On this day in 1928, Disney's Mickey Mouse short Steamboat Willie was released. It would become the first commercially successful animated cartoon with synchronized sound to attract widespread public notoriety (but not the first ever sound cartoon). The short would also establish November 18 as Mickey Mouse's birthday (according to Disney) even though Steamboat Willie is not the debut of Mickey on the big screen. (Not to confuse matters - but Steamboat is the 3rd Mickey short to ever be produced.)
Written and directed by Walt and Ub Iwerks, the short debuted ahead of the feature Gang War at the Colony Theater in New York City.
In this 7-minute classic, Mickey serves as the pilot of Steamboat Willie under Captain Pete (a longtime Disney villain). He is first seen piloting the steamboat while whistling, suggesting he himself is the captain - to the disgust of Pete who throws Mickey off the bridge and takes over. They soon have to stop for cargo, but almost as soon as they set off again, the as-of-then unnamed Minnie Mouse arrives, too late to board. Mickey manages to pick her up from the river shore, just as she drops her sheet music for the popular folk song "Turkey in the Straw" ... which is eaten by a goat. Mickey and Minnie use the goat's tail as a phonograph, which plays the tune. Mickey also uses various other animals as musical instruments, which disturbs Captain Pete, who puts him back to work. Mickey is reduced to peeling potatoes for the rest of the trip. A parrot attempts to make fun of him, but Mickey uncharacteristically strikes him with a potato, knocking him into the river. The short ends with Mickey laughing at the drowning bird (which is unusual for the fun-loving mouse).
Steamboat Willie has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Click HERE for more November 18 Disney history.