Mickey Mouse: The Original Cartoon Superstar

Mickey Mouse was the original cartoon superstar. But as the 1930s moved on, Mickey’s circle of friends grew’and their subsequent popularity began to eclipse the Mouse’s appeal. Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, The Three Little Pigs’and especially Donald Duck’became Disney headliners during the Depression years.

And although the undertaking of the feature film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, took most of Walt’s attention during this period–Mickey was never forgotten. Walt continued to provide his voice in dozens of short subjects– and several special cartoons were mounted to maintain Mickey’s star status.

The Mickey Mouse series moved from black & white to full Technicolor in 1935 with one of his greatest films–The Band Concert. This film had it all –great animation, slapstick comedy (in the form of Donald Duck’s constant interruptions), classic music, fantastic action (a tornado sweeping up the band) and drama (Mickey’s efforts to conduct under incredibly adverse situations).

"The Band Concert is a perfectly realized cartoon that manages to blend music, comedy, personality animation, dramatic action and storytelling into a seamless whole," says Leonard Maltin. "I’ve always felt that it was the natural drama of The William Tell Overture that inspired Walt Disney and his staff to such incredible heights. It’s certainly one of their finest achievements –a great, great cartoon."

Mickey’s movies became visual showcases–Thru the Mirror in 1936 (an homage to Lewis Carroll, Fred Astaire and Busby Berkeley), The Brave Little Tailor in 1938 (a classic fable told with lavish production values) and a trio of Mickey-Donald-Goofy comedy masterpieces: Mickey’s Fire Brigade in 1935 and Clock Cleaners and Lonesome Ghosts in 1937.

By the end of the decade, with The Pointer (1939), Mickey had undergone a make-over: going from pie-eyed heartland innocence to a more wide-eyed urbanite persona. And that wasn’t the end. Disney had even greater things in mind for Mickey: an extra-length short film based on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas, and conducted by Leopold Stowkowski. This project would cement Mickey Mouse’s reputation for all time.

The Disney studio itself "started with a mouse.” Fantasia (1940), the classic feature film which contained the The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, also started with a mouse–due to Walt Disney’s interest in Mickey’s continued success.