To record the sound track, Walt had to take his film to New York, since no one on the West Coast was equipped to do it. Walt sank everything he had into the film. When finally completed, Walt screened it for the New York exhibitors. The manager at the Colony Theatre liked the eager young producer and decided to take a chance on his film. Steamboat Willie scored an overwhelming success, and Walt soon became the talk of the nation. Buoyed by the artistic and popular success of Steamboat Willie, Disney added sound to the first two cartoons and was able to offer exhibitors a package of three shorts. As with all of Mickey Mouse's pictures through World War II, Walt himself supplied the voice.
Then in 1946, when Walt became too busy to continue, Jim Macdonald, veteran Disney sound and vocal effects man, tookover. ( Jim Macdonald continued to provide the voice of Mickey Mouse for nearly thirty years, until he retired in 1974. Following his retirement, Wayne Allbright was selected to perform the voice of Mickey Mouse. Wayne has provided Mickey Mouse's vocal characterizations in his most recent screen appearances ). Mickey Mouse's skyrocket to fame didn't take long. His cartoons became so popular that people would first ask ticket takers if they were "running a Mickey" before they would purchase admission. Soon, theaters were displaying posters that read "Mickey Mouse playing today!" It was not uncommon for patrons to sit through a feature twice to see him again. The thirties was Mickey Mouse's golden age; 87 cartoon shorts starring the multi-talented mouse were produced by Walt Disney during that decade.
He played everything from fireman to giant killer, cowboy to inventor, detective to plumber. Technically and artistically Mickey Mouse cartoons were far superior to other contemporary cartoons and gave life to an entire family of animated characters: Minnie Mouse, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Peg-Leg Pete, and many others. The artistic success of the animators was honored in 1932 when an Oscar was presented to Walt Disney for the creation of Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse's popularity spawned a Mickey Mouse Club in 1929 which met every Saturday for an afternoon of cartoons and games in local theaters. The several million Mouse Clubbers had a secret handshake, special member greeting, code of behavior, and even a special club song, "Minnie's Yoo Hoo".
The peak of Mickey Mouse's golden decade was his starring role as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in the feature Fantasia (1940), a major artistic innovation. It interpreted music in colors, shapes, movement, and story. The animation techniques were years ahead of their time and have never been matched. Fantasia also introduced stereophonic sound to theaters, an element not employed by other studios until more than a decade later. With the advent of World War II, the Disney Studio suspended nearly all commercial activity and concentrated on aiding the war effort with training films, goodwill tours, and designing of posters and armed forces insignia.
Mickey Mouse played his part by appearing on insignia and posters urging national security and the purchase of war bonds. And, incredibly, the password of the Allied forces on D-Day, June 6,1944, was "Mickey Mouse." Following the war, Mickey Mouse returned to making cartoons and appeared in his second feature, Fun and Fancv Free (1947), in which he co-starred with Goofy and Donald Duck in a new version of "Jack and the Beanstalk," titled appropriately "Mickey and the Beanstalk."
Through the forties and early fifties, Mickey Mouse made fewer cartoons, giving ground to Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto, who were more flexible as characters. Mickey Mouse's evolution into a Disney symbol made it increasingly more difficult to create story situations for him. If he lost his temper or did anything sneaky, fans would write in insisting that Mickey Mouse just wouldn't do that. After the success of the Disneyland television show in 1954, Disney agreed the next year to create an afternoon program for ABC. He gave them The Mickey Mouse Club, which became the most successful children's show ever. In 1977, The New Mickey Mouse Club, featuring 12 new Mouseketeers, debuted on television, and a third generation of Mouseketeers hit the airwaves in 1989 when The Mickey Mouse Club debuted as a series on The Disney Channel with shows airing on weekday afternoons. Mickey Mouse moved to Disneyland in 1955 to become chief host of the theme park, welcoming millions of visitors annually, shaking hands, posing for pictures, and leading the big parades on national holidays. In 1971, he helped open the Walt Disney World Resort; in 1983 he donned a kimono for the dedication of Tokyo Disneyland; and in 1992, he sported a beret for the opening of what is now called Disneyland Paris. His other activities include public appearance tours around the world for The Walt Disney Company.