Most people might celebrate Mickey Mouses 90th birthday later this year, on the anniversary of his first hit movie, “Steamboat Willie,” which premiered on Nov. 18, 1928. But his birthday has jumped around over the years and even Walt Disney once said it was Oct. 1, 1928.
Truth is, it could be today, the 90th anniversary of the day Mickeys first animated short, “Plane Crazy,” debuted.
Mickey made his first appearance about 30 seconds into the six-minute film and apparently the round-eared rodent didnt impress. Mickeys first film flopped.
“Plane Crazy” was shown in Hollywood as a test screening to industry insiders and failed to get distribution. You can see “Plane Crazy” on the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel.
The first screening of “Plane Crazy” was silent; a soundtrack was added in December 1928. Walt Disney was the famous falsetto voice of Mickey from 1928 to 1947.
Walt Disney and Mickeys second film, “The Gallopin Gaucho,” failed to get distributed as well. But you cant keep a good mouse down and the third time was the charm, as “Steamboat Willie” went on to break box-office records for cartoons at the time.
According to The Walt Disney Family Museum, the idea for Mickey Mouse came out of the theft of Walts first animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, by Universal.
Disneys first name for the character was Mortimer, but Walts wife, Lillian, advised the name change to Mickey.
“He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb, and disaster seemed right around the corner.”
― Walt Disney in his 1948 essay “What Mickey Means to Me”[hhmc]
Above, concept art of Mickey from early 1928; the sketches are the earliest known drawings of the character, from the collection of The Walt Disney Family Museum.
Below, a photo from the Library of Congress archives of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in 1931.
Sources: The Walt Disney Family Museum, Disney.wikia.com, Library of Congress