Steamboat Willie: Facts, Stories, & Trivia About Mickey Mouse's First Cartoon Ever

By | November 19, 2020

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Steamboat Willie is commonly known as one the first cartoon ever made (and distributed) with sound (even though the Fleischer brothers released a cartoon technically before it), and is famous for being the debut of arguably the most famous pop culture icon in the world: Mickey Mouse. But it wasn't exactly as we choose to remember it, and this exact cartoon actually kept pushing the U.S. to extend their copyright laws for years until fairly recently. Steamboat Willie's history and the first time people ever saw it made a huge impact on not only animation, but pop culture. It is currently sitting at 13th in the book The 50 Greatest Cartoons, which includes a list of the 50 best cartoons ever made. It is now part of the United States' National Film Registry and is considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." These are all the Steamboat Willie trivia, facts, and stories you may not quite know everything about yet. 

Its Legacy Is Riddled With Misnomers

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Disney Animation Studios, 1928

Mickey Mouse's first appearance was actually in a cartoon called "Plane Crazy" which never found a distribution channel, so they tabled it, created Steamboat Willie, which came out in 1928, and then released "Plane Crazy" in 1929, making it the fourth Mickey Mouse cartoon released after Steamboat Willie. This famous cartoon wasn't even the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made.

The Fleischer Brothers were actually Disney's first competition in that they were the big two studios cranking out animated sound films to the point where they technically beat Steamboat Willie by about a month in putting out the first ever sound cartoon. Steamboat Willie made its debut on November 18, 1929, while the Fleischers' first sound cartoon, called "Noah's Lark," came out on October 25, 1929. The Fleischers where famous for creating such characters as Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor, Koko the Clown, Bimbo, and Superman.