Walt Disney Story: Part 1. Taking the Mortimer out of Mickey

FRANK MORRIS

IT ALL STARTED WITH A RABBIT …

… AND A MOUSE TOOK ITS PLACE!

On the day his beloved Disneyland amusement park opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955, Walt Disney turned to a group of friends, after he’d taken them on a tour of inspection, and said: “I hope we never lose sight of the fact that this was all started by a mouse.”

But, if it had not been for a dispute over a contract with a film distributor in 1927, Walt’s meal ticket could have been a rabbit instead of a mouse.

Disney at the time was animating a character called Oswald the Rabbit, which was owned by the distributor Charles Mintz.

When the series became successful, Mintz confronted Disney in New York with an ultimatum: accept a new contract at a lower price, or lose the character.

Disney refused to haggle. He and his wife, Lillian, on the train back to Los Angeles, spent night after night trying to come up with another cartoon character to take Oswald’s place.

It was not easy.

Suddenly, Walt recalled his days as a commercial artist in Kansas City, when his studio had been literally a breeding ground for field mice. He only remembered one mouse in particular.

The mouse was a regular intruder, which proved to be quite tame and trusting. Disney and the mouse became the best of friends and he trained it not to stray too far.

The new character, Walt decided, would be a mouse – Mortimer Mouse.

But Lillian thought the name too pretentious, so they both settled on Mickey. From that point, Oswald the Rabbit’s luck had run out, his grave has been dug and would soon be buried and forgotten.

Mickey came on the scene in 1928 in two silent shorts called Plane Crazy and Gallopin’ Gaucho.

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DISNEYTOONS …
IN 1928, PLANE CRAZY WAS THE ‘TOON THAT LAUNCHED MICKEY MOUSE ON THE WAY TO MEGA-STARDOM. HE FLEW INTO PEOPLE’S HEARTS ON HIS JERRY BUILT AIRSHIP WITH A RUBBER BAND MADE OUT OF DACHSHUND. MICKEY WAS A SUCCESS.
IN 1928, STEAMBOAT WILLIE, THE ‘TOON THAT A MILLION-PLUS FILMGOERS DECIDED THEY WERE IN LOVE WITH MICKEY MOUSE -- FOREVER. MICKEY TURNED A BUNCH OF PIGS, GOATS AND COWS INTO MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. WHATSMORE, FOR THE FIRST TIME, MICKEY EVEN SANG. – JH AND FM.
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But it wasn’t until he appeared in the sound cartoon Steamboat Willie, which opened in New York on November 18 of the same year that Mickey was on his way to mega-stardom.

The Mickey phenomenon grew. He became a national passion. He helped build an empire.

Today, Mickey might be middle aged, and a little bit grey in the whiskers, but he still bright and perky. He’s changed little since his creation over 90 years ago.

In his book, Mickey Mouse: Fifty Happy Years, David Bain wrote: “There is something most appealing about this mouse.

“There is an intrinsic quality that reaches across time and through artificial, human-made barriers, such as culture and nationality, to enter into the hardest of the hard-hearted and produce a smile.”

American journalist Jim Hokerman, wrote: “When Disneyland opened in 1955, it was with one inescapable stipulation.

“Before being born again within the confines of the Magic Kingdom, each guest had to pass through an idealised version of the Marceline, Missouri, in Main Street, where Walt believed he’d spent his happiest years.”

Disney used to say, “To the people in Marceline, I’m like God”.

SOURCE: The original syndicated story was written in 1988.

Next: His insight into the American collective unconscious was nothing short of mystical.

Below: The crowd hustle into Disneyland on opening day.

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ARTBEAT …
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH DISSCUSSED HIS POSTPRESIDENTIAL PORTRAITS OF COURAGE AND SAID, “AS A CHILD I WASN’T ALL THAT INTERESTED IN ART. I HAPPENED TO GET A RECOMMENDATION TO READ WINSTON CHURCHILL’S PAINTING AS A PASTIME, THAT PIQUED MY INTEREST.” SOON.
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Hollywood Murder: Albert Dekker’s hard-to-explain death rocked the movie world!

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

In l968, less than a decade after the George Reeves controversy, two more hard-to-explain fatalities – occurring only months apart – rocked the industry.

Albert Dekker, 63, big, shambling Warner Bros. heavy and noted character actor, came to a grotesque end in his Hollywood apartment. There were obscene inscriptions covering Dekker’s body and other oddities.

Two months before, Nick Adams, who played The Rebel in the hit TV series, died in his Coldwater Canyon bachelor quarters.

In the Dekker case, police swarmed over the apartment after the building manager had reported a “horrible sight” of Dekker slumped in the bathroom with two hypodermic needles stuck into him.

When the police arrived they found a length of rope – too loosely rigged to be identified as the sure cause of death – fastened to his left hand around his neck and tied to a shower pipe; and a hand-cuff dangled from the right hand.

Filthy words were written in lipstick and festooned over much of Dekker’s body.

“There was everything but a vampire’s bite”, the deputy coroner remarked. Suicide was ruled out. And “accidental suffocation” was named as the cause of death. It was a terrorising thought.

