Mickey Mouse to me is the symbol of independence. He was a means to an end. He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad twenty 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. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels. Mickey enabled me to go ahead and do the things I had in mind and the things I foresaw as a natural trend of film fantasy. He spelled production liberation for us.
His first actual screen appearance was at the old Colony Theater in New York in "Steamboat Willie" with its sound effects and cautious speech. His current appearance is in our new musical fantasy feature, combining live and animated action, "Fun and Fancy Free." In between, he has appeared in more pictures than any flesh and blood star. He was the first cartoon character to express personality and to be constantly kept in character. I thought of him from the first as a distinct individual not just a cartoon type or symbol going through comedy routine. I kept him away from stock symbols and situations. We exposed him in close-ups. Instead of speeding the cartoons, as was then the fashion, we were not afraid to slow down the tempo and let Mickey emote. We allowed audiences to get acquainted with him. To recognize him as a personage, motivated by character instead of situations.