Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse:The Ultimate History

Front cover of Conscious Capitalism.
 

Who would have thought 90 years ago that a hand-drawn cheeky mouse would go on to become one of the most recognisable faces in the world?

On 18 November 2018, Mickey Mouse became a nonagenarian, a landmark that was celebrated with masses of media coverage, fireworks at Disney resorts around the world, and this 496-page tome dedicated to his life.

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History is billed by its publishers as one of the most expansive illustrated publications on the Disney universe. For £150 you'd expect no less. Presented in a cardboard box (with a handle) this is a purchase or gift that will leave true fans happy.

It starts with the first sketches of a character who was almost named Mortimer, before embarking on a celluloid adventure tracing the career of Walt Disney’s and Ub Iwerks’s most famous creation. It's testament to Mickey's longevity that the publishers speak of "an explosion of worldwide popularity preceded only by the earlier successes of Charlie Chaplin."

Authors David Gerstein, JB Kaufman and Daniel Kothenschulte were given unlimited access to Disney’s vast historical collections as well as public and private collections in their herculean effort to bring Mickey’s success story to life. The book charts the concept art, story sketches, background paintings, and animation drawings as well as historical photographs. It traces the origins and evolution of such iconic shorts as Steamboat Willie, The Band Concert, and Brave Little Tailor. They also follow Mickey's stellar rise as he builds on these timeless favourites by appearing in two historic feature-length films, Fantasia and Fun and Fancy Free.

Whether you're a Disney afficianado or someone who merely remembers childhood joy that the miniature mouse brought, it is hard not to be amazed at how the book details unfinished projects, many of them presented for the first time through original storyboard drawings, and uncover the Mickey that might have been. The authors' love of the subject matter shines through.

There is no doubt that the writing team have put in the research hours in the archive. There's documentation of oft-brushed over chapters of his career, such as his pioneering radio shows or the origins of the Mickey Mouse Club, which launched the careers of pop stars including Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Mention too of Mickey's use as a patriotic icon during the second world war, his immortalisation by pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Roy Lichenstein, and photos of merchandise.

There's room too for the behind-the-scenes artists who played their part in Mickey's physical transformation from the large eyed, glove-and shoe-less Mickey of 1928's Plane Crazy to the modern incarnation who greats millions of theme park visitors every year, through changes that included pupil size, height, and even ear shape. Walt Disney once famously said of his company: “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing: that it was all started by a mouse.”

A decade shy of Mickey's centenary, this book proves there's little chance of that.

Also available as an Art Edition limited to 995 copies, with a portfolio of five prints and a facsimile of a 1936 merchandise catalogue.

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