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Mickey Mouse may be the most recognized symbol of America, save for the flag. For over seventy-five years, he has signified The Walt Disney Company, animation, goodwill, fun, laughter and most of all Walt Disney himself. It was said by Lillian Disney, his wife, that over the years, Mickey and Walt grew together and were mirrors of each other's personality. They both started off mischievous and cheeky, but as they grew older preferred to step out of the spotlight and observe others work their magic. President Jimmy Carter once said; "Mickey Mouse is the symbol of goodwill, surpassing all languages and cultures. When one sees Mickey Mouse, they see happiness".
Mickey's three-circle silhouette serves as the logo for most of Disney's subsidiaries, save for the ones that don't carry the 'Disney' or 'Walt Disney' label. Andy Warhol's portrait The Art of Mickey Mouse used Warhol's famous pop art techniques on the classic mouse.
Creation and debut
Mickey was originally created as a replacement for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an earlier star created by the Disney studio. Oswald had been created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for Charles Mintz of Universal Studios. In fact, Mickey closely resembled Oswald in his early appearances. However, Disney received an unpleasant lesson when he asked Mintz for a larger budget for his popular Oswald series: in reply, Mintz fired Disney and Iwerks and hired others to draw Oswald, to which Mintz and Universal owned the rights. From that point on, Disney made sure that he owned all rights to the characters produced by his company.
In order for Walt and his older brother and business partner Roy to keep their company active, new characters had to be created to star in their subsequent animated shorts. One day, during a train ride, Walt desperately wanted to come up with a money-making character to replace the one he lost, Oswald, whom he loved dearly. He had visions of a mouse in the back of his head (he had previously made silent cartoon shorts with animated mice). He wanted to name his new creation Mortimer Mouse, but his wife Lillian Marie Bounds thought the name was too pretentious, so he changed it to Mickey Mouse. The name Mortimer would later be used for a character in a Mickey cartoon.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse (Mickey's flapper girlfriend) debuted in the cartoon short Plane Crazy, first released on May 15, 1928. The short was co-directed by Walt Disney and Iwerks. Iwerks was also the main animator for this short, and reportedly spent six weeks working on it. Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising were credited for assisting him; these two had already signed their contracts with Charles Mintz, but he was still in the process of forming his new studio and so for the time being they were still employed by Disney. 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 in emulation of Charles Lindbergh. 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, eventually resorting to force. 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. A non-anthropomorphic cow that briefly becomes a passenger in the aircraft is believed to be Clarabelle Cow making her debut.
Mickey as portrayed in Plane Crazy was mischievous, amorous, and has often been described as a rogue. Modern audiences have occasionally commented on this version of Mickey as being somewhat more complex and consequently more interesting than his later self. At the time of its first release, however, Plane Crazy apparently failed to impress audiences, and to add insult to injury, Walt could not find a distributor. Though understandably disappointed, Walt went on to produce a second Mickey short: The Gallopin' Gaucho.
First encounter with Black/Peg Leg Pete
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 Douglas Fairbanks' The Gaucho, a film first released on November 21, 1927. 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 often reported). He soon encounters "Cantina Argentina," apparently serving as the local bar and restaurant. Mickey proceeds to enter the establishment and take a seat. He apparently just wants to relax with some drinking and tobacco smoking. Also present at the establishment are Black Pete (later renamed Peg Leg Pete, or just Pete), a wanted outlaw and fellow customer for the time being, and Minnie Mouse, the barmaid and dancer of the establishment, at the time performing a tango. Both customers soon begin to flirt with Minnie and to rival one another. At some point Pete proceeds in kidnapping Minnie and attempts to escape on his horse. Mickey gives chase on his rhea. He soon catches up to his rival and they proceed to fight with swords. Mickey emerges the victor of this joust. The finale of the short has Mickey and Minnie riding the rhea into the distance.
