Analysis of an American Icon:

         Mickey Mouse

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     Walt Disney's most famous character, Mickey Mouse, made his screen debut on November 18, 1928, as star of the first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, and has, since then, become an international personality. He has become not only the personification of everything Disney, but also one of the most universal symbols of the twentieth century.
    Mickey Mouse was created early in 1928 on a train ride from New York to Los Angeles as Walt was returning with his wife from a business meeting at which he lost the copyright of his cartoon, Oswald the Rabbit.  Walt spent the train ride thinking up a little mouse in red velvet pants and named him “Mortimer,” but by the time the ride was over, had changed his name to “Mickey.”
    After returning to his studio, Walt and his head animator, Ub Iwerks, began working on the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, but unfortunately, no distributor wanted to buy the film. Walt started production on another silent cartoon, Gallopin’ Gaucho, but late in 1927, Warner Brothers started producing talkies, signaling the end of silent films.  Walt began Steamboat Willie, a third Mickey Mouse cartoon in sound.  To record the soundtrack, Walt had to take his film to New York, since no one on the West Coast was equipped to do it.  When finally completed, Walt screened it for the New York exhibitors and the manager at the Colony Theatre decided to take a chance on the film. Steamboat Willie was a success, and Walt soon became the talk of the nation.  He supplied the voice and added sound to the first two cartoons and was then able to offer exhibitors a package of three shorts  

    In the thirties, Walt Disney produced 87 cartoon shorts starring Mickey Mouse. The cartoons included an entire family of animated characters: Minnie Mouse, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Peg-Leg Pete, and many others. In 1932, an Oscar was presented to Walt Disney for his creation.  Mickey Mouse's popularity spawned a Mickey Mouse Club in 1929, which met every Saturday for an afternoon of cartoons and games in local theaters.
     The peak of Mickey Mouse’s career was in 1940 for his starring role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the feature Fantasia. It interpreted music in colors, shapes, movement, and story. Fantasia also introduced stereophonic sound to theaters, an element not used by other studios until more than ten years later. With the start of World War II, the Disney Studio stopped nearly all commercial activity and concentrated on aiding the war effort.  Mickey Mouse appeared on badges and posters urging national security and the purchase of war bonds.  After the war, Mickey Mouse returned to making cartoons and appeared in his second feature, Fun and Fancy Free.
     Through the forties and early fifties, Mickey Mouse made fewer cartoons, giving way to Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto, who were more flexible as characters since Mickey Mouse’s evolution into a Disney symbol made it increasingly more difficult to create story situations for him.  After the success of the Disneyland television show in 1954, Disney created an afternoon program for ABC, The Mickey Mouse Club, which became the most successful children's show ever.  In 1971, Mickey Mouse helped open the Walt Disney World Resort; in 1983, Tokyo Disneyland; and in 1992, Disneyland Paris.

      Mickey Mouse has been saluted at three of the Disney theme parks by having “lands” created in his honor: Mickey’s Starland opened on November 18, 1988 in Walt Disney World to honor him on his 60th birthday, and Mickey’s Toontown opened in 1993 in Disneyland, then in 1996 at Tokyo Disneyland, and now serves as home to Mickey Mouse and all of his cartoon friends. After all these years, it is beginning to be understand why the Mickey Mouse of the thirties was so popular: “he was a little guy born out of the depression who satirized people’s foibles and taught them to laugh.” Most importantly, though, he was a character who dreamed big, and his dreams were universal.

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     Mickey Mouse has influenced our world for many decades, creating relationships with all ages and races because of his energetic and enjoyable personality and by representing a huge enterprise.  His impact on the Disney Company has turned a little mouse into a huge American icon which has spread internationally with various theme parks throughout Europe.   His profitable cartoons, movies, and merchandise have made Mickey Mouse a household name.  He appeals not only to children across the world, but all ages including teens, adults, and seniors.  He also has an impact on how Americans view the American dream because Mickey generates warmth of bringing the family together.    

Why does Mickey appeal to all age groups?

     "Disney has a powerful effect on the hearts and minds of American kids from a very young age, an effect that stays with us as we                         grow older.  For many it turns into nostalgia."
                                                                                                                             -Michael Conner


    Mickey Mouse appeals to so many age groups for various reasons.  Children love his ability to make them laugh with his spirited personality and extremely recognizable voice, as well as for his noble, yet entertaining actions.  It seems that Mickey will always come to the rescue if someone were in trouble.   Adults love this about him as well because they are confident that Mickey will show their children these valuable lessons.  In addition, adults love Mickey for the cherished memories that he stimulates within them.   Over anything else, Mickey represents happiness and joyful experiences.  Everyone can relate to Mickey Mouse because he is a timeless character who everyone alive today has encountered at some point.  When adults see their children watch Mickey along with other lovable Disney characters, they become nostalgic and think of fun times when they were young.   This is true of teens and seniors alike because again, Mickey has touched the lives for so many years; everyone has been exposed to his lovable personality.

Why is Mickey so internationally popular?

    Mickey Mouse is a major representative of the Walt Disney Company.  Because Disney is such a huge corporation, Mickey is well known all around the world.  What started off as just a single cartoon during the late 1920's turned into a huge international icon.   Everyone can relate to the happiness that Mickey brings to households around the world.

What is it about Mickey that everyone loves?

    There are many aspects of Mickey's character that make him such an enjoyable icon.  He is infamous to make magic happen because he brings light to all children and families.  Though his personality has changed throughout history from a mischievous rascal when he was first created to a loveable hero, he is known for his aura of happiness.   He brings about happier times in our life.

Why does Mickey represent the American dream?

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

    Some aspects of the American dream are to grow up to be successful, maintain a marriage, and live happily with children.  Though this does not occur as much as it used to, Mickey brings about the best in families through places like Disney world where he tries to create a vacation where many people can go and have an enjoyable experience with their families.   Today, you cannot find many places where the whole family can completely enjoy themselves.  Even though this has much more to do with Walt Disney than Mickey, Mickey himself has become the icon for the company and therefore plays a huge part in making this happen.

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                         Conner, Michael.  "This Old Mouse." The Austin Chronicle.(10 May 2002)

                        Disney Archives:  Relive Disney's Remarkable and Memorable Past:  Mickey Mouse.
                            Disney Online.  16 October 2003

                        Encyclopedia:  Mickey Mouse.  15 October 2003

                        Gibson, Chris.  20 March 2003.  16 Oct. 2003.
                         Griffiths, Bill.
                        Neal, Victoria.  "Mighty Mouse."  Entrepreneur Magazine(July 1999): 192. 
                             Infotrac Onefile Plus.  Coll.  of Charleston Lib., Charleston, SC.  15 Oct 2003

                        Tasker Fred.  "From Cradle To Grave, We're Never Far From Disney's Mickey Mouse."
                            Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service(Sept. 27, 1996). Infotrac Onefile Plus.  Coll. of Charleston
                             Lib., Charleston, SC.  16 Oct 2003.
                         Verrier, Richard.  "The Liberation of Mickey Mouse:  On the Mouse's 75th birthday, Disney is Looking for hip                                                                                      New Ways to Market the Icon, No Matter What Mickey's Hard-core Fans Think."  The Los Angeles                                                                                             Times. (25 July 2003):  E1.  Lexis Nexis.  Coll.  of Charleston Lib., Charleston, SC.  16 Oct.  2003


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                                                                - Mickey Mouse Filmography(Disney)

                                                                - Official Mickey Mouse Page(Disney)

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