Steamboat Willie

From Academic Kids

Steamboat Willie, released on November 18, 1928, is an animated cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse. The cartoon is a parody of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. and was written and directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It is a parody which has become more famous than what it is parodying.

Music for Steamboat Willie was put together by Wilfred Jackson, one of Disney's animators (and not, as sometimes reported, by Carl Stalling). It comprises popular melodies including "Steamboat Bill" and "Turkey in the Straw".

It has been (and continues to be) in the history books as the first animated short with a completely post-produced soundtrack of music, dialogue, and sound effects, although other cartoons with synchronized soundtracks had been exhibited before (notably by Max Fleischer, My Old Kentucky Home (movie), 1926). Steamboat Willie was the first sound cartoon to attract widespread notice and popularity.

The film has been the center of some attention regarding the 1998 copyright extension law passed in the United States. Steamboat Willie has been close to entering the public domain in the United States several times; each time, copyright protection in the United States has been extended. Many people have claimed that these extensions were a response by Congress to extensive lobbying by Disney. (See U.S. copyright law.) As of 1 January, 2004, Disney has retained the U.S. copyright on Steamboat Willie. However, it is now public domain in Canada and Australia.

The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.


Mickey is serving aboard Steamboat Willie under Captain Pete. He is first seen piloting the steamboat while whistling. Pete arrives to take the helm and angrily throws him off the bridge. They soon have to stop for cargo. Almost as soon as they set off again, Minnie arrives, too late to board. Mickey manages to pick her up from the river shore. Minnie accidentally drops her sheet music for the popular folk song "Turkey in the Straw," which is eaten by a goat. Mickey and Minnie use its tail to turn it into a phonograph, which plays the tune. Mickey uses various other animals as musical instruments, disturbing Captain Pete, who puts him back to work. Mickey is reduced to peeling potatoes for the rest of the trip. A parrot attempts to make fun of him, but Mickey throws him in the river.

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