Friday, April 03, 2009

A Mouse in the Movie House (11/18/06)

When Mickey Mouse made his screen debut in "Steamboat Willie" on November 18, 1928, the world went mad for the mouse. Never before had audiences seen animated characters who could talk and sing, and the effects of the cartoon created and directed by Walt Disney were electrifying. It's a great American success story, except little of it is true. "Steamboat Willie" wasn't the first Mickey cartoon made (he'd already appeared in two other silent cartoons), he didn't talk, and Disney turned most of the directing duties over to Ub Iwerks. As for sound, Max Fleischer and Paul Terry had already produced cartoons with either spoken dialogue or synchronized sound effects. But there's no disputing something was in the combination of Mickey's personality and those sound effects that soon made him an international superstar. By 1932, more than one million children had joined the Mickey Mouse Club and his grown-up fans ranged from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Benito Mussolini. Maybe Mickey was just a heck of a whistler.

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