Art of Disney – Imagination
Issue Date: August 7, 2008
City: Anaheim, CA
Mickey Mouse, the most widely recognized figure in the Disney family, was introduced to the world in 1928. Mickey’s first two cartoons were poorly received, but Disney refused to give up on the character. He decided to give Mickey a voice, making him the first speaking cartoon.
Mickey made his vocal debut in the 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie. The title was a parody of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. In the cartoon, Mickey is a crew member aboard Steamboat Willie.
He first appears behind the wheel of the boat, whistling and pretending to be captain. Shortly after, Captain Pete arrives, throwing Mickey from the bridge. After stopping for cargo, Mickey notices a pretty female mouse (she later would become Minnie) who has missed the boat. Mickey helps her onto the boat, but her sheet music is eaten by a goat. Mickey then turns the goat’s tail into a phonograph, making the goat play the tune “Turkey in the Straw.”
Mickey continues turning animals into musical instruments until he disturbs Captain Pete, who orders him to peel potatoes for the rest of the trip. The cartoon was hailed by the New York Times as “an ingenious piece of work with a good deal of fun.”
Steamboat Willie was honored on a 2008 U.S. postage stamp in part of the Art of Disney series.