Celebrating Walt Disney: The Man Behind the Mouse

To call Walt Disney an artist would be simplistic. To call him a genius would be an understatement. To call him a visionary would be just about right.  Disney was always pushing for the next big idea, whether it was the world’s first full-length animated movie or an amusement park that would eventually cover around 500 acres of California real estate, both ventures that critics predicted would fail. However, Disney believed that “we keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” So to celebrate his birthday, here are a few bits of trivia about the man who kept moving forward:

  • A Kansas City dentist wanting to promote oral hygiene sought the services of Laugh-O-Gram films, Disney’s first animated film company. However, Walt couldn’t keep the meeting because he didn’t have the money to reclaim his only pair of shoes from the cobbler. The dentist still gave him the job, and even got his shoes out of hock for him.
  • Disney sold his beloved Moon Cabriolet roadster to finance the recording sessions with New York’s Broadway Strand Theater orchestra in order to bring the world “Steamboat Willie” and a mouse named Mickey.
  • The first popular song that came out of the Disney studio was “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from Disney’s 36th Silly Symphony “The Three Little Pigs.” The triumphant pigs struck a nerve with Depression-era audiences, who took up the song like a mantra.
  • During Disneyland’s construction, Walt lived in a small apartment on the top floor of the Main Street Fire Station so that he could inspect everything being done (sometimes he would be caught inspecting things in his bathrobe).
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the first film ever to time a marketing campaign on the same day as the movie’s release.
  • During production, critics dubbed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs “Disney’s Folly” and predicted the project would be the demise of the Disney studio.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) held the top-grossing film record until Gone With the Wind (1939).

Happy birth anniversary, Mr. Disney! Thank you for using your curiosity to keep moving forward and taking us all down new paths.

If you’re a Disney fan, like I am be sure to check out more Disney fun later this month when Kim celebrates the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

So do you have any Disney trivia stored up in your noggin? Let me know.

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Donald Duck’s 78th Birthday

Who’s got the sweetest disposition? One guess, that’s who. Who never, never starts an argument? Who never shows a bit of temperament? Who’s never wrong but always right? Who’d never dream of starting a fight? Who gets stuck with all the bad luck? No one, but Donald Duck!

That’s right! Donald Duck turns 78 on Saturday, June 9. Happy Birthday, Donald! So here’s a little test of knowledge to see how much you know about the world’s favorite temper-tantrum-throwing duck. “Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy!”

What was the name of the cartoon where Donald made his debut? Donald made his screen debut on June 9 in the 1934 Silly Symphony, The Wise Little Hen

What is Donald’s full name? In the short Donald Gets Drafted, Donald’s full name is shown on his draft notice as Donald Fauntleroy Duck.

Who first played the voice of Donald Duck, and how many people have played Donald’s voice?

Clarence “Ducky” Nash was a comic on the radio when Walt Disney hired him to play the voice of Donald Duck for the 1934 Mickey Mouse short Orphan’s Benefit.  Nash’s portrayal of the hot-tempered, gibberish-squawking duck stole the show.  Donald’s actual debut in The Wise Little Hen would be the first of more than 150 shorts and television shows voiced by Nash.  Nash remained the voice of Donald Duck for 50 years. He even came out of retirement to give Donald his voice in 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  He was the only original voice actor there.  After his death Tony Anselmo took over, and has been Donald’s voice up to the present.

When did Donald first appear in color? This is a trick question. Because his debut was a Silly Symphony, Donald debuted in color. However, his buddies Mickey and Goofy didn’t appear in color until The Band Concert in 1935.

Though June 9 is Donald’s official birthday, another date is shown as his birthday in the film The Three Caballeros. What is that date? Friday the 13th (month not given)

Donald has had more full-length feature film appearances than his colleagues Mickey and Goofy.  How many can you name?

The Reluctant Dragon (1941), Saludos Amigos (1943), The Three Caballeros (1945), Fun & Fancy Free (1947), Melody Time (1948), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Fantasia 2000 (2000).

Where does Donald Duck live? Duckburg, Calisota USA, and he docks his boat, the Miss Daisy, at Disneyland in Toon Town.

Donald Duck is the official mascot of what university? The University of Oregon is the only university allowed to use Donald Duck as their official mascot. They are the Oregon Ducks.

So, how well did you do?  “Nothin’ to it”

Do you have any other Donald Duck trivia to share?  Let me know.

— Julie

The Idea of a Mouse: 83 Years of Mickey

While traveling by train from New York to California after loosing the rights to Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney began toying with the idea of a mouse.  At first, Disney called the mouse Mortimer, but his wife, Lillian, convinced him to change the name to Mickey because it sounded cuter.  Then, on November 18, 1928, at the Colony Theater in New York, Mickey Mouse whistled his way onto the screen in the cartoon short Steamboat Willie.  And 83 years later, we are still enamored with the simple idea of a mouse.  So, to celebrate Mickey’s birthday, I’ve gathered up some fun facts about the world’s favorite mouse.
Did you know…?

  • Two Buster Keaton films, The Navigator (1924) and Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) provided the inspiration for Steamboat Willie.
  • Animator Ub Iwerks completed Steamboat Willie as a silent film.  Sound was post-synchronized to match the action.
  • Although Steamboat Willie had sound, Mickey did not utter his first word until The Karnival Kid (1929).  Walt Disney himself played Mickey’s voice.
  • The first item of merchandise to feature Mickey Mouse was a child’s school tablet in 1929.
  • After Emperor Hirohito of Japan received a Mickey Mouse watch while visiting Disneyland in 1978, he wore the watch on his wrist everywhere he went.  One day when the watch stopped ticking, he called in Japan’s finest jewelers to solve the problem.  The result was one new battery and a very happy emperor.
  • The first Mickey Mouse comic strip was published on January 13, 1930.
  • Although Mickey has only starred in a few of Disney’s full length feature presentations  – Fantasia (1940), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – he has found a way to sneak into several others, such as The Rescuers (1977), The Little Mermaid (1989), and 101 Dalmatians (1961).  Can you find where he is hiding in those movies – perhaps do you know of other Disney movies where Mickey has found a way to make a cameo? Put your Disney trivia knowledge to the test and submit your answers in the comments below.

So today, in celebration of our favorite mouse, and because it’s Friday (who doesn’t love Fridays?!), we’re giving away some fun HPB prizes – including an HPB Gift Card, reusable tote bag and a coveted HPB T-shirt. Make a comment below telling us who is your favorite Disney character. Three (3) winners will be randomly selected at 3:00 pm CST on Friday, November 18. Ready, set, go!

Happy Birthday, Mickey!

— Julie 


UPDATE: Congratulations to our 3 winners – Nick Spacek and his adoration of Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove (you’ve won an HPB Gift Card), Veronica Deslauriers and her poem praising our feathered friend Donald Duck (you’ve won a reusable tote bag), and Shellie and her vote for the birthday boy himself, Mickey Mouse (you’ve won an HPB T-shirt)! To claim your prize, please email besocial@hpb.com with “Mickey” in the subject line. This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated. Stay tuned to the Half Price Blog for more news, reviews and free goodies.