The world's most famous mouse: Mickey Mouse at 90
Mickey Mouse, that cheerful Disney cartoon character known to young and old around the world, turns 90. With decades of comic books, films and untold merchandising products in his name, he still looks good for his age.
Mickey and his maker
Few people know that the famous mouse started its career as a replacement for Walt Disney's first star cartoon figure, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The Mickey character was created with cartoon illustrator Ub Iwerks after Disney lost the rights to Oswald. At first, the mouse was named Mortimer, but reportedly Walt Disney's wife didn't like the name, and suggested Mickey instead.
Mickey Mouse premiered on screen on November 18, 1928 with the film "Steamboat Willie." Almost eight minutes long, with sound effects and music, the short film already features Minnie Mouse and Mickey's arch enemy, Pete. The audience and the media loved the cartoon that jump-started the Disney empire.
Failed: 'Plane Crazy'
The first work starring Mickey, the silent film "Plane Crazy," actually had a test screening six months before "Steamboat Willie," but no film distributor was interested in it. In it, Mickey played Charles Lindbergh, the first aviator to fly flown nonstop from America to Europe. It was finally released in 1929, as a sound cartoon. Ub Iwerks drew some 700 images a day to create it.
Mickey in color
Mickey cavorted across the screen in black and white until 1935 before his films were produced in color. Walt Disney himself lent the mouse his voice from 1928 to 1946. The 1938 film "The Brave Little Tailor" was considered very advanced technically, a model for cartoon animators worldwide well into the 1990s.
Pluto, who was first called Rover, joined the club in 1930. The playful pet loves bones, and of course his owner, Mickey Mouse. Often enough, he smells something dangerous going on before Mickey notices. Unlike many other animals in the Disney kingdom, he doesn't speak, he only barks and growls.
Mickey, the Sorcerer's Apprentice
By 1939, Donald Duck started upstaging Walt Disney's favorite character — so he dedicated a feature film to Mickey Mouse. "Fantasia," an experimental animated masterwork set to classical music, netted Disney an Honorary Oscar in 1942. For his performance as the sorcerer's apprentice, set to the music of Paul Dukas, the mouse would have deserved one, too.
Mickey celebrates Christmas
In the 50s, there were only a few short films starring Mickey, until they were discontinued altogether. It was't until 1983 that he made a brilliant comeback with the Oscar-nominated film "Mickey's Christmas Carol." Five years later, (the Oscar "turned 60" that year, just like Mickey), the Mouse himself announced the winner in the category "Best Short Animated Film" during the Oscars ceremony.
Mickey as an actor
Even if Mickey looks sad here, don't worry: That's what the script of "The Prince and the Pauper" prescribes. The film was a great success in 1990. It's no wonder given the leading actor. After all, the talented mouse was the first cartoon figure to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1978. But he's never put on airs: Most important for him have always been his friends.
Mickey's great love
Mickey doesn't always have it easy with his Minnie. But actually, the two are inseparable. They appeared together in their first movie in 1928. Minnie works as a secretary and reporter. She loves red clothes and flowers. Mickey does just about anything to please her. Unfortunately, tomcat Karlo also attempts to court his beloved again and again.
Mouse's best friend
Goofy is gentle, a little distracted, clumsy and always in a good mood — unlike his son Max (photo, right). He made his debut in 1932, so he's also added up quite a few dog years. He's shared many an adventure with Mickey. Both are firm in their conviction that they can rely on their dog-mouse friendship.
Successful with comic books
The first Mickey Mouse comic was published in the US in 1931. Mickey quickly became popular internationally as well. The pioneer in Europe was Italy, which not only adapted the stories from America, but also invented its own adventures for "Topolino" (Italian for "mouse"). In Germany, the Micky Maus magazine has been published once a month since 1951 — still a best-seller today.
Mickey and other celebrities
Modern technology makes it possible: here, Mickey straightens famous conductor James Levine's bow tie, while both wait for Donald Duck to appear so they kick off the concert "Pomp and Circumstance" by Sir Edward Elgar. Donald, however, is still in the shower ...
Stars in Disneyland: Mickey and Minnie
The first Disneyland Park opened its doors in California in 1955. There are now six of them: from Tokyo to Paris, visitors of all ages are enchanted by Disney's likeable figures. Mickey and his girlfriend Minnie are, of course, two of the stars who always steal the show.
The mouse that built an empire
Over the years, the lovable character has appeared in over 130 films. He is the official Walt Disney mascot, and merchandise featuring him is still popular to this day. "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse," Walt Disney pointed out in 1954.
Exhibition honoring Mickey
A major exhibition is taking place in New York in honor of Mickey's 90th birthday on November 18. He himself is more likely to celebrate with his loved ones — with Minnie, the lady of the heart; his nephews Mack and Muck; and with Goofy and Pluto. And they'll enjoy his favorite dish together: spinach and strawberries with cream. Happy birthday, Mickey!