Sunday, 18 November 2018

Mickey, Bernie and Benny

90 years ago today, the bill you see to the right is what was playing at the Colony Theatre in New York City. Mr. Yowzah, Ben Bernie, was the headliner, but item two is what has many cartoon fans excited today. It’s the first appearance of Mickey Mouse, or at least generally accepted to be. This makes today Mickey’s 90th birthday.

Steamboat Willie accomplished what it set out to do. It combined sound and animation in funny ways. And it put a dollar or two in Walt Disney’s pocket.

People liked the cartoon. It was reviewed the next day by Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times:
On the same program is the first sound cartoon, produced by Walter Disney, creator of “Oswald the Rabbit.” This current film is called “Steamboat Willie,” and it introduces a new cartoon character, henceforth to be known as “Micky Mouse” [sic]. It is an ingenious piece of work with a good deal of fun. It growls, whines, squeaks and makes various other sounds that add to its mirthful quality.
Variety’s review published November 21, 1928 went as follows:
Animated Cartoon
Powers Cinephone
7 Mins.
Colony, New York
Not the first animated cartoon to be synchronized with sound effects but the first to attract favorable attention. This one represents a high order of cartoon ingenuity cleverly combined with sound effects. The union brought forth laughs galore. Giggles came so fast at the Colony they were stumbling over each other. It’s a peach of a synchronization job all the way, bright, snappy and fitting the situation perfectly. Cartoonist, Walter Disney.
With most of the animated cartoons qualifying as a pain in the neck, it's a signal tribute to this particular one. If the same combination of talent can turn out a series as good as "Steamboat Willie" they should find a wide market if interchang[e]ability angle does not interfere.
Recommended unreservedly for all wired houses. Land
You can read more about the other cartoons released around this time in this old post.

So much has been written about Steamboat Willie, in context of the creation of the Disney empire (and legend) as well as in the context of the rise of sound film (and the death of silent), there’s nothing I can add that hasn’t been said. I’ll end this short birthday tribute to Mickey with a trivia note:

A week after his Colony debut, Mickey shared the billing with a headliner who, about 32 years later, was also in cartoons—the man who became voice of Joe Jitsu, Benny Rubin. What a journey animated shorts went on in between.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think much of Mickey Mouse but I honestly think that The Band Concert has to be the best film Disney ever produced.