“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse,” Walt Disney said in 1954 during a “What is Disneyland?” TV special.
Mickey Mouse is the famous face of the Walt Disney Company and arguably one of the most recognizable characters in the world, thanks to his long career in comic strips, animated shorts and feature films.
Today marks the 80th birthday of the iconic mouse. The Walt Disney Company officially celebrates Mickey’s birthday on the anniversary of his debut in Steamboat Willie — Nov. 18, 1928.
Most children recognize Mickey’s bubbly black ears and signature white-gloved hands at a young age and develop a lifelong relationship with the character, which they often pass down to their own children.
Whitney Tapper, a senior accounting major, used to work at Disney Hollywood Studios and said Mickey Mouse’s name brings people from every country and culture together.
“No matter what language or background people were from, they all knew Mickey,” she said. “It just wouldn’t be Disney without Mickey Mouse.”
Early cartoons appealed to audiences of all ages by featuring plotlines that appealed to children along with the sometimes-controversial appearance of alcohol, guns and minor violence and the mischievous pursuit of a lady mouse named Minnie.
“I love everything about him,” said April Walker, a sophomore international studies major. “I love his personality, his voice, his ears and all his friends.”
Soon his cartoons expanded, giving Mickey the opportunity to explore diverse roles as a conductor, firefighter, sorcerer’s apprentice, explorer and more.
His success also allowed for the addition of a quirky cast of friends — including Pluto, Goofy, Donald and Daisy — who were always there to bail him out of trouble.
Throughout the years, Mickey has kept up with the times by updating his look, donning his signature yellow shoes, white gloves and red shorts upon his transition from black and white to color. One thing has always remained the same, however — his symbolic ears, which are a trademark of the Walt Disney Company.
“It’s very uncommon for trademarks to last much longer than 20 years,” Tapper said. “It’s very refreshing to see that his trademark has lasted as long as it has.”
Walt Disney was known to claim that Mickey’s adventures were loosely based on some of his own experiences. He said he felt that Mickey was popular because he was human, and the public needed a character to help them escape from their worries.
“The public, and especially the children, like animals that are cute and little,” Disney said, according to justdisney.com. “We wanted something appealing, and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have the wistfulness of (Charlie) Chaplin.”
As unemployment rates continue to climb — coupled with an ever-slumping economy — the Steamboat Willie star’s high-pitched giggle and positive outlook may provide as much of an escape from reality as they did during his Great Depression-era debut. The Motley Fool reported that Disney theme parks had a 7 percent gain in revenue in the last quarter, showing that people are still visiting the House of Mouse.
Mickey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his 50th birthday. For his 80th, however, Mickey will have a quieter celebration — Walt Disney Company representatives said there is nothing planned.
Though nothing may be planned for Mickey’s birthday, the mouse has been — and continues to be — a part of many other people’s milestones.
“I spent many milestones with Mickey growing up,” said Hannah Lantner, a senior majoring in accounting. “I celebrated birthdays, Y2K and Grad Nite with my favorite mouse. I hope to share many more memories in the years to come.”
Additional reporting by Candace Braun and Candace Kaw.