Celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Steamboat Willie
Yes, there’s a lot of buzz around Mickey’s 90th birthday this year, but that always means something else! This year, Steamboat Willie celebrates its 90th anniversary! This is where it all started. This is the animated short that Walt Disney produced that marked the debut of both Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. It was released on November 18, 1928 and it’s time to to recognize the film and what Walt said about it, “I hope we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”
Short, but Sweet
Steamboat Willie is only a seven-minute and 42 second film, but it’s impact on the world of animation and the start of the Walt Disney legacy is amazing.
What makes this film so amazing is that it was one of the first, but not the first, cartoons that synchronized sound with animation. The film starts off with Mickey driving the river steamboat and the sound of his whistling and the boat toots are immediately heard. There isn’t much dialogue, but anything that is done is done by Walt Disney himself.
Steamboat Willie is Important
This movie has had such an impact on the world of animation that it was selected for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
The plot of this short is quirky but simple: Mickey Mouse pilots a river steamboat, but the real captain, Pete, appears and orders Mickey off the bridge. Mickey runs away, slips on a bar of soap and lands in a bucket of water and a parrot mocks him. The steamboat makes a stop at “Podunk Landing” to pick up a cargo and Minnie rushes to catch the boat.
Mickey and Minnie engage in some slapstick musical comedy throughout the film with goats and a cow — oh, come on you don’t want me to give these spoilers away do you? — and that same parrot who mocks Mickey. It’s chuckle after chuckle of animated fun.
Walt Disney is said to have been inspired to create Steamboat Willie after he watched the 1927 movie The Jazz Singer.
Can you believe that this movie was created with a budget of less than $5,000? You have to remember though that this was in 1928. However, Disney was paid $500 per week for this film, which was considered a lot of money in those days. Steamboat Willie opened at the beginning of the film Gang War. Never heard of Gang War? Don’t worry, many people haven’t because it wasn’t very good and its claim to fame was the fact that it’s wear Steamboat Willie made its debut.
Watch it Now
You can see the film on YouTube, but keep in mind that the studios removed about a half a minute from it because of situations that could be deemed as animal cruelty. In the original, Mickey is seen, among other things, swinging a cat by its tail. See the full film below!
Turkey in the Straw
If you or your child have ever heard or been taught the song “Turkey in the Straw,” you’ll recognize it as the base song in Steamboat Willie. There have been references to Steamboat Willie in other cartoons and Disney movies and video games, including Kingdom Hearts.
So Happy Birthday to Steamboat Willie!. Take time this month to watch it, honor the work that Walt Disney has created and appreciate the impact that it has had on the animated movies you watch today.