When we see that famous Walt Disney quote, “that it was all started by a mouse,” an image of Mickey immediately springs to mind, as if he had been there all along. No matter if it’s the pie-eyed Mickey of Walt’s creation alongside Ub Iwerks in 1928, or the Mickey Mouse who happily greets old fans and new friends at Disneyland every day, it’s hard to imagine life without Mickey in the world.
To celebrate Mickey’s birthday, a commemoration of his first appearance in the short film “Steamboat Willie” on November 18, 1928, a special new Mickey Mouse cartoon is being released. The short is called “Mickey Monkey,” and once again it puts Walt’s famous mouse back at the helm of a ship, a tall hat resting snugly between his two iconic ears.
As a special treat for readers of this site, we’re presenting the entire new Mickey Mouse short, “Mickey Monkey,” right here, days before it is set to air on TV. We’ve also got a bit of backstory to tell you and some exclusive storyboards to share, courtesy of Executive Producer Paul Rudish and the team at Disney Television Animation.
Without further ado, Mickey Mouse’s birthday short, “Mickey Monkey!” Make sure to keep reading on below for our chat with Paul.
We first spoke to Paul Rudish in June of last year, when Disney Television Animation had just unveiled the new Mickey Mouse cartoons, a colorful mash-up of influences plucked from throughout the history of Disney filmmaking, with a depiction of Mickey himself that stuck very close to the 1928 original.
Since then, over 100 million viewers have seen the new series, which has had dozens of hilarious episodes, and collected a handful of top awards including multiple Primetime Emmys and several of the animation industry’s prized Annie Awards.
So, how has the process changed for Paul and his team since then? The short answer: it hasn’t!
“The process has been more reaffirming than anything,” Paul told us, speaking extremely fondly of the team who works everyday to keep more Mickey Mouse cartoons coming our way. “The greatest challenge is trying to fit as much of the fun material that we come up with into our short three-minute and thirty-second format. We usually have more jokes and more fun that we want to do with a particular topic or situation; the hardest part, really, is trying to be economical with our storytelling and then choosing the best material to flesh out that three-minute story.”
“There’s so much room that you can explore with Mickey and the whole cast,” Paul said, referencing the wide range of situations–from an Alpine avalanche to a quick jaunt around the Solar System–that Mickey and friends have taken on in the past year. “The cast is a very flexible group of characters with iconic personalities. You can come up with a scenario and throw your characters into it and talk about ‘How would they react to this? Who’s gonna do what?’ When you have such clear personalities delineated, it’s pretty easy to find which pathway you’re going to take. With Mickey himself, he’s great to throw a problem at because he’s kind of gullible, kind of naive; he’s always looking to just have a good time and he approaches everything very innocently, but problems seem to land in his lap. He tries to make the best of it, but things tend to go wronger and wronger until he reaches the end of his fuse and he’s finally forced to come up with some crazy way to get out of the situation and fix the problem–some oddly ingenious way. It’s a fun character trope to put through problems and scenarios.”
Looking back at all the scenarios that Mickey has tackled in his new show, we asked Paul to pick a favorite. We thought we might know the answer, but it turned out that there was more to the story.
“It’s really hard to choose,” he told us. “We’ve had a lot of fun doing so many different kinds of stories; more fast-paced action ones, more slapstick-silly ones, some that are a little more character-centric with relationships between the characters. It’s hard to pick one favorite. The whole production is very much an experiment, and it’s really fun to be able to experiment in our laboratory every day with a new formula.”
So, what sub-genre of cartoon is “Mickey Monkey?” “That’s a good question, because we get some play between him and his friends, and we get Mickey trying really hard to get through some zany action, so it’s a good mix. It’s got some big slapstick comedy and some silly stuff between the characters interacting.”
You can find lots more Mickey Mouse here on Disney.com, as well as on the Disney Channel, where they’ll be celebrating Mickey’s birthday throughout the day on November 18.