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Happy Birthday! Celebrating Mickey Mouse's Debut in Steamboat Willie

Today the Walt Disney Company celebrates Mickey Mouse's 83rd birthday. On November 18, 1928, a black & white Mickey Mouse debuted in the Disney Cartoon's animated short Steamboat Willie. The groundbreaking cartoon was the first to feature synchronized sound, instantly making Mickey Mouse an animated success.

Mickey Mouse Concept Art © Walt Disney Family MuseumHowever, Mickey Mouse wasn't the Disney Brother's first successful character, as their studio produced Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. Then, a powerplay by Charles Mintz of Universal Studios led to the loss of Oswald's ownership rights. Looking to rebound, Disney and Ub Iwerks began creating several new characters. Inspired by his time at the Laugh-O-Gram Studios in Kansas City, Walt remembered a little brown mouse that chased crumbs and played on his desk. In the spring of 1928, Mortimer Mouse was born, but Walt's wife Lillian was forced to intervene. She disliked the name Mortimer and famously renamed the new character Mickey Mouse.

© Walt Disney StudiosDisney and Iwerks immediately put Mickey to work starring in Plane Crazy, about a fledgling pilot trying to emmulate his hero, Charles Lindbergh. The silent short tested on May 15, 1928, but the studio was unable to acquire a distributor. The second Mickey Mouse cartoon,The Gallopin' Gaucho, made its test premiere on August 2, 1928. The first two Mickey Mouse shorts made very little noise, as neither were purchased for distribution.

© Walt Disney Studios

The Walt Disney Studio's third Mickey Mouse short was named Steamboat Willie, inspired by Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Junior (1928). Featuring synchronized sound, music and effects that matched the animated actions, Steamboat Willie was purchased for distribution by Celebrity Productions. After debuting in New York City on November 18th, the short propelled both Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse into stardom. As the public clamored for more, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho, were also released, with the studio sychronizing sound to Mickey's earlier appearances.

Since debuting in 1928, Mickey Mouse has become one of the world's most recognized images. Whther he's hidden, or in plain sight, Mickey has appeared in hundreds of cartoons, films, comic strips and video games. There are thousands of forms of Mickey merchandising, from 1933's Ingersoll Wrist Watches to 2011's animatronic plush, Rock Star Mickey Mouse. Mickey also appears at each of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, acting as the company's worldwide ambassador.

Just like some of Hollywood's other stars, Mickey has undergone his own visual transformations over time, leaving the 83 year-old an ageless classic. Happy Birthday Mickey!

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