In later interviews, Iwerks would comment that Mickey as featured in The Gallopin' Gaucho was intended to be a swashbuckler, an adventurer modeled after Fairbanks himself. This short marks the first encounter between Mickey and Black Pete, a character already established as an antagonist in both the Alice Comedies and the Oswald series. Based on Mickey and Minnie acting as strangers to each other before the finale, it was presumably intended to feature their original acquaintance to each other as well. Modern audiences have commented that all three characters seem to be coming out of rough, lower class backgrounds that little resemble their later versions. Consequently the short is arguably of some historical significance.
At the time of its original production though, Walt again failed to find a distributor. It would be first released on December 30, 1928, following the release of another Mickey short. Reportedly Mickey was at first thought to be much too similar to Oswald and this resulted in the apparent lack of interest in him. Walt would soon start to contemplate ways to distinguish the Mickey Mouse series from his previous work and that of his rivals. The result of his contemplations would be the third Mickey short to be produced, the second to be released and the first to really draw the attention of the audiences: Steamboat Willie.
Addition of sound to the series
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. He was 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. Despite the fact this was not the first Mickey cartoon made or released, it is still considered by some as Mickey Mouse's true debut. The cartoon is often listed in history books as being the first animated film ever to feature a synchronized sound, music, and dialogue track, although Max Fleischer released some sound cartoons using the DeForest system in the mid-1920s. Steamboat Willie was, however, the first sound cartoon to achieve wide commercial success. Animation historians have long debated who had served as the composer for the film's original music. This role has been variously attributed to Wilfred Jackson, Carl Stalling and Bert Lewis, but identification remains uncertain. Walt Disney himself acted as 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 out of 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 apparently 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" (alternate versions include "Natchez Under the Hill" and "Old Zip Coon". The lyrics are thought to have been added to an earlier tune by Bob Farrell who first performed them in a minstrel show on August 11, 1834). 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. Later audiences have often described those scenes as humorously exaggerated examples of animal cruelty. Captain Pete is eventually disturbed by all this noise and places 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 to 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 its use of sound for comedic purposes. Sound films were still considered innovative. The first of them to become a commercial success was arguably Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer, first released on October 6, 1927. Following its success, most United States movie theaters had installed sound film equipment. Walt Disney apparently intended to take advantage of this new trend and, arguably, managed to succeed. Most other cartoon studios were still producing silent products and so were unable to effectively act as competition to Disney. As a result Mickey would soon become the most prominent animated character of the time.
It should however be noted that Steamboat Willie was arguably the first animated sound film to become commercially successful, but not the first to be produced. In fact Fleischer Studios, headed by Max Fleischer and his brother Dave Fleischer, had already produced over a dozen cartoons with synchronized soundtracks.
Such earlier attempts would soon be more or less forgotten. Walt Disney soon worked on adding sound to both Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho (which had originally been silent releases) and their new release added to Mickey's initial success and popularity. A fourth Mickey short was also put into production. It was The Barn Dance.
Mickey as a suitor
The Barn Dance, first released on March 14, 1929, would be the first of twelve Mickey shorts released during that year. It was directed by Walt Disney with Ub Iwerks as the head animator. The barn dance of the title is the occasion which brings together Minnie and her two suitors: Mickey and Pete. The latter two and their vehicles are first seen arriving at Minnie's house in an attempt to pick her up for the dance. Mickey turns up in his horse-cart while Pete in a newly purchased automobile. Minnie initially chooses the later to drive her to the dance but then the automobile unexpectedly breaks down. She resorts to accepting Mickey's invitation. They are later seen dancing together. But Mickey proves to be a rather clumsy dancer as he repeatedly steps on Minnie's feet. She consequently turns down his invitation for a second dance. She instead accepts that of Pete who proves to be a better dancing partner. Mickey then attempts to solve his problem by placing a balloon in his shorts. That apparently helps him to be "light on his feet" and he proceeds to ask Minnie for another dance. She accepts and is surprised to find his dancing skills to have apparently improved. Pete soon discovers Mickey's trick and points it to Minnie. Minnie is visibly disgusted by this attempt at deception. Consequently she leaves Mickey to resume dancing with Pete. In the finale Mickey is reduced to crying on the floor.
