How Disney Built America, April 28, 2024, History Channel, “The Birth of Mickey”

How Disney Built America

The History Channel’s How Disney Built America premieres on Sunday, April 28, 2024, with “The Birth of Mickey,” exploring the origins of Mickey Mouse, one of the world’s most recognizable cartoon characters. The episode recounts how Mickey began as a pencil sketch by Walt Disney during a challenging period in his career.

In the late 1920s, Walt Disney faced a significant setback when he lost creative control of his first successful cartoon character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to Universal distributor Charles Mintz. Devastated but determined, Disney embarked on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood, where he conceived the idea for a new character—a mouse. This mouse, later named Mickey Mouse, would become Disney’s ticket to success and lasting fame.

The episode examines the creative process behind Mickey’s development, including the contributions of animator Ub Iwerks, who refined and further developed the character. Mickey’s journey to stardom began with his first appearance in the 1928 shorts “Plane Crazy” and “The Gallopin’ Gaucho,” which unfortunately failed to find distribution. However, the third time proved to be the charm with the release of “Steamboat Willie” in November 1928.

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“Steamboat Willie” not only marked Mickey’s public debut but also revolutionized the animation industry as one of the first cartoons to successfully utilize synchronized sound. The short’s innovative use of sound for comedic purposes captivated audiences and propelled Mickey to stardom. The character’s popularity grew, and he soon became a close competitor to Felix the Cat, eventually surpassing him in popularity.

The episode also examines Mickey’s enduring appeal and his transformation from a cheeky lovable rogue to a nice guy, often portrayed as a spirited and impulsive hero. Over the years, Mickey has appeared in numerous films, television series, and merchandising, becoming an iconic symbol of The Walt Disney Company and American culture.

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How Disney Built America: The Birth of Mickey airs on the History Channel at 10:03 PM on Sunday, April 28, 2024.

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