Mickey Mouse is one of the world's best known cartoon characters, created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in 1928 as Disney's new star, following the loss of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Charles Mintz and Universal Studios. Though his first produced film was the silent short Plane Crazy, Mickey made his theatrical debut in Steamboat Willie, which has the distinction of being the first sound cartoon short. In more recent times, for several decades, Mickey's active animation career became secondary to his more visible role as the face and mascot of The Walt Disney Company.
BackgroundMickey Mouse (voiced primarily by Walt Disney, until sound effects artist James MacDonald took over in 1946) went on to star in dozens of theatrical cartoons, and in 1932, Disney received an Honorary Special Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse. Four of Mickey's starring shorts also received Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Short Subject. Fred Moore, one of the key animators on Mickey, described the character in a 1930s analysis sheet for studio artists:
The character's fame soon extended into merchandise, his own comic strip (launched in 1930, and featuring a more intrepid Mickey), and a short-lived radio series, The Mickey Mouse Theatre of the Air (1938). Gradually, Mickey was overshadowed by the more volatile Donald Duck as the studio's main star and by the 1950s, Mickey was reduced to playing foil to his own dog, Pluto. One of his most notable later appearances was his star turn as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in Fantasia (1940).
As his cinematic star declined, Mickey gained a new lease as the mascot and host of TV's The Mickey Mouse Club, the title song to which sings the Mouse's praises. The series in many ways marks the early stages of the mouse's transition from movie star to corporate symbol of The Walt Disney Company. Wayne Allwine, MacDonald's former apprentice, took over as the voice of Mickey in the 1970s, vocalizing the mouse's sporadic theatrical comebacks (such as Mickey's Christmas Carol in 1984 and The Prince and the Pauper in 1990) as well as various TV appearances. Bret Iwan took over as the voice of Mickey in 2009.
Mickey continues to appear in walk-around form in countless shows and parades at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, returned to television in Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse, and most recently, CG animation form as the star of Disney Channel's Disney Junior series Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Jim and Mickey
Jim Henson was a known admirer of the works of Walt Disney and occasionally spoke of Mickey when discussing or even developing his own characters. Caroll Spinney recalled that when he asked Henson how Big Bird should sound, the latter said "maybe like Mickey Mouse's pal Goofy." Designer Kermit Love later compared the bird and the mouse, claiming that "Like Mickey Mouse, he never gives in to violence."
Kermit the Frog, as the most iconic Muppet and the leader and "straight man" of his troupe, has often been likened to Mickey, and Henson himself compared the two, not as personalities, but as similar abstractions. He discussed how Kermit became "a bit rounder, a bit more froglike. As a parallel, Mickey Mouse looks nothing like a mouse, but he fits into that category. I mean, if nobody ever said Mickey Mouse was a mouse, we wouldn't know what he was, would we?" Henson even kept a Mickey figurine on the fireplace mantel in his office
- Kermit made a guest appearance on The Wonderful World of Disney (NBC) in 1978 to celebrate Mickey's 50th birthday.
- Mickey (voiced by Allwine) met Kermit and the Muppets in the 1990 special, The Muppets at Walt Disney World. Kermit remarked that he and the mouse already knew each other from an organization called FASA: Fictional Animal Stars of America.
- "Kermit's Christmas Diary" from Jim Henson's Muppets Annual 1982 establishes that Mickey and Kermit are also members of another club for fictional characters called POPCORNS: People Other People Consider to be Other than Real Normal Specimens.
- Walk-around versions of Mickey and his girlfriend Minnie Mouse appear in a sequence with Miss Piggy in The Disney Christmas Special. Piggy sings "Some Day My Prince Will Come," and fails to notice the pair of mice among the human dancers.
- Mickey and Kermit spoke to each other via picture phone in the "Here Come the Muppets" stage show at Walt Disney World.
- In the theme park film Muppet*Vision 3D, the character Waldo C. Graphic morphs into Mickey Mouse at the end. Allwine again provides Mickey's voice.
- Walk-around versions of Mickey and Minnie appeared in a promo for the 2011 Country Music Association Awards, which also featured Miss Piggy.
- Mickey (voiced by Bret Iwan) appears in silhouette form at the end of The Case of the Stolen Show.
- In a scene from The Great Santa Claus Switch, a Mickey Mouse toy can be seen on the shelf in Santa's workshop.
- In episode 122 of The Muppet Show, Kermit sings "You're the Top" with Ethel Merman, who closes a stanza with "You're Mickey Mouse!" Kermit's responds "Is that a compliment?"
- A Sesame Street cartoon, "The Noble Ostrich," features a fleeting cameo by a mouse drawn to resemble Mickey, complete with black and white face, red pants, and yellow shoes.
- Kermit, Fozzie and Robin take a trip to Disneyland in a Muppet comic strip by Guy and Brad Gilchrist. Robin is set on capturing Mickey Mouse as a souvenir for his friends.
- The Summer 1983 issue of Muppet Magazine collects a number of letters sent from the Muppets to Kermit while on summer vacation. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew spends five days at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, and reports on what he assumes to be headsets for receiving and sending radio transmissions. His notes include a sketch of the contraption, which turn out to be a Mickey Mouse ears hat.
- The Summer 1990 issue of WD Eye, the employee magazine for Walt Disney Imagineering, featured a section with a series of tributes to Jim Henson shortly after his death. One such tribute depicts Mickey Mouse consoling Kermit the Frog on the loss of his creator. Art was credited to Joe Lanzisero and Tim Kirk.