This short was the first to feature its three main characters as parts of a love-triangle. It is notable for featuring Mickey turned down by Minnie in favor of Pete. It is also an unusual appearance of the later. Pete was depicted as a rather well-mannered gentleman instead of a menacing villain as before. On the other hand, Mickey was not depicted as a hero but as a rather ineffective young suitor. In his sadness and crying over his failure, Mickey appears unusually emotional and vulnerable. It has been commented however that this only serves to add to the audiences' empathy for the character.
First gloved appearance
"Ever wonder why we always wear these white gloves?" – Various characters (with minor variations)
The Opry House, first released on March 28, 1929, would be the second short released during the year. It cast Mickey as the owner of a small theater (or opera house according to the title). Mickey performs a vaudeville show all by himself. Acts include his impersonation of a snake charmer, his dressing in drag and performing a belly dance, his caricature of a Hasidic Jew and, for the finale, a piano performance. Minnie did not appear in person in this short. Instead, a poster of her can be seen which introduces her as a member of the Yankee Doodle Girls, apparently a group of female performers. The only other recurring character to appear in the short is known as Kat Nipp (apparently a play on the word catnip). This would be his debut; he would appear in two more shorts during the year as a minor antagonist. This short featured no dialogue and consequently its humor relies in a long series of visual gags. The musical pieces accompanying them notably included "Yankee Doodle" and Georges Bizet's Carmen. More notably this short introduced Mickey's gloves. Mickey can be seen wearing them in most of his subsequent appearances.
Depiction as a regular mouse
When the Cat's Away, first released on April 11, 1929, would be the third Mickey short to be released that year. It was essentially a remake of one of the Alice Comedies, Alice Rattled by Rats, which had been first released on January 15, 1926. Kat Nipp makes his second appearance, though his name is given as "Tom Cat" (this describes his being a tom cat, and the character should not be confused with the co-star of the Tom and Jerry series). He is seen getting drunk on alcoholic beverages. Then he leaves his house to go hunting. In his absence an army of mice invade his house in search of food. Among them are Mickey and Minnie, who proceed to turn this gathering into a party. This short is unusual in depicting Mickey and Minnie as having the size and partly the behavior of regular mice. The set standard both before and after this short was to depict them as having the size of a rather short human being. On another note, it has been commented that since this short was released during the Prohibition era, the alcoholic beverages would probably have been products of bootlegging.
Mickey as a soldier
The next Mickey short to be released is also considered unusual. It was The Barnyard Battle, first released on April 25, 1929. As the title implies it featured a battle between an invading army of cats and an army of mice trying to defend their homes and farms. Pete was depicted as a leading soldier of the former army and Mickey as a conscript of the latter one. Before joining the army, Mickey has to pass a physical examination. This scene depicts Mickey becoming the subject of physical and emotional abuse. After passing the examination, he is given a machine gun and is sent to battle. Mickey's combat efforts are comical in depiction but prove effective enough in forcing the enemy to retreat. Mickey is hailed as a hero by his fellow soldiers and then the short ends.
This short is notable as the first to depict Mickey as a soldier and the first to place him in combat. The physical examination scene has since often been edited out as being somewhat disturbing. However modern viewers have often pointed to this scene as being the most memorable of the short. The short did not clearly identify the war it depicted; but it has been noted that the cats are depicted as wearing military helmets similar to those used by the German Empire during World War I. On the other hand, the mice are marching in battle to the tune of "Dixie's Land", a song written in 1859 by Daniel Decatur Emmett (October 29, 1815 – June 28, 1904). The song is known to have been popular among the forces of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. The victory of the mice is celebrated in the tune of "Battle Cry of Freedom". Both the music and the lyrics to this song were written in 1862 by George Frederick Root (August 30, 1820 – August 6, 1895) and it is known to have been popular among the forces of the United States during the same conflict. In any case both wars were still within living memory of the audiences at the time of release and so it is possible that the details mentioned were intended as recognizable references to both of them.
