A Surprise Birthday Gift to Mickey Mouse

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

I am sad that the Disney Company could not find a way to officially celebrate Mickey's 85th birthday on November 18.

As Walt Disney's widow, Lillian Disney, once told author Bob Thomas, "Whenever I see Mickey Mouse, I have to cry. Because he reminds me so much of Walt."

For years, I have wanted a good, reliable reference book about Mickey Mouse that covered his amazing career from his appearances in films to his presence in the theme parks and everything else in between. Several good authors, like Robert Tieman and Brian Sibley, made extraordinary attempts, but literally found that the Mouse could not be trapped within the pages of a book.

So, this month, after years of research, I just released my newest book, The Book of Mouse.

Yes, I was working on this book concurrently with working on The Vault of Walt: Volume Two or, more accurately, finishing it up, adding recent entries like the new Mickey Mouse series of shorts on the Disney Channel, and re-verifying things I had re-verfied.

At 300 pages, the book is divided into sections, and each section has multiple chapters or sub-sections. The book is literally packed to overflowing with thousands of facts about the Mouse.

Included in the book are an exclusive interview done with Disney Legend Floyd Gottfredson (when I was in my 20s and still had lots of hair and no stomach) who drew the Mickey Mouse comic strip for 45 years, the biographies of the first performers who portrayed Mickey Mouse at Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom, and the stories behind the people who have done Mickey's voice over the decades.

The book also contains for the first time anywhere an annotated filmography listing not only Mickey's appearances in his theatrical shorts and television series, but his cameo appearances in other films and television commercials. There are also additional notes on most of the entries. Additional chapters are devoted to the behind-the-scenes stories of the making of Plane Crazy, Steamboat Willie, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Runaway Brain and more.

I hope readers will appreciate having the definitive answers to questions about where Mickey Mouse lives, why his eyes kept changing, and why he wears four-fingered white gloves, along with so much more information.

In addition, I also felt it was important to explode some of the myths about Mickey from his use as a code word for D-Day to Walt's many different stories about his creation to the fact that he didn't get a League of Nations award.

The foreword is by Don "Ducky" Williams, senior Disney character artist who not only helped design Mickey Mouse's house for Mickey's Birthdayland, but who has drawn Mickey tens of thousands of times on everything from limited-edition lithographs to Little Golden Books to a plethora of merchandise.

People seem to have liked the book including these comments:

Original Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr, author and performer:

"Having worked with Mickey Mouse since I was 12 in 1955, I have often wanted to know things about him but thought it impertinent to query a much bigger star. That was even true when just Mickey and I did a 13-state tour to promote the $6 million refurbishment of Fantasyland at Disneyland in Anaheim in 1983, where the Mouseketeers first appeared on opening day and Mick and I met in person. JIM KORKIS to the rescue! Now I can get answers to all those questions plus a lot more!!!"

Russell Schroeder, author of Mickey Mouse: My Life in Pictures and Disney's Lost Chords:

"Described by Walt Disney as "a little personality assigned to the purposes of laughter," Mickey Mouse has been doing just that—for an astonishing 85 years! In celebration of that remarkable achievement, author Jim Korkis has assembled the thoughtful and admirable tribute you hold in your hands, a book from one of Mickey's fans that is sure to be welcomed by devoted legions."

Now, this is not just a sales pitch from a divorced orphan boy in Orlando struggling to survive through freelance writing. This is a book I would buy myself and eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner for a month or more. Having had to read the book over and over and over and over through countless drafts and proofs, it still held my attention.

I know some of you may be wondering how this book is different or are still curious about what is new in this book, even though you have no intention of buying this book as a great stocking stuffer.

So to make this a legitimate MousePlanet column, here are just a handful of items that are in the book that I bet you never saw anywhere else. Then, I hope you realize that there are dozens of these types of facts, anecdotes, and quotes on every page—including 10 pages just devoted to Walt's quotes about Mickey that do not appear elsewhere in the book.

  • In 1981, the Disney Company negotiated with CBS to have an hour-long Saturday morning Mickey Mouse television series similar to The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show then running on CBS. The classic Disney cartoons were to be censored to meet the current Saturday morning guidelines regarding violence, imitative behavior and other matters. For the proposed Saturday morning series, Disney had some of the old black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons colorized so they could be used in the show. Those colorized cartoons were later used when The Disney Channel debuted in 1983. The CBS show never aired. Beginning September 26, 1981, CBS ran the Disney weekly anthology series (then titled simply Walt Disney) on Saturday evenings until September 24,1983.

  • In Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister's diary entry for December 22, 1937, Joseph Goebbels wrote "I am giving the Fuhrer…18 Mickey Mouse films [as a Christmas gift]. He is very excited about it. He is very happy about these treasures, which will hopefully bring him much fun and relaxation." The reason for this gift was that it is documented that during July 1937 in Hitler's private screening room, the Fuhrer watched five Mickey Mouse cartoons and laughed loudly through all of them.

  • At the end of December 1980, a letter was received at Disneyland in Southern California addressed to Mickey Mouse. Inside was a form letter requesting that Mickey send in his correct birth date information so he could be properly registered for the Draft.

  • A survey of American children during the Great Depression uncovered that many kids thought Mickey was a dog or a cat, even though his last name was Mouse. A 1935 Time magazine article stated: "Anyway, a current survey shows that children don't think of Mickey as a mouse. A good many of them were asked whether Mickey Mouse is a dog or a cat. Almost half of the tots answered brightly, 'A cat.'"

