Tag Archives: Steamboat Willie

“Steamboat Willie” Goes for a Ride


On this day in 1928, Walt Disney premiered the first cartoon with synchronized sound, “Steamboat Willie.”  Crude by today’s standards, it was innovative for its time.  Walt Disney himself performed all the voices, although the dialogue is often hard to understand.  The cartoon was a parody of the Buster Keaton film, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” which was a reference to a 1911 song, “Steamboat Bill,” performed by Arthur Francis Collins.  The film lasts all of 7 minutes and 23 seconds and came out as the film industry was making the inevitable and sometimes difficult transition to sound.  “Steamboat Willie” also marks the first appearance of that Disney icon, Mickey Mouse.  With an estimated budget of $4,986, there were some initial concerns about the believability of cartoon characters producing their own sound.  Thus, Disney arranged for a preview of the film even before the sound track was produced.  The audience responded positively to it and subsequent audiences liked it even better with the sound.  The film would later become the subject of controversy because of perceived animal cruelty, including one scene where Willie swings a cat around by its tale.  But, it was just a product of its time.  Regardless, it remains a landmark of early sound cinema and a true pioneer in both animation and overall filmmaking.

A poster produced for the film’s 50th anniversary.

A poster produced for the film’s 50th anniversary.

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