Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Introducing Mortimer Mouse

by Connie Cortright

Or maybe I should say Mickey Mouse. This cartoon character was originally named Mortimer Mouse by his creator Walt Disney. However, Disney's wife Lillian convinced him to change the name and suggested the substitute name of Mickey, which stuck with him.

Mickey Mouse isn't Disney's first cartoon character, but came into existence when Disney's contract was up for negotiations on the first character he created (stay tuned for next week's blog to find out about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit). Universal Studios retained the rights to his first idea and insisted that Disney take a pay cut in his new contract to stay with them. Disney refused since he felt that they needed him to continue their successful cartoon shorts with Oswald. Disney left Universal Studios, taking with him his one remaining partner Ub Iwerks. They formed a new company - Disney Brothers Studio - and came up with the character of Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney turned his business and new character into a success story by using his marketing skills. The first successful short cartoon starring Mickey Mouse was named "Steamboat Willie'' in 1928. This became an instant hit because it synchronized the soundtrack of music and other sound effects with the animated movie. For the first time movie goers watched a cartoon character's actions exactly match the accompanying soundtrack. Disney used this instant success and added to the popularity by releasing Mickey Mouse merchandising for children. This included watches and alarm clocks using the arms of Mickey to point to the time on the clock. Also a big hit with children were the plush Mickey Mouse toys sold every Christmas since then.

Within two years of Mickey's debut, Walt Disney also started the Mickey Mouse Club, a fan club for children. This club became even more popular in the 50s with the use of television across the land. I know that was a favorite for me when I was growing up.

Walt Disney added other characters in the adventures that Mickey Mouse encountered. By 1930 Minnie Mouse was added to the cast with their pet, Pluto following shorty thereafter. Mickey's friends Goofy (1932) and Donald Duck (1934) joined him before too long.

The appearance of Mickey Mouse has changed over the years, but the artists consistently maintained the look of his two rounded black ears throughout his long history. By being consistent with that look, his ears now have become a brand that is recognized around the globe as the ears of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney certainly gave the world something to remember him by for years to come. I wonder if Universal Studios ever regretted not renewing Walt Disney's contract in 1928 after Disney and Mickey Mouse became such so successful.

Mickey Mouse is still popular yet today (or should I specify Minnie Mouse) especially with my granddaughters. Share this history of Minnie and Mickey with your children/grandchildren so the joy Walt Disney wanted to pass on continues down through the generations.

Information taken from Mickey Mouse - Wikipedia.

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