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The world will celebrate the birthday of the world’s most famous cartoon character on November 18 as Mickey Mouse turns 90. Mickey Mouse’s vast popularity was a major driver of the success of the Walt Disney Company, one of the great success stories in American economic history.
The world will celebrate the birthday of the world’s most famous cartoon character on November 18 as Mickey Mouse turns 90. On November 18, 1928, Steamboat Willie became the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever released. Since then, Mickey Mouse has appeared in over 130 films including Fantasia in 1940. Ten of those films earned nominations for and one of them, Lend a Paw, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Fifty years after Mickey’s debut, he earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, becoming the first cartoon character ever to do so.
Mickey Mouse’s vast popularity was a major driver of the success of the Walt Disney Company, one of the great success stories in American economic history. The company started in 1923, five years before Mickey was even an idea. Walt Disney started with a short film called Alice’s Wonderland, an idea with which he formed Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio with his brother Roy. Three years later, the company changed its name to Walt Disney Studio. Disney then developed a series around his first original character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney lost the contract on Oswald in 1928 and replaced him with Mortimer Mouse. Walt’s wife did not like the name “Mortimer,” so the character was later renamed Mickey. Mickey’s first three cartoons, Steamboat Willie, Plane Crazy, and Gallopin’ Gaucho proved extremely popular in large part because they were synchronized to sound, and Walt proceeded to create the Silly Symphony in a partnership with Columbia Pictures. In 1932, Disney and Technicolor began a partnership to produce cartoons in color, a major step for the growing company.
1937 marked a turning point for the company when it unveiled Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At the time, many doubted that a full-length animated picture could be successful. The film was three years in the making and became the highest grossing picture of the time. It helped to fund the construction of Disney’s 51-acre studio complex, which still serves as the company’s headquarters in Burbank, California. The new complex opened in 1939 and Disney went public in 1940.
The ensuing years would be good to Disney, but not entirely in the way that people might expect. From 1940-1942, the company released four of its most successful films ever, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. World War II saw many of its animators and other employees drafted into military service. Walt Disney, who was known for his patriotism, and his studio went to work on producing propaganda shorts to raise support for the war effort. The most famous among them wad Donald Duck’s Der Fuehrer’s Face, which mocked the Nazi leader. These films solidified Disney’s place in the America psyche and positioned it as an ardently patriotic company.
The initial years after the war proved challenging for the company thanks to limited staff and capital. It produced mostly short films in the years immediately following the war, but the releases of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan in the early 1950s revived the idea that feature length films could be successful. Disney also started its fist regular television series on ABC in 1954.
The ensuing years saw exciting additions to the Disney business. Disney had long dreamed of creating a place in which children and adults could enjoy themselves together. In July 1955, he opened Disneyland, a fulfillment of that dream. The day before it opened, the park was previewed in a broadcast that included future president Ronald Reagan. The early days of the park saw some struggles, but it expanded in 1959 and was soon a major global tourist attraction. A second location, Walt Disney World, opened in Florida in 1971, five years after the death of Walt Disney and just two months before the death of his brother Roy. The second site would later include EPCOT Center, which was based on Walt’s dream of creating a futuristic city with people from around the world. While not a city, the park does celebrate international culture, communication, and cooperation, as well as technological innovation. The company has continued to open new theme parks around the world in the ensuing decades, with parks currently open in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
While the expansion of the company to include parks broke new ground, it did not stop the company from continuing to produce new films and television series. Films in the 1970s included Robin Hood and Freaky Friday. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a stream of smashing successes, with the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.
In recent decades, the company has expanded far beyond its parks, films, and series. The most notable move was the 1995 merger with Capital Cities/ABC, one of many acquisitions that Disney made around that time. The company also launched its own cruise line in the 1990s, thus bringing its characters and creativity to the high seas. Today, Disney is one of the largest media and entertainment companies on the planet.
For all its expansion, Disney’s characters, especially Mickey Mouse, remain at the heart of the company. Fortunately, the New Zealand Mint has several coins that give you the opportunity to share in this celebration. Issued by Niue, these are some of the best options with at least two issues specifically for the celebration of Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday. The gem bu issue bears a large “90” with the words “YEARS OF IMAGINATION.” A smiling Mickey Mouse stands in the middle of the “0.” A second coin, a 2oz High Relief proof, features an image of Mickey whistling at the wheel of a ship in a scene from Steamboat Willie.
Although these two coins were issued specifically for the celebration, they are far from the only ones that offer collectors the chance to be a part of the marquis event. Also issued by Niue, the Disney Classics and Mickey Through the Ages collections feature a variety of iconic images of the beloved mouse. These include both gold and silver coins, as well as silver foil notes. Some of these coins are colorized, providing collectors looking for more vibrancy with no shortage of options.
For those who want to mark the occasion with other Disney characters, other options are also available. In 2018 alone, Niue has issued series that celebrate Disney Villains and characters from the movie Toy Story. They have also issued coins celebrating Cars, Bambi, and Disney Posters of the 1930s in recent years.
Disney characters continue to mesmerize children of all ages and bring adults back to the innocent days of their youth. Their parks in particular give parents and children the opportunity to have fun together. In addition to offering wholesome fun, the company also stands as a shining example of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Whether you want to relive your childhood innocence, find a way to share your favorite hobby with your children, or just own a piece of Americana, consider sharing in the celebration by adding a Disney coin or two to your collection today.
||Sean McConeghy is a freelance writer and network marketer living in Roatan, Honduras. He originally hails from New York and specializes in writing about numismatics, real estate, and politics.|