03 November 2005

This Day In History

1928 Mickey Mouse debuts


Cartoon star Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie, an animated short produced by Walt Disney. Steamboat Willie was the first fully synchronized sound cartoon ever produced, with Mickey's squeaky voice provided by Walt Disney himself.

Born on a Missouri farm, Walt Disney sold his first sketches to neighbors when he was just seven, and he attended the Kansas City Art Institute at night while he was in high school. At age 16, during World War I, Disney went overseas with the Red Cross and drove an ambulance that he decorated with cartoon characters.

Back in Kansas City, Disney started working as an advertising cartoonist. He founded a company called Laugh-O-Gram with his older brother, Roy, but it went bankrupt, and the brothers left Kansas City for Hollywood with $40 and some art supplies. The brothers launched a new animation venture with a series of animated short films called Alice in Cartoonland and soon developed Mickey Mouse and an array of other characters, including Donald Duck and Goofy, featured in "The Silly Symphony" series.

Meanwhile, the company developed increasingly sophisticated animation technology. In 1937, the company released the first feature-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film was a huge hit, grossing $8 million.

During World War II, Disney devoted most of his company's resources to the production of training and propaganda films for the military. In 1965, he designed the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), which he envisioned as an aid toward improving the quality of life in American cities. He also helped establish the California Institute of the Arts in 1961. His 43-year career earned him nearly 1,000 honors and citations from throughout the world, including 48 Academy Awards and seven Emmys. Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California, and UCLA all bestowed him with honorary degrees. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, France's Legion of Honor and Officer d'Academie decorations, Thailand's Order of the Crown, Brazil's Order of the Southern Cross, Mexico's Order of the Aztec Eagle, and the Showman of the World Award from the National Association of Theatre Owners. In addition to his films, his legend lives on through Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and EPCOT Center, and generations of children have experienced the joy and magic of the "Happiest Place on Earth." Walt Disney died in 1966.

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