Disney History: The Creation of Mickey Mouse

I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.
~ Walt Disney

No other character connects generations quite the way that Mickey Mouse does. On November 18, we will celebrate the 86th anniversary of the premier of Steamboat Willie, but the real story of the creation of this iconic figure probably isn't the one that you think you know.

It All Started With A MouseIt All Started With A Mouse

Most Disney fans are familiar with the story of Universal using a contract loophole to take possession of Walt Disney's "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" and that said betrayal was the catalyst for Walt's creation of Mickey Mouse. The public story that is typically offered by the Walt Disney Company in venues like the One Man's Dream attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios would suggest that Walt single handedly conceived, drew, and voiced Mickey Mouse, but the story of how this little personality came to be is much deeper.

Mickey Mouse Concept ArtMickey Mouse Concept Art

While Walt drew the first concept sketch, created Mickey's distinct voice, and retained full creative control, it was Ub Iwerks,Disney's longtime friend and business partner, who worked tirelessly in the following weeks to not only develop the circular shape of Mickey Mouse, but to single handedly animate Mickey's entire debut cartoon, Plane Crazy, and its sequel, Gallopin' Gaucho. Ub did so at a breakneck pace so that the work could be completed before his contract with Universal ran out. Part of the reason that it was even possible for Ub to accomplish this feat stems from the simplicity with which he originally drew Mickey Mouse. He saved time by using a simple circular design and by eliminating one finger off of each hand, giving us the three-fingered template that still defines Mickey today.

Ub Iwerks refined Walt&'s Ideas For MickeyUb Iwerks refined Walt's Ideas For Mickey

Mickey evolved rapidly and by the time Ub left the studio in 1930, "Pie-eyed Mickey" was the standard of the day. Following Ub's departure, the pie-shaped slice that had been removed from Mickey's eyes to indicate his pupils was reinserted and the solid oval shaped reigned supreme again. Mickey would be redesigned and modernized yet again by animator Fred Moore just in time for his feature film debut in Fantasia. Moore added defined pupils for the first time and gave Mickey a more fluid form. Artists have continued to tinker with Mickey, adding their own modernizations for each era, but Moore's Sorcerer Mickey most closely resembles our modern Mickey Mouse. Interestingly, with the resurgence of Mickey Mouse cartoons by Disney Toons Studio, we have been seeing a nod to Iwerks' pie-eyed Mickey. Even after 86 years, it appears that Mickey Mouse still has room for growth and development.

Mickey Mouse's film credits are too vast to detail here and with the emergence of the new toon studio, they are growing every day! Suffice to say that Mickey Mouse has more than 200 film credits to his name, making him one of the most prolific film characters that has every "lived".

What's your favorite Mickey Mouse appearance? Leave a comment below and share with us your favorite Mickey moments.

A big thanks goes out to Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of her time in Walt Disney World with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's trip, you can find her sharing her adventures on our member forum.

Doreen wrote on Fri, 11/07/2014 - 08:43:

Doreen's picture

I am a true Disney girl !

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