fantasia), or going all out on a trip to Disneyworld.

Disney theme parks are celebrating the mouse’s big day with limited-time-only musical moments, as well as dance parties and special #Mickey90 themed food. The Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando will even have a giant birthday card for guests to sign.

Alternatively, you can just go shopping. Brands from Levi’s to Pandora have teamed up with Disney to create special, limited edition products in honour of Mickey’s 90th. Get a pair of jeans with an embroidered Mickey Mouse patch, or treat yourself to a gold Mickey Mouse charm.

However you choose to celebrate, make sure it’s a day full of fun and childhood joy. It’s what Mickey Mouse would want for you, after all.

 

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Photo via @Disney on Instagram

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