90 Years of Mickey Mouse

Three circles. That’s all it took to start possibly the biggest movement in entertainment history. Adding magic to all of our childhoods and giving the ability to escape to worlds we wish were real in adulthood. That’s right – it’s Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday! An incredible 90 years later and he’s still the most famous mouse in show business.

Where it started

The Mickey Mouse journey started in 1928 when Walt Disney asked animator Ub Iwerks to help him create his first very own character (characters he had created before belonged to Universal). Iwerks created cats, dogs, a cow, a horse and a frog but they were not quite right. Disney decided he wanted a mouse called Mortimer and Iwerks created the simple, three circle design. Walt Disney’s wife convinced him to change the name to Mickey (thank goodness) and that’s when the iconic mouse was born.

Mickey made his debut in the short film Steamboat Willie (grab the Steamboat Willing Funko Pop! here) with Walt Disney as the voice actor who voiced Mickey and Minnie until 1946. It features Mickey sailing a steamboat until Captain Pete takes over. They stop to pick up cargo and Minnie misses the ship. But of course, her hero Mickey picks her up with a crane and puts her on the ship. In the middle of all this excitement, she drops her sheet of music and a goat eats it (don’t you hate it when that happens!?). She yanks the goats tail and it plays the tune. Mickey joins in on percussion and by using various other animals, they create a little band. This scene was actually later removed due to concerns of animal cruelty. Captain Pete then breaks up the party and gets Mickey peeling potatoes. The interesting thing about this film is that although its the first Disney movie with sound, there is no dialog. Give it a watch below.

With hundreds of films being released from then till now, my all time favourite is Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. If you haven’t seen it, you HAVE to watch it this Christmas. It’s about three toys under a tree and each has a story. One story is about Donald Duck‘s nephews wishing it was Christmas everyday and when their wish comes true, they start to regret their greediness. Another is about Goofy trying too hard to prove to his adolescent son that Santa is in fact real. And the final story is about Mickey and Minnie sacrificing their most prized possessions for each others happiness. That’s the thing about Disney – it’s never just a story. There’s always a lesson to be learned (and a sexual innuendo to spot but those are stories for another blog post).

Mickey didn’t wear his iconic white gloves until the 1929 film The Opry House. Gradually over the years the character evolved into what we know today. He had his ears reshaped until it was decided to keep them circular no matter what way he turned.  He was only given three fingers and a thumb because of financial reasons: not having that extra finger in each of the 45,000 drawings of each short film has saved the studio millions over the years.

Mickey Inspired Art

All of the alterations and quirks has given us our legend that not only inspired us as children, but has had an incredibly powerful influence on the art world: he’s been a popular subject over the decades with artists including Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. Mickey gives artwork a sense of familiarity and establishes an instant connection to the viewer. Feast your eyes on some of the most famous Mickey inspired creations:

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) Quadrant Mickey Mouse

Damien Hirst – Mickey, 2012

Banksy – Napalm (2004-5)

Ben Allen – Popaganda Mickey 

Marilyn Manson – The Golden Age of Grotesque – Helnwein

Roy Lichtenstein – Look Mickey – 1961


When looking back at the influence this event in 1928 has had, we decided to have a look at some other things that happened in 1928 that have had an impact on our lives:

Alexander Fleming discovers Penicillin.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly the Atlantic as a passenger.

John Logie Baird demonstrates the first colour television transmission in London.

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra record “Ol’ Man River” featuring Bing Crosby.

The 9th Olympics was held in Amsterdam.

Clip-on tie was designed (very important event).

And the most important one… sliced bread was sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company, Missouri (has there really ever been anything better since sliced bread?)

Anyway, back to 2018… in an era of constantly changing trends and tastes, it’s quite remarkable that Mickey Mouse is still influencing our society as if he were designed last month; let alone 90 years ago. And of course since then, Disney has given us hundreds more characters to enjoy and we can’t wait to see what is created in the next 90 years.

Thank you Walt Disney for creating something so original and extraordinarily timeless.

Rebecca Merry – Social Media Executive

Make sure you check out all our Mickey Mouse and Disney merch!

Categories: special Rebecca Merry

Tags: andy warhol art banksy ben allen damien hirst disney donald duck film goofy mickey mouse minnie mouse walt disney | permalink

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