First encounter with Horace Horsecollar
Mickey returned to civilian life with The Plow Boy, first released on May 9, 1929. As the title implies he was depicted as a farmer alongside Minnie. He is first seen with his horse while ploughing a field. Then Minnie comes along with her cow. She has Mickey milk the cow for her. As he does, the cow starts licking him in an apparent sign of affection. Mickey does not seem pleased and replies by rolling up its muzzle with its own tongue. Mickey eventually manages to present Minnie with a full be short is considered mainly notable for the livestock it featured. Minnie's cow is considered to be Clarabelle Cow making her second appearance, and Mickey's plow horse is considered to be Horace Horsecollar making his debut. Though depicted as non-anthropomorphic animals during this short, later that same year both would become as anthropomorphic as their former owners.
First speaking appearance
During his first eight appearances Mickey would whistle, laugh, cry and otherwise vocally express himself. But he would not actually speak until his ninth appearance. This short was The Karnival Kid, first released on May 23, 1929. Mickey's first spoken words were "Hot Dogs!". The short featured Mickey selling hot dogs at a carnival. Much of the humor in this short came from the interaction between Mickey and his hot dogs, with the latter tending to act like actual dogs in relation to their owner/trainer. Three other recurring characters of the series also appear. The first of them was Clarabelle Cow in a cameo. The second was Kat Nipp, making his third and last appearance. A barker at the carnival, he briefly gets into an argument with Mickey. The third was Mickey's recurring love interest: Minnie Mouse "the Shimmy Dancer" of the carnival. Having purchased one of Mickey's hot dogs, she is surprised to see it run away. The short ends at night time. Mickey apparently attempts to draw Minnie's attention by playing guitar singing outside her window. He only manages to draw the attention of two alley cats who decide to join him and then that of an irate neighbour of Minnie's who starts throwing things at these three annoyances in an attempt to silence them. This marks the finale of the short.
First singing appearance
This following Mickey short to be released was Mickey's Choo Choo, first released on June 20, 1929. As the title implies, Mickey is depicted as the engineer in charge of an unusually anthropomorphic locomotive. His only passenger seems to be Minnie, cast as a fiddle player for this short. At some point Mickey loses control of the locomotive. Clarabelle has another brief appearance as a cow running out of its way. It was soon followed by Mickey's Follies, first released on June 26, 1929. The short featured a barnyard show including various numbers. A female pig singing opera is considered to be Patricia Pig making her only animated appearance. She would be a recurring character early in Mickey's comic strip series. But the short is more notable for Mickey's main act. It has Mickey singing Minnie's Yoo Hoo for the first time. This humorous little song is considered to have a historical importance of its own. For one thing "the guy they call little Mickey Mouse" for the first time addresses an audience to explain that he has "Got a sweetie" who is "Neither fat nor skinny" and proudly proclaims that "She's my little Minnie Mouse". For another this would serve as the new theme song for the series. The music to the song was written by Carl Stalling and the lyrics by Walt Disney. Finally, animation historians have pointed that it seems to be the first song with original lyrics created by Walt's studio.
From comedy to musical
The ninth Mickey short to be released that year was The Jazz Fool, first released on July 5, 1929. The title was probably intended to be reminiscent of both The Jazz Singer, and also The Singing Fool, first released on September 19, 1928. Both musical films featured Al Jolson as their star and had proved commercially successful. This film followed the originals in having minimal plot and focusing on musical performances. Mickey and his friend Horace Horsecollar, the later in his first anthropomorphic appearance, are cast as the sole two performers of "Mickey's Big Road Show". The former plays the piano and the later the xylophone. The soundtrack of the film reportedly contained elements of both ragtime and Dixieland jazz. This short is considered to be representative of a change of focus early in the series. The preceding shorts already featured their share of song and dance numbers as part of their comedic plots. Many of the following ones can better be described as animated song and dance shows with little to no plot.
