Walt Disney didn’t draw Mickey Mouse.

  • “Steamboat Willie,” 1928
"Steamboat Willie," 1928
Credit: RGR Collection/ Alamy Stock Photo

Despite essentially being synonymous with his most famous character, Walt Disney didn’t draw Mickey Mouse. The iconic cartoon rodent was actually designed by Disney’s best friend, animator Ub Iwerks, in 1928. Indeed, A Mouse Divided: How Ub Iwerks Became Forgotten, and Walt Disney Became Uncle Walt author Jeff Ryan described Mickey as “basically the child of two dads.” The pair worked together for decades, and Iwerks created effects for such Disney classics as Mary Poppins and Sleeping Beauty, in addition to helping develop theme park attractions such as “It’s a Small World.” But he rarely received much credit for his contributions to the company, especially in comparison to its namesake. That began to change when his granddaughter Leslie Iwerks directed the 2000 documentary The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story, but even today, Iwerks remains relatively unknown.

For the first 20 years of Mickey Mouse’s existence, Disney voiced the character himself. The world was introduced to Mickey in the 1928 animated short Steamboat Willie, though Disney produced two previous shorts featuring Mickey that same year, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, which weren’t picked up by distributors. Steamboat Willie was the first of these to feature sound, though Mickey didn’t utter his first actual words (“Hot dog!”) until the following year’s The Karnival Kid. Disney last lent his vocal talents to The Mickey Mouse Club between 1955 and 1958, though 2013’s Get a Horse! patched together previous recordings to once again feature him as the voice of the famous cartoon mouse.

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