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Smithsonian News Release, November 9, 1988 [SI-500-88]

Disney Donates Original Animation Drawings to the National Museum of American History

Mickey Mouse, the Disney cartoon character, made his debut on Nov. 18, 1928, as the star of the first completely synchronized sound cartoon--"Steamboat Willie." The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has acquired six of the earliest drawings of Mickey Mouse from that animated cartoon feature. The drawings, donated by The Walt Disney Company, will be displayed in the entertainment section of the "A Nation of Nations" exhibition hall.

Since his debut, Mickey Mouse has become one of the world's most recognized "personalities" as well as the foundation of the creative and commercially successful Disney Company.

"Through cartoons featuring Mickey and his friends in the 1930s, Disney explored numerous stylistic and technical innovations in animation," Roger G. Kennedy, director of the museum, said. "In those early years, the company established standards for the entire animation industry."

"Steamboat Willie" brought animation out of the silent-film era, as the first cartoon to match sound with action. Through the end of World War II, Walt Disney himself provided the voice of Mickey.

"The 1930s and 1940s saw an outpouring of cartoons by American studios inspired by the success of Disney's shorts and feature-length films," according to Charles McGovern, curator in the museum's Division of Community Life. "These things represent the emergence of an American art form initiating what we now regard as the Gold Age of Animation."

The drawings add to the museum's collection of memorabilia that convey the history of American entertainment, including objects related to the circus, film, theater, dance, and television.


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