“I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse.” These humble words from Walt Disney have grown into an anthem for anybody who is trying to turn their dream into a reality. Disney's quote continues to resonate today because he risked everything on the early cartoons that helped to form the vision for his entertainment empire. "Steamboat Willie" is an incredible achievement for its time. It was the first successful fully synchronized sound cartoon and, while it is tough to grasp the quality of older cartoons when you look at modern animation, this seemingly simplistic cartoon was revolutionary. Walt provided all of the voices for the characters and worked through a process of trial and error to properly sync the sound. Most people believe this to be the first film to feature Mickey Mouse, though that distinction actually belongs to “Plane Crazy” which was created a year earlier. When this silent film failed to impress test audiences, Walt decided to complete “Steamboat Willie” (which used synchronized sound) and release it first to make Mickey into a star. All of this happened after Charles Mintz took the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The cartoon is a series of simple situations and musical moments that occur as Mickey sails down a river. The story is punctuated by clever sightgags like using a guitar-eating goat as a phonograph and Pete spitting chewing tobacco to ring a bell. In addition to being Mickey’s debut, this film was also the first appearance of Minnie Mouse and is a great example of animation by Disney legend Ub Iwerks. In the grand scheme of things, we would all be more entertained by modern Mickey cartoons; however, "Steamboat Willie" is an important chapter in the story of Disney animation and something that should always be treasured by fans of Disney's feature-length animated output.
Steamboat Willie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBgghnQF6E4
[Pictured: Minnie Mouse decides to use a goat as a phonograph after he eats her guitar and she sees music notes falling out of his mouth. How can Mickey help but smile along? These are the moments that make us love Walt Disney's films.]