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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18, 1928

You know, I'm finding that abandoning the theme days in this blog has been one of the best decisions that I have made in the three and a half years that I have been writing here.  I'm finding that I am challenging myself more than I used to, I am having more fun bringing more personality into this space, and I think that I have gotten a well-deserved second wind!

You know, I don't know what it is about today, but I am in a wonderful mood!  I think that this month has been an awesome one.  It's really given me some clarity over what I need to do from this moment on, and it has really shaped my perspective on people. 

But you know, that'll be a tale for another time.

For now, there is one day that I plan on keeping the same.  I think the Tuesday Timeline will be staying for the foreseeable future because I enjoy writing them the most.  It's amazing all of the things that you can learn.  If ever I become a contestant on Jeopardy, these entries will be a godsend one day!

Like, for instance, if there was a category on Jeopardy called "Things That Happened on November 18th", the answers might look something like this...

1307 - The date in which William Tell shot an arrow through an apple placed on top of his son's head

1493 - The date in which Christopher Columbus discovers an island nation that would later be named Puerto Rico

1865 - The date that "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" written by Mark Twain is published in the New York Saturday Press.

1883 - The date that railroads in Canada and the United States adopt the five continental time zones - still in use today

1908 - The date that actress Imogene Coca (d. 2001) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1924 - The date that actor Les Lye (d. 2009) is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1926 - The date that George Bernard Shaw refuses to accept the money for his Nobel Prize

1940 - The date that Adolf Hitler and Galeazzo Ciano meet to discuss Benito Mussolini's disasterous invasion of Greece during World War II

1947 - The date that a devastating fire takes place at Ballantyne's Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 41

1961 - The date that President Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam

1963 - The date that the world is first introduced to the push button telephone

1978 - The date of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre in which Jim Jones leads his followers in a mass murder-suicide - Over 900 people took their own lives, with almost three hundred of them being children

1986 - The date that model Gia Carangi dies of AIDS-related complications at just 26 years of age

1987 - The date that thirty-one people are killed in a fire at London's King's Cross St Pancras underground station

1988 - The date that Ronald Reagan signs a bill that would allow the death penalty for drug traffickers

1991 - The date that hostages Thomas Sutherland and Terry Waite are released from the clutches of Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon

1993 - The date that the North American Free Trade Agreement is approved by the U.S. House of Representatives

1994 - The date that jazz leader Cab Calloway passes away at the age of 86

2012 - The date that the Nintendo Wii U goes on sale in North America

2013 - The date that NASA launches the MAVEN probe to Mars

And, did you know that November 18 just happens to be the day that the following people were born?  Happy birthday to Sheila Jordan, Margaret Atwood, Brenda Vaccaro, Linda Evans, Susan Sullivan, Chris Rainbow, Jameson Parker, Dennis Haskins, Eric Pierpoint, Kevin Nealon, John Parr, Shari Shattuck, Kim Wilde, George Kotsiopoulos, Owen Wilson, Duncan Sheik, Elizabeth Anne Allen, Mike Epps, Megyn Kelly, Peta Wilson, Jessi Alexander, Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Akhurst, Anthony McPartlin, Pastor Troy, Fabolous, Christina Vidal, Jake Abel, and Nathan Kress.

Boy, I had no idea that the eighteenth of November was such a busy day!  Wowzers.

And I am not even finished with the celebrity birthdays yet!  I have one more to share with you.  In fact, this birthday boy is the subject for today's blog.

And he was "born" on November 18, 1928.

Okay, maybe born isn't the right word to use.  Maybe I should be using the phrase "drawn".  You see, our subject happens to be a cartoon character.  Perhaps one of the most famous of the bunch.  He is the de facto mascot of one of the largest animation companies in the world, and November 18 is the date in which his very first cartoon was released.

Interestingly enough, that cartoon was called "Steamboat Willie".  Interesting, because this character is not named Willie at all.  In fact, he kind of looks more like a Mickey to me.

No, not that Mickey.  I mean THIS one.

Yes, it was on this date eighty-six years ago that Mickey Mouse made his unofficial debut with Disney, and therefore it is considered to be the date of Mickey Mouse's birth.  Wow, that's one rodent that looks awesome for his age!

The reason why I say "unofficial" is because technically, he and his girlfriend Minnie Mouse appeared in a test screening of a cartoon called "Plane Crazy".  "Steamboat Willie" was the first cartoon that a worldwide audience was exposed to.

But the cartoon does boast a legitimate first.  It is the very first cartoon to be aired with synchronized sound.  And of course, the creator of the cartoon, Walt Disney, provided all the voices heard within the cartoon.

The story behind the creation of "Steamboat Willie" began in 1927, when according to Walt Disney's brother Roy, Walt was inspired to make a cartoon after watching the 1927 film "The Jazz Singer". 

Disney was also in the process of changing up their lead characters.  Die hard Disney fans may recall that Disney had began his animation career by making a series of cartoons starring the character known as Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit.  However, when Disney ended up losing the rights to the character to Charles Mintz, Disney was forced to create a new character.

Disney had come up with the character of Mickey Mouse, and had inserted him in a couple of silent animated shorts, but these test screenings were received well by audiences.  Walt Disney was initially discouraged, but he was not ready to give up.  In his mind, the problem wasn't with the character, but with the silence.  In order to make "Steamboat Willie" pop, he had to add sound.

Production began for "Steamboat Willie" in the summer of 1928, and cost a then whopping $4,986 to produce.  And the first "unofficial" screening took place in July 1928 - in a room that was next to Walt Disney's office.  Walt's brother Roy set up the projector outside, and the movie was shown on a bedsheet, provided by Ub Iwerks - the main animator on the "Steamboat Willie" project.

Now, because the movie was nowhere near finished, a partial copy was shown instead.  The music was provided by Wilfred Jackson - courtesy of a mouth organ.  Ub Iwerks banged on pots and pans to simulate percussion instruments.  And Johnny Cannon was the foley artist for this screening.

(A foley artist is a fancy way of saying "sound effects guy".)

Needless to say, the screening was a huge hit, and it gave Walt the confidence to finish the project.  He worked with Pat Powers to bring the soundtrack to the film using his Cinephone system - which in itself was an updated version of Lee De Forest's Phonofilm system.  As for the music, it was provided by the Green Brothers Novelty Band, and needless to say, it took a couple of tries to get the synchronization absolutely perfect.  The desire to get a perfect product was so important to Disney that he actually sold his car to keep the project going!

But, as you can see from the end result, it's worth it.  And as a special treat, I have the entire cartoon "Steamboat Willie" posted at the end of this blog for you to watch!  As you can see, it turned out awesome!

And to think that when it officially debuted on November 18, 1928, Disney was only paid $500 a week for the two weeks that it played in theatres!  Oh, who am I kidding?  $500 a week in 1928 was fantastic money! 

As for Mickey Mouse?  Well, he grew up to become the most famous mouse in the world!  His image is found everywhere!  On cakes, clothing, balloons, and even little hats with Mickey ears on them!  And he is probably one of the most recognizable symbols in the entire world.  That is definitely something to marvel at.

Happy birthday, Mickey!  

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