First encounter with ghosts
This was not the case however with the next Mickey short to be released: Haunted House, first released on August 1, 1929. The short begins at night time. Mickey is seen caught up in a storm with an umbrella serving as his only protection from the rain. Mickey is naturally seeking a refuge for himself. He soon discovers an apparently deserted house and proceeds to enter it. The door suddenly shuts behind him and seems to be locked. Mickey is somewhat unnerved and his encounters with bats and large spiders only increase his growing fear. At this point, Mickey finds out that the house is indeed inhabited ... by ghosts in skeleton form. Mickey has entered a haunted house. The figure of the Grim Reaper orders him to play music to entertain them. Mickey is surprised but clearly too scared to argue with it. Skeletons are seen dancing to Mickey's tune. At some point, Mickey attempts to escape but any room he attempts to enter contains more skeletons. The finale has a terrified Mickey crushing through a window to escape.
The short is clearly similar to The Skeleton Dance, first released on August 22, 1929, which was the first short of the Silly Symphonies series. Both feature elements generally found in horror fiction and particularly in horror films effectively combined with music and dance. A series of creative and rather morbid gags provide comedic elements. The result is often described as surreal and at points impressive. Consequently both shorts have been considered among the highlights of their respective series and animated classics.
Earliest adventure at sea
Another Mickey short was released in between them: Wild Waves, first released on August 15, 1929. Mickey and Minnie are featured spending a day at the beach. They are at first singing and dancing at the shore but at some point Minnie is swept by a wave into the sea. She panicks and seems to start drowning. Mickey discovers a rowboat placed upside-down on the beach. He lifts it to discover an amorous couple who were using the boat as their cover from prying eyes. Mickey proceeds to place it into the water and then rows the boat forward until he reaches Minnie. He manages to rescue her and return her to the shore but Minnie is still visibly shaken from the experience. Mickey starts singing the tune of Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep, a maritime ballad written in 1832 by Emma Hart Willard (February 23, 1787 – April 15, 1870), in an apparent effort to cheer her up. Soon seals, walruses, penguins, pelicans, and other water birds start dancing to Mickey's tune. Minnie cheers up and the short ends. Mickey was depicted acting much like a lifeguard during the short. Otherwise it is only notable as the first of Mickey's adventures at sea.
Mouse in transition
Mickey entering the Depression Era
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 later proves to be problematic soon after Mickey finds himself standing in between of 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 Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne" (1788), Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube" (An der schönen, blauen Donau – 1867) and Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii's Aloha `Oe – 1878. This was the first Mickey short to be released during the Great Depression. Mickey's efforts as an entertainer to the jungle can be seen as representative of a function often credited to him. To provide relatively cheap but much needed entertainment to the audiences of the period.
First comic strip appearance
By this point Mickey had appeared in fifteen commercially successful animated shorts and was easily recognized by the public. So Walt Disney was approached by King Features Syndicate with the offer to licence Mickey and his supporting characters for use in a comic strip. Walt accepted and Mickey made his first comic strip appearance on January 13, 1930. The comical plot was credited to Walt Disney himself, art to Ub Iwerks and inking to Win Smith. The first week or so of the strip featured a loose adaptation of Plane Crazy. Minnie soon became the first addition to the cast. The strips first released between January 13 and March 31, 1930 have been occasionally reprinted in comic book form under the collective title "Lost on a Desert Island".
