On 15th May 1928, the first animated cartoon to feature Mickey and Minnie Mouse was shown to a theatre audience. However, the cartoon that was shown that day was not Steamboat Willie, which is the cartoon most people know as Mickey Mouse’s debut. In fact Mickey’s first animated appearance was in a silent short called Plane Crazy, but the cartoon failed to secure a distributor until a soundtrack was added a year later. It was finally released on the 29th March 1929, 11 months after its first – silent – showing.
The Mickey shown in Plane Crazy is nothing like the mouse we know today. Whereas the modern Mickey is caring and compassionate, in Plane Crazy he was rather mischievous and – some might say – cruel. In his first appearance he was aggressive towards Minnie, and took dangerous risks when flying the aeroplane that is central to the storyline. Visually he was also different – he didn’t wear his famous gloves, or shoes. These developments came much later, and demonstrate how rough the original ideas for Mickey Mouse really were.
Although it was an underwhelming first appearance for Mickey, Plane Crazy was an important release for the Disney studio. Animated almost exclusively by Disney’s trusted friend Ub Iwerks, it featured a range of highly developed techniques including the very first animated Point Of View sequence and a range of sophisticated perspectives. Although it has since been overshadowed by the success of Steamboat Willie, Plane Crazy is still a vitally important part of animation history.