Mickey Mouse Day
annually on November 18th
Mickey Mouse made his screen debut in the short film Steamboat Willie, on November 18, 1928. Today is seen as being Mickey's birthday, as well as Mickey Mouse Day. He was the creation of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Disney needed a character to replace Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, after he had lost the rights to Oswald to Universal Studios. He asked Iwerks to draw up the new character, and various animals were rejected before a mouse was settled upon. The final choice of a mouse may have been influenced by Disney, who was inspired by a mouse he had seen while working at Laugh-O-Gram Studios. Iwerks originally called the mouse Mortimer Mouse, but was convinced by his wife to change the name. Mickey shared many characteristics with Oswald, but had some differences. For example, Mickey's ears were drawn as circles, in contrast to Oswald's elongated bunny ears. Iwerks designed Mickey's body and ears out of circles so that he would be easy to animate. Over the years there have been various tweaks to Mickey's design, whether it be with his body shape or type of eyes. He is also usually seen wearing white gloves, red shorts, and large yellow shoes.
Two short films featuring Mickey were created before Steamboat Willie—Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho—but no one would distribute either one of them, and Plane Crazy also received a lukewarm reception from a test audience. Steamboat Willie was a parody of Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr., which had been released earlier in the year. It was one of the first animated films with sound, coming out only a year after the first "talkie", Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer. Mickey made noises such as whistles and laughs in his first couple short films, and spoke his first words, "Hot dogs, hot dogs!" in 1929's The Karnival Kid. At this time Walt Disney was doing all the vocal work for Mickey. Mickey's first color film was The Band Concert, in 1935, and during the late 1930's some of the most critically acclaimed short films with Mickey were released. He often shared screen time with his pals Goofy and Donald Duck. Minnie Mouse was also a frequent character, as was Mickey's nemesis, Pete. Between 1928 and 1953, Mickey Mouse appeared in 130 short films. In 1940 he appeared in his first feature length film, Fantasia.
Besides appearing in films, Mickey has appeared in comic strips, and the television series The Mickey Mouse Club, which ran from 1955 until 1996. He has appeared in video games, and can be met at Disney theme parks. He has become an American icon, has permeated pop culture, and is instantly recognizable by millions. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, being the first cartoon character to receive one, on his 50th anniversary in 1978.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by watching one of Mickey's films. Watch one of his 130 short films, such as Steamboat Willie, which is the most appropriate short film to watch, as today is the anniversary of its release, which launched Mickey into the public consciousness. You could also spend the day watching one of Mickey's full length films, read a comic he is featured in, watch episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club, or plan a trip to a Disney theme park such as Disney World.