Classical music performances
Meanwhile in animation, two more Mickey shorts had been released. The first of them was The Barnyard Concert, first released on March 3, 1930. It featured Mickey conducting an orchestra. The only recurring characters among its members were Clarabelle as a flutist and Horace as a drummer. Their rendition of the Poet and Peasant (Dighter und Bauer), an overture written in 1846 by Franz von Suppé (April 18, 1819 – May 21, 1885), is humorous enough; but it has been noted that several of the gags featured were repeated from previous shorts. The second was originally released on March 14, 1930 under the title Fiddlin' Around but has since been renamed to Just Mickey. Both titles give an accurate enough description of the short which has Mickey performing a violin solo. It is only notable for Mickey's emotional renditions of the finale to Gioacchino Rossini's William Tell Overture – 1829, Robert Schumann's Träumerei (Reverie), which is a notable extract from Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood – 1838), and Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, written after 1839.
Departure of a co-creator and consequences
They were followed by Cactus Kid, first released on April 11, 1930. As the title implies the short was intended as a Western movie parody. But it is considered to be more or less a remake of The Gallopin' Gaucho set in Mexico instead of Argentina. Mickey was again cast as a lonely traveler who walks into the local tavern and starts flirting with its dancer. The later is again Minnie. The rival suitor to Mickey is again Pete though using the alias Peg-Leg Pedro. For the first time in a Mickey short, Pete was depicted as having a peg-leg. This would become a recurring feature of the character. The rhea of the original short was replaced by Horace Horsecollar. This is considered to be his last non-anthropomorphic appearance. The short is considered significant for being the last Mickey short to be animated by Ub Iwerks.
Shortly before its release, Iwerks had left the Studio in an attempt to create his own. The result of his early efforts was the Flip the Frog series. His departure is considered to mark a turning point to the careers of both Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. The former lost the man who served as his closest colleague and confidant since 1919. The latter lost the man responsible for his original design and for the direction and/or animation of several of the shorts released till this point, and some would argue Mickey's creator. Walt Disney has been credited for the inspiration to create Mickey, but Iwerks was the one to design the character and the first few Mickey Mouse cartoons were mostly or entirely drawn by Iwerks. Consequently some animation historians have suggested that Iwerks should be considered the actual creator of Mickey Mouse. It has been pointed that advertising for the early Mickey Mouse cartoons credit them as "A Walt Disney Comic, drawn by Ub Iwerks". Later Disney Company reissues of the early cartoons tend to credit Walt Disney alone.
In any case, Walt and his remaining staff continued the production of the Mickey series. Mickey continued to appear regularly in animated shorts until 1943 and again from 1946 to 1953. But back in early 1930, Walt had another matter to attend to: the creation of the comic strip after Iwerks' departure. At first Walt was content to continue scripting it and assigning the art to Win Smith. However, Walt's focus had always been in animation and Smith was soon assigned with the scripting as well. Win Smith was apparently discontent at having to script, draw, and ink a series by himself. This became evident by his sudden resignation.
Walt proceeded to search for a replacement to Smith among the remaining staff of the Studio. For uncertain reasons he chose Floyd Gottfredson, a recently hired employee. At the time Floyd was reportedly eager to work in animation and somewhat reluctant to accept his new assignment. Walt had to assure Floyd that the assignment was only temporary and that he would eventually return to animation. Floyd accepted and ended up holding this "temporary" assignment from May 5, 1930 to November 15, 1975.
Appearances in comics
Floyd at first had to work on the continuation of a storyline which his predecessors had started on April 1, 1930. The storyline was completed on September 20, 1930 and was later reprinted in comic book form as Mickey Mouse in Death Valley. This early adventure contributed to the extension of the comic strip cast which by this point only included Mickey and Minnie. This story would bring the first comic strip appearances of Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar and Black Pete as well as the debuts of corrupted lawyer Sylvester Shyster and Minnie's uncle Mortimer Mouse. The story was followed by Mr. Slicker and the Egg Robbers, first printed between September 22 and December 26, 1930, which introduced Marcus Mouse and his wife as Minnie's parents.
Starting with this two early comic strip stories, Mickey's versions in animation and comics are considered to have diverged from each other. While Disney and his cartoon shorts would continue to focus on comedy, the comic strip effectively combined comedy and adventure. This adventurous version of Mickey would continue to appear in comic strips and later comic books throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.
