MICKEY MOUSE will be five years old on Sunday. He was born on October 1, 1928. That was the date on which his first picture was started so we have allowed him to claim this day as his birthday.
Those five years have been eventful. Mickey has grown from an obscure, perky little fellow, unwanted in Hollywood, into a full-blown star with his own very active studio, and with a fame which spreads around the whole world. He is, in his own right, a fully fledged producer-star—a fellow member of the United Artists Corporation, which includes Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and Gloria Swanson.
It is hard not to regard him as human. He is very real to me and to those fellow-workers of mine who guide his impish footsteps on the screen.
He is just as real to millions of filmgoers. He personally receives about 800,000 letters in a year. They are addressed to him, not to me. He has a “Mickey Mouse Club" in America with a million members. And he gets all sorts of presents sent to him, especially on his birthday. How did Mickey become a star? His life story really starts before I even contemplated to invent him. He has as an ancestor none other than Alice in Wonderland.
After working as a newspaper cartoonist, I went to Hollywood with my brother Roy and we started in the animated cartoon business. We began with "Alice,” but she didn’t last and Oswald the Cat came into being.
When Oswald and I parted company I made another search for a new star. It is difficult to say exactly how Mickey came about. He just put in an appearance. I wanted something appealing, something wistful; a grand little fellow trying to do.the best he could.
Mickey appeared before my eyes. What could be more wistful, more cute, more appealing than a little mouse? Mickey, as a matter of fact, is a composite. When I had the idea of a mouse, I found little difficulty in putting him on paper. I had, several years before, often watched mice at play. I was working in an office in Kansas City. The office girls used to throw their lunch boxes into the wire waste-paper baskets and tribe of mice would scamper after the crumbs. I became so interested in them that I began to collect a family in an old box. I used to feed them and even play with them.
I'll never forget the scream one girl gave when she came into the office one day and found a little mouse perched on my drawing-board while I sketched him !
Mickey is a composite of those little mice. He didn’t have an easy time at the beginning of his movie career. Nobody wanted him. All the big studios turned him down. Then, by the way, he was known as Mortimer Mouse. Which was rather too austere. People laughed when I introduced him, so he was given the more friendly name of Mickey.
The talkies really put him on the movie map. While they killed many established stars, they helped this struggling little unknown. We set him to music and he began to catch on.
In private life, Mickey is married to Minnie. A lot of people have written to him asking this question, because sometimes he appears to be married to her in his films and other times still courting her. What it really amounts to is that Minnie is, for screen purposes, his leading lady. If the story calls for a romantic courtship, then Minnie is the girl; but when the story requires a married couple, then they appear as man and wife.
In the studio we have decided that they are married really.
There are 125 people on Mickey's staff. They are technicians, gag-men, artists, and musicians. In addition, there is an art school attached to the studio in which there are forty young men being taught art by two instructors.
How is it that Mickey is so human? This is an often-asked question. I think the answer is that we in the studio regard him as a human. He does the things anybody might do — and can do things which no ordinary person could possibly do.
We never think of him as a mouse. Nor as a drawing. He is always human. When we are first discussing the script of a new picture, we actually go through the scene ourselves, and act the scenes out.
That is where we get the feel of the thing. There is nothing cold about his pictures. It is just as if we are planning the scenes for a living star.
After this first “gag” meeting, a regulation script is worked out and the different scenes are handed over to the artists. Some of the artists draw nothing but backgrounds. Others are concerned wholly with the action. Each artist has a sheet of paper containing a certain number of movements and a certain number of music beats, which are synchronized to the twenty-fourth of a second.
There are two sets of artists dealing with the action. One set we call the “animators.” It is their job to develop the gags, drawing only the beginning and the end of an action. Then there are the "in-betweeners,” who draw those slight changes which makes the scenes animated.
When the cameraman finishes his job, we pre-view the picture in our private theatre, where musicians rehearse the music, and Mickey is given a voice. We often get our ideas from the music in the first place, and the musicians and artists have to work in close harmony the whole time.
It takes between 10,000 and 15,000 drawings for each reel of a Mickey Mouse picture. A reel runs almost ten minutes, so you will realize that there are several hundred drawings flashing before your eyes during every minute that a Mickey Mouse picture shows on the screen.
Mickey is a very busy young star—and the only one in Hollywood who isn't paid ! I often regret that it is impossible to reward him in some way for all the fun he has given to the world.
[img]Walt Disney shows Mickey his Award of Merit from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[/img]
[img]“Ay tank ay kees you" ... from "Mickey's Gala Premiére.”[/img]