Today is a special day for Disneyphiles everywhere: It's Mickey Mouse's birthday. At least, it's the day Mickey was officially born, since it's the anniversary of the 1928 release of his very first cartoon, Plane Crazy. (Disney celebrates Mickey on November 18, the anniversary of Steamboat Willie—more on that below.) To honor the little rodent (we say that with love), here are a few facts you may not have known about Mr. Mouse.
1. Plane Crazy was Mickey's first flick, but Steamboat Willie is what made him famous.
Plane Crazy didn't really connect with audiences the way Steamboat did—it was also silent. Steamboat Willie was one of the first cartoons to feature synchronized sound. Disney was inspired to try out the new technology after seeing The Jazz Singer.
2. If things had gone a little differently, the mascot of the Disney company would have been Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Oswald was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for Universal. He was a pretty popular character, so when Disney and Universal had a spat, Universal seized control of the rabbit. Disney left shortly thereafter and ended up creating Mickey Mouse. You can see the resemblance in the figurine on display in the above photo. Universal later had the rabbit redesigned. In February 2006, Disney finally reacquired Oswald's rights. Oddly enough, this transaction involved sportscaster Al Michaels. Michaels wanted out of his ABC contract to join John Madden in the broadcast booth for NBC's Sunday Night Football. Since NBC wanted Michaels, Universal—which owns NBC—offered to return Oswald to Disney in exchange for the sportscaster.
3. Despite what Disney might tell you, Minnie and Mickey are actually married.
OK, the cartoon characters aren't married, but their real-life counterparts were. The people who voiced Minnie and Mickey were spouses. Wayne Allwine was the third person to give Mickey a voice and held the role from 1977 until his death in 2009. Allwine married Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse, in 1991. Taylor has been Minnie's voice since 1986 (and was also the voice of Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby, for fellow DuckTales fans).
4. Mickey hasn't always been so politically correct.
Some earlier cartoons have been edited or completely shelved because of content that wouldn't exactly go over with the public these days. One is the previously mentioned Steamboat Willie—there's a scene that involves what would be considered animal cruelty today when Mickey swings a cat around by its tail and uses a goose as bagpipes. Then there's Mickey's Mellerdrammer, a 1933 short that has Mickey and Co. doing Uncle Tom's Cabin, with Mickey decked out in blackface. There's a reason you don't really see that one playing when they run classic cartoons these days.
5. He may not have been on the front lines, but Mickey played his own small part during World War II.
Intelligence officers used "Mickey Mouse" as a password among themselves.
6. Disney wanted to name him "Mortimer."
The Mortimer Mouse Club doesn't exactly have the same ring to it, does it? We have Walt's wife Lillian to thank for the mouse's moniker—when he named his new character Mortimer, she told him she thought it sounded pompous and suggested the more kid-friendly "Mickey."
7. The supposed reason Mickey and his cartoon cohorts wear white gloves is simple.
It's so viewers can distinguish their hands when they were against their bodies.
8. You may have heard that Mickey Mouse is merely copyrighted, which would allow the character to eventually go into the public domain.
The Disney lawyers are all over that, of course. Mickey has also been trademarked, which means even when the copyright runs out, he's a protected as long as the Disney company continues to use him. And I don't foresee them exterminating the Mouse any time soon, do you?
9. We know Mickey as a wholesome, lovable little guy with only the best intentions—but his video game counterpart is a little "naughty."
Disney's Epic Mickey is a Wii game in which Mickey is a little less nice and a lot more deceptive and "naughty," says the game's designer, Warren Spector. "Mickey is never going to be evil or go around killing people," he said, but, "I wanted him to be able to be naughty—when you're playing as Mickey you can misbehave and even be a little selfish." The game also features a twisted take on Disneyland called "The Wasteland," a dark world Oswald the Lucky Rabbit created for cartoons who are past their prime.
10. It's not just here in the States that Mickey is often a popular write-in vote for various elections—he's a candidate for office around the world.
In Sweden, though, it's Donald Duck (a.k.a. Kalle Anka) who is more likely to get voted in. "The Donald Duck Party" is what people write in when they either don't care or don't care for any of the candidates. In fact, in 2006, "The Donald Duck Party" came in 21st place out of the 40 represented parties running for office.
11. He's more controversial than you think.
The lovable character has been banned in Germany and Iran, from the Seoul Olympics, and Seattle liquor stores. In 1935, the Romanian government decided it would be best to not show Mickey on the large movie theater screens that were then new to the country because officials were worried that children would be terrified by the sight of a 10-foot-tall rodent.