I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that the Disney Empire is well-known. Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and a whole lot more properties make up the media giant whole. However, back in 1928, Walt Disney was merely the leader of a small band of cohorts at Disney Brothers Studio who wanted to entertain the world in any way they could imagine. That imagination gave birth to Steamboat Willie, a cartoon short with a familiar mouse, a steamboat, and now classic Disney animated fun.
Steamboat Willie is Mickey Mouse’s real name before the mouse was charged with multiple murders and had to change identities. In honor of Steamboat Willie turning 88 years old, here are seven great animated shorts from Disney’s earliest days.
The Barnyard Battle – 1929
An epic starring Mickey as a soldier, seemingly inspired by the American Civil War, fighting off an invading force of cats. The cats wear helmets eerily similar to those of World War 1 Germans. The battle is hilariously brutal, featuring cannon fire and machine gun pistols.
The Haunted House – 1929
Poor, Mickey. On a stormy night he takes refuge in the first place he finds, and it’s a creepy, old house. The Grim Reaper wants Mickey to tickle the keys on a piano so the undead can have a party.
The Chain Gang – 1930
One of the first animated shorts Disney made without Ub Iwerks. The animation clearly suffers without Iwerks, but the story and antics are no less Disney. The music is spectacular as always. Mickey is in prison for reasons unknown, but I suspect it’s for the multiple murders I mentioned before.
The Castaway – 1931
Mickey uses his underwear as a sail to get across an ocean of harassment to reach a small island. There, Mickey encounters the locals, including a gorilla, lion, monkeys, and more. Using his piano, Mickey gets them all to dance except for the lion who wants to eat everyone.
Giantland – 1933
The first of many times in which Disney and company tackled familiar and famous fairytales. In this version, Mickey plays Jack from Jack and the Magic Beanstalk.
Mickey’s Mechanical Man – 1933
An intelligent, boxing gorilla named Kongo, fights against a mechanical man built by Mickey Mouse. The mechanical man goes a little nuts for a while before heading into the ring against Kongo.
The Dognapper – 1934
The first adventure story to feature Mickey and Donald Duck. The Dognapper was also the first and only time Clarance Nash (aka Donald Duck) voiced Mickey.