In 1928, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created Mickey Mouse to act as a replacement to his previous star Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But Mickey could not fill the void alone. Among the few consistent character traits Oswald had developed before moving on to Universal Studios was his near-constant pursuit of potential sweethearts. So for Mickey to have a chance to emulate his predecessor at flirting, someone had to replace Oswald’s many love interests. This replacement to Miss Rabbit, Miss Cottontail, Fanny and an uncertain number of unnamed nurses and dancers was to become Minnie Mouse.
Minnie was designed in the fashion of a “flapper” girl. Her main outfit today usually includes a short polka-dotted dress with a matching bow and white gloves. Although she always appears in red, she was originally designed to have a blue and green outfit. In the 1929 cartoon The Karnival Kid it was also revealed that she wears black stockings. Her shoes are probably her most distinctive article of clothing. For comedic effect, she wears over-sized high heeled pumps that are too big for her feet. Her heels often slip out of her shoes, and she even loses her shoes completely in The Gallopin’ Gaucho. When she walked or danced, the clip clop of her large pumps were usually heard clearly and often went with the rhythm of the music that was played in the background. Along with Mickey, she was redesigned in the 1940s. Her hat was replaced with a large bow, and bows were added to her shoes as well. Her eyes were also given more detail. Throughout the forties and fifties, her look and personality became more conservative.
Minnie first appeared in Plane Crazy. Minnie is invited to join Mickey in the first flight of his aircraft. She accepts the invitation but not his request for a kiss in mid-flight. Mickey eventually forces Minnie into a kiss but this only results in her parachuting out of the plane. This first film depicted Minnie as somewhat resistant to the demanding affection of her potential boyfriend and capable of escaping his grasp.
Their debut however featured the couple already familiar to each other. The next film featuring them was The Gallopin’ Gaucho. The film was the second of their series to be produced, but the third to be released, and was released on December 30, 1928. We find Minnie employed as the Cantina Argentina, a bar and restaurant established in the Pampas of Argentina. She performs the Tango for Mickey the gaucho and Black Pete the outlaw. Both flirt with her but the latter intends to abduct her while the former obliges in saving the Damsel in Distress from the villain. All three characters acted as strangers first being introduced to each other.
But it was their third cartoon that established the definitive early look and personality of both Mickey and Minnie, as well as Pete. Steamboat Willie, was the third short of the series to be produced but released first on November 18, 1928. Pete was featured as the Captain of the steamboat, Mickey as a crew of one and Minnie as their single passenger. The two anthropomorphic mice first star in a sound film and spend most of its duration playing music to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw”.
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