Later Mickey history
From 1930 until 1950, though the numbers of the comic creators that worked on Mickey increased, the most popular version (considered the "classic" version today) was that of Floyd Gottfredson, who developed Mickey's character, adopted characters from the cartoons, and created many others. Since 1950 the most popular version of Mickey has been that of Italian creator Romano Scarpa, who has further developed Gottfredson's characters and has added many of his own.
In 1929, Disney created the original Mickey Mouse Club for fans of his character and cartoons, which later formed the basis for a popular 1950's television show (with follow-ups of the same name in the 1977 and 1989).
Mickey has only starred in one feature film: the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of Fun and Fancy Free (1947). He has also starred in two half-hour theatrical featurettes, Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983, screened in front of a re-issue of The Rescuers) and The Prince and the Pauper (1990, screened in front of The Rescuers Down Under).
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 semi-second.
Only three people have regularly provided the voice for Mickey (not including theme park attractions and parades): Walt Disney from 1928 to 1947, James MacDonald from 1948 to 1983, and currently, Wayne Allwine, who first voiced the Mouse in Mickey's Christmas Carol in 1983. His most recent theatrical cartoon was 1995's short Runaway Brain, while in 2004 he appeared in the made-for-video features The Three Musketeers and the computer-animated Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas.
In the Kingdom Hearts video game series, King Mickey Mouse resides over Disney Castle alongside Queen Minnie Mouse. Donald Duck is his Court Wizard, while Goofy Goof is the head of the King's royal guard. Mickey only appears briefly in the first game, but is expected to play a much larger role in the sequel, Kingdom Hearts II. He also appears in the Game Boy Advance "semi-sequel", Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
In the United States, protest votes are often made in order to indicate dissatisfaction with the slate of electors presented on a particular ballot, or to highlight the inadequacies of a particular voting procedure. Since the American electoral system does 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 most well-known and well-recognized character in America, his name is frequently selected for this purpose. (Other popular selections include Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny.) This phenomenon has the humorous effect of causing Mickey Mouse to be a minor but perennial contestor of nearly all U.S. presidential elections.
Pejorative use of Mickey's name
"Mickey Mouse" is a slang expression used as a diminutive adjective and adverb meaning small-time, amateurish or of inferior quality. A poorly executed construction project, for instance, could be pejoratively described as a "Mickey Mouse job". Presumably, this comes from the insinuation that the object or action in question was taken as seriously as a Mickey Mouse cartoon (that is to say, not at all). The term does not imply any actual connection to Mickey.
An alternative theory comes from the fact that Mickey Mouse watches were notorious for breaking down.
"Mickey Mouse money" is a derogatory term for foreign currency, often used by Americans to describe indiginous currency in a foreign country in which they are travelling.
The Walt Disney Company has become well known for protecting its copyright on the Mickey Mouse character, whose likeness is so closely associated with the company, with particular zeal. Disney chose not to sue Paul Krassner for publishing Wally Wood's illustration of The Disneyland Memorial Orgy in the underground newspaper The Realist in 1967, and didn't pursue legal redress until a bootleg blacklight poster appeared. In a protracted case in the 1970s, Disney sued underground cartoonist Dan O'Neill for his comic book Air Pirate Funnies, even going so far as to request the court press criminal charges. Disney has lobbied for and achieved repeated copyright term extensions from the United States and the European Union that have prevented the character from entering the public domain. Disney's lobbying efforts have contributed to the ability of other copyright owners to extend their copyrights as well. This has caused the United States, once known for its disrespect for copyrights and respect for the public domain, to develop one of the most restrictive copyright policies in the world. What is ironic about this is the fact that, as Lawrence Lessig pointed out in his book Free Culture, Mickey Mouse's first appearance on Steamboat Willie is a clear borrowing from Buster Keaton's movie Steamboat Bill, Jr.