Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History

by David Gerstein and J.B. Kaufman, edited by Daniel Kothenschulte
Taschen, the distinguished European publisher long renowned for luxurious art books, has already embarked on a series of outstanding volumes on Disney history. The latest in the series, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, is a sumptuous, lavishly mounted pictorial history of the world’s preeminent Mouse, from his scrappy beginnings in 1928 to the present day. Overflowing with a cornucopia of exciting, rare, and gorgeously reproduced images, the book also includes a wealth of new historical research by Disney scholars J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein.

Chapters

1. A Mouse is Born (1928–1932)
Conceived and brought to the screen in humble circumstances, Mickey Mouse quickly catches the attention of audiences everywhere and becomes a national, then an international, favorite. Walt Disney and his artists capitalize on this early success with a continuing series of new cartoons, marked by wit and charm.
 
2. Mickey Comes to the Comics (1930–1931)
From the motion-picture screen to the funny papers. The Disney studio launches a Mickey Mouse comic strip in daily newspapers, and Mickey finds continued success in a new arena.
 
3. Mickey Mouse the Movie Star (1932–1935)
By 1932 the Mouse has achieved an unprecedented level of popularity for a cartoon character, and the Disney studio signs a new distribution agreement. The resulting 31 black-and-white cartoons constitute an extraordinary body of work in themselves, a milestone in the art of animation. Mickey also becomes a key figure in the world of licensed merchandise, embodied in toys, popular music, and other product lines.
 
4. Technicolor Extravaganzas: From The Band Concert to Fantasia (1935–1940)
Mickey makes the transition to Technicolor in 1935 and begins a distinguished new chapter in his career, culminating in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which in turn becomes the cornerstone of the classic Fantasia. In the meantime, licensed Mickey merchandise continues to proliferate, embracing a wide range of storybook adaptations.
 
5. The Comic Adventurer (1931–1940s)
The popularity of Mickey’s daily comic strip continues to build, and a color Sunday comic page first appears in 1932. New artists are brought into the U.S. comics operation, and in the meantime other countries launch their own Mickey comics. Mickey Mouse Magazine, introduced in the mid-1930s, evolves into comic-book form by the end of the decade.
 
6. Unfinished Rhapsodies (1930s–40s)
Along with the classic Mickey Mouse stories that are brought to the screen, many other stories are proposed, developed, then abandoned. This chapter displays a range of fascinating and rare art from these unproduced stories.
 
7. Mickey on the Air (1932–1940s)
By the 1930s, the medium of radio has become a pop-culture phenomenon that rivals even the movies. Inevitably, Mickey is brought to the airwaves in a variety of settings, including a short-lived network series of his own, The Mickey Mouse Theatre of the Air, in 1938.
 
8. Password: Mickey Mouse (1941–1945)
With the onset of World War II, Mickey’s career takes a turn. His peace-loving screen persona having been established by this time, he “retires” from the screen for the duration—but maintains a strong presence in public-service art, military insignia, and the comics.
 
9. Mickey in the World of Features (1931–1947)
A native of one-reel cartoons, Mickey invades the world of feature films as well, starting with guest appearances in major-studio features during the 1930s. From this he goes on to star in two features produced by the Disney studio: Fantasia, in which he enacts the story of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and Fun and Fancy Free, playing a key role in “Mickey and the Beanstalk.”
 
10. The Simple Things: The Mid-Century Shorts (1945–1953)
With the end of the war, Mickey returns to the screen in new cartoons. His postwar and midcentury films reveal him as a changed Mouse, leaving behind his barnyard origins and settling into the role of a comfortable suburban homeowner. His big-screen career comes to a close in 1953 with The Simple Things.
 
11. Modernizing Mickey (1950–1960)
The world of Mickey Mouse comic books, originally an offshoot of newspaper comic strips, grows into a separate empire in its own right. By the 1950s a new international hierarchy of Disney artists has been established, creating new and distinctive adventures for the Mouse.
 
12. A Small Screen and a Great Kingdom (1955–1959)
The 1950s bring about two exciting new frontiers for the Disney studio. Walt’s dream of a uniquely Disney-themed park becomes a reality in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland, and of course Mickey plays a key role there. Meanwhile, the studio plunges into the new medium of television with a variety of programming, some of it—notably the daily Mickey Mouse Club—explicitly centered around Mickey.
 
13. Pop and Nostalgia (1960–1990)
By the 1960s, the Pop artists have discovered Mickey. The Disney studio turns a corner in 1966 when the unthinkable happens: Walt Disney dies. But soon Mickey is swept up in the nostalgia boom of the 1970s, and the studio responds by bringing him back to the screen in new productions.
 
14. Cosmopolitan Mickey (1970–present)
The world of Mickey Mouse comic strips and comic books continues to evolve along its own lines. New artists take their place in that world, not only in the U.S. but on the international stage, exploring fresh story possibilities for Mickey and adding new characters to his universe.
 
15. 21st Century Mouse (2000–present)
With the dawn of a new century, the Disney studio embraces innovative technologies and brings Mickey to contemporary audiences. Mickey enters the world of video games, expands his television presence to cable and online channels—and appears in new cartoon shorts, explicitly designed to reconnect with his 1928 origins. Already at the center of a rich cultural legacy, Mickey faces the future with zest.