A rope had been tightened round Dekker’s neck, it loosened and sagged. The whole idea was full of holes to some observers.

Tightened by Dekker himself! His friends thought not.

Dekker served from 1944 to 1946 in the California state legislature as a concerned liberal representing a portion of Hollywood. He quit politics and went into showbusiness. He then won the awards on Broadway in Death of a Salesmen and other weighty plays.

Insiders agreed that Dekker never would have let himself die like that, with grotesque writing all over him.

Someone, they surmised, must have doped and then choked him. If so, police never could lay hands on a rope artist with a lipstick and drug fettish.

Case unsolved.

SOURCE: From Grand Years 13.

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VIETNAM: HOLLYWOOD VIEW …
THE BEST OF THE VIETNAM-THEME FILMS, COMING HOME, TACKLES IN DRAMATIC FORM THE MORAL DILEMMA OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. THIS MOVIE WAS HIGHLY RATED BY SMH FILM WRITER. SOON.
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YOUR DOG: Virgo. Hi, Mr Terrier speaking, and this is my story!

FRANK MORRIS

MUM GIVES ME A CUDDLE.

I’m a well-bred, well-behaved and diligent little terrier.  Two decently bred terriers got together and produced me, so you can’t deny my bespoke breeding. That was three years ago.

Mum and dad were terrific dogs. They were both playful and frightfully energetic; and so was I. They played with me until I was eight months older. The literally put me in the spotlight.

My love deepened for them.

Then, of course, times must change. While I was having a lovely upbringing, the rug was pulled from under me.

While mum and dad went for their daily stroll, a human came into the kennel, picked me up, and put me in a card-board box.

I caught a glimpse of my new owner. He was 65, upright (you beauty) and had a softly spoken voice. His house was big and was trimmed to treat.

He got me out of the box, clung to me with both hands, and said: “What will we call you?” I almost choked. I’ve got a name and it, and it … Jut.”

“Let’s see, now. I know. I’ll call him Mr Terrier. That’s it, Mr Terrier.” For better or worse, that was my name.
Mum and dad came home they found me gone.

You know something that was strange to me. My relationship drew closer to this person, my new dad. I began to take to him.

Here’s another significant event I’ve been struggling with for a long time: I’m house-bound. I’m going on four-years-old, and have been out on one day a fortnight to go shopping. On a lead.

My owner won’t play with me, ever though I’d bring my ball up to him. He would kick it a fair distance, then turn and go into his house. He would fall asleep until tea-time.

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AUSTRALIAN PLACE NAMES …
BRIAN AND BARBARA KENNEDY WRITE: NEARLY THREE-QUARTERS OF AUSTRALIAN PLACE NAMES ARE OF ABORIGINAL ORIGIN. FOR EXAMPLE, MILDURA, IN VICTORIA, COULD MEAN ‘SORE EYES’ OR ‘RED SAND’.
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“Come on Mr Terrier, its den time. He would follow me and close the hand-engraved gate with “Mr Terrier” on it.
Then he’d take the wrap off Mr Terrier’s dish and push it towards me.

He’s an event that will leave you with a few options. A young man came around the back and knocked on the door. My owner appeared.

“Can I help you,” he said. The lad, who was about 21, spoke first. “I was wondering if we can take your dog for a walk every afternoon. We’d take him down to the park and let run with other dogs …”

The girl, about 20, butted in: “… we’ve moved into a house up the street …” The girl’s voice tails off.

I witness it all. This is the event that I could say yes to without any compunction. Yes, yes and yes. My owner didn’t reply for about 60 seconds, then he spoke.

“Of course you can. Mr Terrier is his name and he is an Australia Terrier. At this moment, my owner started to feel his age.

That was the start of an honest but friendly relationship – Geoff, Margaret and me.

The move showed how good-humoured, how intelligent and tender I could be for a scruffy, multi-brown Australian Terrier.

I ran mad. The dogs who were chasing me dropped before I did. The larger dogs lost interest.

We ate every ice block and ice cream ten times over during my umpteen years of going to the park. What days we all had! There was tomorrow, and the next day, and … You know what I mean.

Then I saw my mum and dad from a distance. They looked very old. I blink and they are gone. My owner went into a nursing home and there he stayed.

I now live with Geoff and Margaret, husband and wife. We still play when we can. My age? That’s not important. All I can say is I am impulsive as ever but I noticed recently that I need more rest during the day.

So, there you are!

Below: Mum and dad together!

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AUSTRALIAN PLACE NAMES …
BRIAN AND BARBARA KENNEDY WRITE IN THEIR VOLUME OF PLACE NAMES: THERE IS SOME DEBATE AS TO THE LONGEST PLACE NAME IN AUSTRALIA. IN THE AUG-SEPT I956 EDITON OF SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MOTOR … IS MENTIONED THE NAME, CARDIVILLAWARRACURRACURRIEAPPALARNDOO. NOBODY COULD SUPPLY ANY OTHER DETAILS.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 13 September 19

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