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The Kokomo Tribune from Kokomo, Indiana • Page 67

The Kokomo Tribune from Kokomo, Indiana • Page 67

Kokomo, Indiana
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As well as enriching the lives of millions with entertainment, Mickey Is also responsible for huge revenues obtained through merchandising. Almost certainly, he was the first cartoon character to appear on novelties, gift ware, soft goods. The forerunner of them all was school writing tablets. In 1929 Walt was offered $300 for permission to use Mickey's likeness on these pads. Because he needed the money, Walt agreed.

A' year later, Roy Disney signed a contract with the George Borgfeldt giving It the go-ahead to produce "figures and toys of various materials, embodying designs of comic mice known as Minnie and Mickey Mouse, appearing In copyrighted motion pictures." In 1932 Walt met Herman Kamen, an advertising genius who had a slew of merchandising Ideas. One of them was a deal for ten million Mickey Mouse Ice-cream cones. Next came a link with Lionel trains, that turned out windup handcars for one dollar. The amazing results rescued the Depression- hit company from the verge of bankruptcy. The most famous Item of all Is the Mickey Mouse watch.

Ingersoll manufactured the first models in 1933. Priced at $3.75, It was Immediately reduced to $2.95. This same watch is currently going for $225 in antique stores. Between June 1933 and June 1935, million watches were sold In the U.S., at $2.95. Macy's reported that one day during that period, 11,000 timepieces changed hands.

In 1957 Walt was. presented with the 25th million timepiece. They're now available all over the world, from $7.95 to several hundreds of dollars. Two of them made the Journey to outer space: astronaut Walter Schlrra carried his Mickey Mouse watch with him on his Apollo space mission In 1969, and Gene Ceman wore his on Apollo 10. Although Mickey burst upon the world In 1928 in Steamboat Willie, it was not his first screen venture.

Plane Crazy, without sound, was the original of Mickey's 118 cartoons. Unfortunately, exhibitors did not Mickey Mouse In Steamboat Willie and Fantasia IEU a ui RJ up lu vieytn i loei kaee mum taati irA' share Walt's enthusiasm. Undaunted, he forged ahead with another silent, Gallopln' Gaucho. No luck with that, either. When Al Jolson's first talkie, The Jan Singer revolutionized the film industry In late 1927, Walt Jumped on the bandwagon, and the result was Steamboat Willie, complete with soundtrack.

The project ate up almost every penny Walt had. When he ran It through for New York exhibitors, the manager of the Colony was more impressed with young Walt than he was with fledgling Mickey. He decided to take a chance and chose Nov. 18, 1928, as the premiere. Overnight success enabled Walt to add sound to the other two silent shorts and offer movie exhibitors their first package of three.

Mickey's popularity spawned a Mickey Mouse-Club In 1929. By 1935, many had disbanded. In 1955 the Club on TV was reactivated with Annette Funlcello 1959, was the most successful show of all time for the young set. Last year, The New Mickey Mouse Club, with a dozen hew Mouseketeers, was revived and aired on home screens. When eggheads tried to explain away Mickey's phenom- anal success, Walt chuckled.

He was amused, not Impressed, with their psychological evaluations. He told all those analysts: "Mickey's a nice fellow who never does anyone any harm, gets Into scrapes through no fault of his own and somehow always manages to come up grinning. "All we ever intended for him, or expected of him, was that he should continue to make people smile with him and at him. We didn't burden him with any social symbolism; we made him no. mouthpiece for frustrations or harsh satire." Walt fiercely guarded Mickey's reputation wouldn't do that," he often argued at script conferences).

He was Mickey's gulping, falsetto voice until 1946, when he found he could no longer spare the time. Walt approached Jim Macdonald In the Sound and Vocal Effects Dept. saying: "I'm too busy. Can you take over Mickey's voice for me?" Jimmy did, and still does. And now, an interview with the world famous mouse.

FW: Of all your roles, what was the toughest? MM; "The Sorcerer's Apprentice' In Fantasia because I had to do all my own stunts. No such thing as a 'stunt mouse' In 1940. It was a do-it-yourself part, without wires. It was also my most memorable role because 1 never dreamed I'd be In a movie with Leopold Stokowskl and the Philadelphia Orchestra. FW: You haven't aged a day since your debut In Steamboat Willie.

Do you think you've changed? MM; When the world first saw me, it was at the precipice of the Depression, so I didn't have any shoes or gloves. As soon as Mr. Disney could afford it, he got me both. Abo, there was a lot of bother with my tall. At the outset, having my tail out was in.

During the 40's, having my tall out was out. Since 1947 (Mickey's Delayed Date), having my tail out has been In. And In the early days I was more mischievous than 1 am now. FW: You've played so many roles. Is there anything you'd give your eyetooth to do? MM: I've gone from fireman to giant killer; cowboy to inventor; detective to plumber.

The only part 1 haven't played and one I'm dying to Is myself ram a MOUSE. 1171 FAMILY WEEKLY, Novsmber 12, 1978 5.

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