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3 years ago

Boxoffice-December.20.1952

WHAT MICKEY MOUSE HAS

WHAT MICKEY MOUSE HAS MEANT TO ME As the Creator of a World-Famous Character, Walt Disney Talks About His Early Days by WALT DISNEY Mickey Mouse to me is a symbol of independence. He was a means to an end. He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 25 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. Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry, provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels. Mickey came along by luck-inspiration on the heels of my failure to continue a distribution arrangement in New York due to conflicting ideas. He enabled me to go ahead and do the things I had in mind; the things 1 foresaw as the natural trend of An Early Mickey Mouse Trade Ad PRODUCED BV •%ALT DISNEV DRAWNI BV UBIWERKS CHARLES J. GlEGERICH EA.STfcRt^ REPRESENXATTVe 723 7'=A!/E~ NEW York film fantasy. He s])elled production liberation for us. His first actual screen appearance was at the old Colony Theatre in New York in "Steamboat Willie," with its sound effects and cautious "speech." I thought of him from the first as a distinct individual, not just a cartoon type or symbol going through comedy routines. I kept him away from stock symbols and situations. We exjiosed him in cl(jseu|)s. Instead of speeding the cartoons as was then the fashion, we were not afraid to slow down th(! tempo and let Mickey emote. We allowed audiences to get familiarly acquaintt^d with him—to recognize him as a (Note: Both Walt Disney Productions and RKO are moking elaborate plans to celebrate Mickey's sihcr anniversary in '53, personage, of situations. motivated by character instead Quite consciously, too, I had been preparing Mickey and his pals for the advent of sound. I had made quite a few silent pictures prior to "Steamboat Willie." It may seem a curious thing that even in this early films, with their explanatory balloons, I thought of them in terms of sound and speech and dreamed of the day when the voice would be synchronized with the silent action. But, I felt sure it was coming. Our tempo and rhythm and general animation technique were already adjusted so that sound would fit in readily when it came. Of course, sound had a very considerable effect on our treatment of Mickey Mouse. It gave his character a new dimension. It rounded him into complete life-likeness. And it carried us into a new phase of his development. Mickey had reached tbe stage whe re we had to be very careful about what we permitted him to do. He had become a hero in the eyes of his audiences, especially tbe youngsters. Mickey could do no wrong. I could never attribute any meanness or callous traits to him. We kept him lovable although ludicrous in his blundering heroics. And that's the way hes' remained, despite any outside influences. He had grown into a consistent, i>redictable character to whom we could assign only the kind of role and antic which were correct for his reputation. Naturally, I am pleased with his contiimed pojiularity, here and abroad, with the esteem he has won as an entertainment name, among youngsters and grownups. With the honors he has brought our studio. With the high compliment bestowed when his name was the password for the invasion of France, and w ith his selection for insigne by scores of fighting units during the war years. These are tributes beyond all words of appreciation. In a business way, as I have indicated, Mickey meant almost incalculable things to my brother Hoy and to me as we went through our ups and downs toward founding our present organization with its Burbank studio, its extensive personnel and its continuous picture schedules. At this turning point in our career, already referred to, I needed just such a fresh cartoon personality to sell a projected The business fortunes of Walt Disney (R) an« his brother Roy were at a low point when tha Mickey Mouse idea struck. series of short subjects after faibng to gel over my ideas about another cartoon van ture in New York. The proposed new series I felt, had to rely on a sustained characte appeal rather than on the merit of ew ' separate issue. Mickey fitted the n exactly. He brought in the coin which saved lh( day. He paved the way for our more elaboral screen ventures. He enabled us to explo: our medium and to evolve the technir advances which were to appear in our fi feature-length animation fantasy, "Sno White and the Seven Dwarfs," and succesi sively in other features. In his immediate and continuously su cessful appeal to all kinds of audience Mickey first subsidized our Silly Symphon series. From there he sustained other ver tures, plugging along as our bread-an butter hero. He was the studio prodigy an pet. And we treated him accordingly In due time we gave Mickey that coi trasting temperamental side-kick, Donal Duck. Pluto, the naive, credulous hound came along. We used to play these threi together in the same picture. Later w divided the shorts into se])arate vehicles fo Mickey, Donald and Pluto. Tliis me— fewer pictures for each. and. of cou Mickey appeared less often. He still speaks in my own falsetto pitched voice, as he has from the first. Ii the early days I did the voice of most o our other characters, too. It wasn't finan| cially feasible to hire people for such as signments. In "Steamboat Willie," in addil tion to speaking for Mickey. I also suppliei a few sound effects for Minnie, his gir friend, and for the parrot. For Mickey's first picture. 1 planned ti go all out on sound. And those plans cam' very near spelling a major disaster for us To launch our picture impressively, had hired a full New "^'ork orchestra witl Continued on page 21 ' 10 PROMOTION SEC^O^

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