  • On November 17, 1978, at the White House, President Jimmy Carter's daughter, Amy, hosted Mickey Mouse's 50th birthday party for handicapped children who lived in Washington, D.C . President Carter was there and joined in the singing of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. Also in attendance was Disney animator Ward Kimball who whipped out seemingly endless drawings of Mickey Mouse for the president, Amy, other guests, and even Secret Service agents dressed as clowns.

  • The Seattle (Washington) Motion Picture Record, dated February 28, 1931, stated "Word has come that Charlie Chaplin has requested that his latest production, City Lights be accompanied wherever possible with a Mickey Mouse cartoon. This unusual request bears upon Chaplin's high regard for the cartoon character and surety in that his own presentation will meet with a greater acclaim after an audience has been amused by Mickey's antics."

  • Actor Bela Lugosi, famed for his portrayal of Dracula, was a fan of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, in particular. He had a photo taken with a Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse doll on Mickey's 5th birthday in 1933 at a Hollywood restaurant. In 1935, he had to fill out a press biography for Cameo Pictures Corporation (where he was starring in the film Murder by Television) and one of the questions was his favorite film star. At first, he wrote "none" and then crossed it out and wrote "Mickey Mouse."

  • "Your writer quoted Mr. Richard Schickel to the effect that 'Walt Disney couldn't even draw Mickey Mouse!' I can't imagine where Mr. Schickel got such information…Many of Walt's friends and associates will tell you that he not only could but, on hundreds of occasions, did draw Mickey." – Disney Legend Ward Kimball, L.A. Times WEST Magazine, 1968

  • "At this late date, I have no idea whether [Mickey] is a better name than "Mortimer." Nobody will ever know. I only feel a special affinity to Mickey because I helped name him. And besides, Mickey taught me a lot about what it was going to be like married to Walt Disney." – Walt's wife Lillian Disney, McCalls magazine, February 1953.

  • "Mickey, a moral young mouse, never sings in his bathtub unless the more delicate portions of his sinuous torso are concealed by a flock of rich, creamy suds" Press Sheet to theater managers titled "Columbia Pictures Presents Mickey Mouse" (1931).

  • Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line, July 30, 1942 (director: Jack King): A framed picture of Mickey dressed a soldier is briefly glimpsed in Minnie's house. In this three-minute film, Minnie and Pluto are taught the importance of saving bacon grease, which can be turned into glycerine for cannon shells and more to aid the World War II effort. Note: This was made for the Conservation Division of the War Production Board to illustrate the necessity of saving fats and greases.

  • There was a special five-episode segment on the original television show Mickey Mouse Club titled "Karen in Kartoonland" where popular little Mouseketeer Karen Pendleton would visit a Disney artist to learn how to draw. The February 2,1956, segment had her visiting Disney Legend Bill Justice, who showed her how to draw Mickey Mouse and had her model facial expressions that he then duplicated on Mickey's face.

  • When Mickey fills out his tax form on the cover on the March 14, 1942 issue of Liberty magazine, he lists his address as "Hollywood, California" and his only dependent as "Walt Disney."

  • American Magazine March 1931 wrote that "Mickey Mouse receives great stacks of fan mail. Some of the letters are just addressed to 'Mickey Mouse-Hollywood.'"

  • "I evolved him [Mickey] out of circles," recalled Walt for an interview with the Minneapolis Star newspaper in August 1933. "They were simple and easy to handle. Leaving the finger off was a great asset artistically and financially. Artistically five digits are too many for a mouse. His hand would look like a bunch of bananas. Financially, not having an extra finger in each of 45,000 drawings that make up a six-and-one-half-minute short has saved the Studio millions." "No one seemed to notice," affirmed Walt when he told the story again in Collier's Magazine April 9, 1949.

  • The first use of the now familiar eyes in the white area of Mickey Mouse's face was an illustration done by animator Ward Kimball for the cover of the party program for "Walt's Field Day," a staff party to celebrate the completion of Snow White held on June 4, 1938. Mickey is attired in a golf outfit getting ready to take a swing at a golf ball. Disney Legend Ward Kimball remembered , "In order to have Mickey's head addressing the ball and at the same time smiling at the audience, I said, what the hell, I'll use our regular eyes… we're using on the Dwarfs, Snow White, Goofy, Pluto… and put black pupils in them. This really caused a riot. [Disney Legend and Kimball's friend] Fred Moore agreed that it gave Mickey more personality…[and] Walt bought it."

  • How old is Mickey Mouse? "I think Walt saw Mickey as having the spirit of a 9-year-old boy with the capability of a 14 year old," smiled Disney Legend Frank Thomas at a birthday celebration for Mickey. "But he also thought of him as ageless."

  • A teenaged Bob Clampett, who would later achieve fame as a Warner Brothers cartoon director and as the creator of Beany and Cecil, earned 30 cents per doll stuffing each one of the Charlotte Clark produced Mickey Mouse dolls with kapok and brushing off the excess. Originally, the dolls were purchased by Walt and Roy to give to friends, business acquaintances and special visitors to the studio. "Walt Disney himself sometimes came over in an old car to pick up the dolls," Clampett recalled. "One time, his car loaded with Mickeys wouldn't start, and I pushed while Walt steered until it caught and he took off."

  • In 1934, an Australian admirer of Walt Disney, winemaker Leo Buring, shipped Walt a crate with the gift of two wallabies, a male and a female. By the time they arrived in California, they had given birth to a child. The Disney staff, inspired by the names of the Marx Brothers, named them Leapo (the male), Hoppo (the female) and Poucho (the baby). The wallabies were kept in a pen outside the Story Department. The event inspired the creation of a Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey's Kangaroo (1935) where Mickey received a crate from Leo Buring containing a boxing kangaroo and its baby.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I hope that some of you will ask Santa to put this on your Christmas list as well as The Vault of Walt: Volume 2.