- In the "Muppet Campaign" sketch produced for Good Morning America in 1992, Miss Piggy and Gonzo field questions from Howard Straighttalk in a mock debate for a Presidential election. Piggy is distressed that she's asked about such difficult topics as unemployment and the national debt while Gonzo got what she describes as a "Mickey Mouse question." Entering from off stage, Kermit butts in to attest that Mickey Mouse is a friend of his, "and I assure you, that question was no Mickey Mouse." This also serves as an additional reference to the famous "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" line often exchanged in variation from the 1988 vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle.
- In Muppet Treasure Island, Polly Lobster remarks, "What's next? A singing, dancing mouse with his own amusement park?" as an obvious reference to Mickey Mouse.
- When Santa Claus decides to retire to Florida in Elmo Saves Christmas, one of his elves has prepared for a visit to Walt Disney World by donning a set of Mickey ears.
- During the months between Disney's acquisition of The Muppets and the launch of their new version of Muppets.com, the website housed a placeholder featuring Kermit wearing the famous mouse ears hat fashioned after Mickey.
- Gonzo cites the guys he hangs around with, "Mick" and "Don" (Donald Duck), as his inspirations in the Muppets on Muppets interviews.
- In a Walt Disney World exclusive pin, Kermit is dressed as Mickey Mouse, and referred to as Kermit the Mouse.
- In episode 320 of The Muppet Show, during the song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off", after the lion sings "I like Plato and you like Pluto", Sylvester Stallone says "You can have Plato, and I'll stick with Pluto, and Mickey, and Goofy".
- When Big Bird learns the name of his counselor (Mickey), in Episode 1706, he comments that he knows a mouse of the same name. Mickey groans, saying he knows him, too.
- In a 1979 episode of Sesame Street, Telly Monster names TV programs that start with the letter M. Listed among them is Mickey Mouse.
- In a The Muppets comic strip dated May 8, 1983, a picture of Mickey appears on the wall in Robin's room.
- In an interview with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem for the film The Muppets, the interviewer asked the band if they thought they'd still be making music together after four decades, to which the band replied:
- A pair of Mickey's shorts hang on a clothes line near the Happiness Hotel doors at the Muppet*Vision 3D in Walt Disney World.
- In The Muppets, during some of the exterior shots of The Muppet Theater front, an image of Mickey can be seen on a storefront's marquee next door to the theater (this is actually Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store).
- The Walt Disney Company occasionally hides the shape of Mickey Mouse's head in their films and theme parks. These are referred to as "Hidden Mickeys." A Hidden Mickey appears at the end of The Muppets among the fireworks.
- In Grover's 140 character speech for the Shorty Awards, he includes Mickey Mouse.
- In a Sesame Street cartoon, a man imagines someone an old woman describes. A Mickey Mouse-esque character flashes in his though bubble among other characters.
Rizzo the Rat
Due to their both belonging to the taxonomic order Rodentia, many references have been made to Mickey by way of Rizzo the Rat.
- Rizzo has appeared dressed as Mickey on several occasions.
- In the pre-show for Muppet*Vision 3D, Rizzo dresses up in a black tuxedo jacket, red shorts and yellow bow tie and claims to be Mickey Mouse, welcoming tourists to his park.
- A t-shirt released in 2008 for Disney's Hollywood Studios features yet another likeness of Rizzo as Mickey.
- The Vinylmation line produced a sculpt (2008) as well as a pin (2009) of Rizzo in Mickey gear.
- During his interview on Q with Jian Ghomeshi, Kermit mentions that he brings Rizzo to many of his meetings with Mickey, for translation issues. He also says that he refers to Mickey as "Mick", Donald as "Don", and Pluto as "Plut".
- Following the premiere of The Muppets, Rizzo tweeted: "Even though #TheMuppets only aired last night, I'm already bein' recognized more! Sure, they recognize me as Mickey Mouse, but it's a start!" 
- During an October 15, 2015 Q&A on Twitter, Rizzo responded to what it's like working for a mouse, "It's okay, but for some reason he refuses to admit we're related." 
- A Muppets Christmas ornament put out by Disney in 2015, featured Rizzo dressed as Mickey sitting inside a Christmas wreath.
- The Mickey Mouse Club has occasionally been spoofed, through the likes of The Kermit the Frog Club on Muppets Tonight and such Sesame Street groups as the Grouchketeers, the Birdketeers and several other variations.
- When The Walt Disney Company purchased the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House characters from The Jim Henson Company, the event found its way into satire by way of political cartoons, such as this one by Anthony Diberardo.
- ↑ Thomas, Frank and Ollie Johnston. The Illusion of Life. New York: Hyperion Books, 1981. p. 551
- ↑ Inches, Alison. Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles. p. 13
- ↑ Spinney, Caroll. The Wisdom of Big Bird. p. 32
- ↑ Toronto Star, May 16, 1986.
- ↑ Commire, Anne and Donna Olendorf. "Jim Henson." Something About the Author. Gale Publishing, 1986. p. 127
- ↑ St. Pierre, Staphine. The Muppets Big Book of Crafts. p. 65
- ↑ USA Today, August 29, 1989.
- ↑ WTDP? Exclusive: Mayhem Returns! Veterans Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem keep on rockin’. November 7, 2011. whatsthatdudeplay.com.
- ↑ Clash appearance on The View, October 24, 2011