Happy (Late) Birthday Mickey!

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Today’s Masterpiece Monday is a late celebration of Mickey’s 88th birthday. On November 18th, 1928 Mickey Mouse made his big screen debut in New York in the  short Steam Boat Willie. He was an instant hit and remains a world wide favourite . To celebrate the occasion, I’m featuring a piece of concept art from one of Mickey’s most famous film roles, that of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the 1940 film Fantasia. There are few people in the world that are unfamiliar with Mickey’s role in this film. He is featured in his Sorcerer’s costume all over Disney merchandise and the Disney Parks. The segment is so popular that it was even featured again in the sequel to Fantasia, Fantasia 2000. The roles  lasting impact over 75 years later is a clear testament to Mickey’s popularity.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover who the artist behind this beautiful piece is and that is often the  case with many of the older Disney films. I do know that this comes from one of the earlier periods in Fantasia’s development. You’ll notice that Mickey’s eyes in this piece are plain black ovals, and that his face is white. This was Mickey’s design in animated shorts from before 1940. Since Fantasia was going to be Mickey’s first ever appearance in a feature film, Mickey was redesigned by animator Fred Moore. This redesign involved small tweaks to Mickey’s appearance to make him more expressive sp he could better handle the role of lead in a feature film. This included given him more detailed eyes with both whites and pupils.This redesigned version of Mickey is basically the same version we  see today.

I say this piece of concept art is from Fantasia, but given how early it is, it’s probably actually from what was meant to be a feature length version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. It would have been largely the same, with the same story and classical music, but longer and on its own.The sequence was the beginning of Walt Disney’s experiments with classical music, and since he made sure to use the finest orchestra and animators it soon became very expensive to make. In fact, it was so expensive it  became impractical to release this extended Mickey Mouse cartoon on its own. Instead, it became one sequence in the “concert feature” of Fantasia.

Happy birthday to the Mouse who started it all, in multiple ways, both for the company, and for one of it’s most famous films.

Image Credit: artofdisney.canalblog.com

 

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