Suspended Animation #207
Mickey is still celebrating his 90th anniversary but very few people really seem to care. However, once upon a time when he first appeared he really was the Big Cheese and people missed him when he wasn’t there.“Mickey has a bigger screen following than nine-tenths of the stars in Hollywood,” wrote Hearst newspaper gossip columnist Louella Parsons in 1931. In 1933, Mickey Mouse received more pieces of fan mail than any other star in Hollywood. He was cited as the favorite movie actor of Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Bela Lugosi among others. Over 468 million tickets were sold to Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1935 irregardless of what feature film they preceded.
Animator and Imagineer Ward Kimball said: “Four years after he first appeared, Mickey was a household word whether the house was in China, Moscow or Beverly Hills. Whether people were watching in Hong Kong, Paris or Cairo, they didn’t need to follow any dialogue. They could simply laugh at what was happening on the screen. You can’t imagine how popular he was everywhere and with everyone.”
A Gardner Rea cartoon in the March 20, 1931 issue of LIFE magazine showed a group of wealthy, sophisticated socialites walking out of a movie theater upset and despondent. The caption underneath read: “No Mickey Mouse!”
The phrase “What? No Mickey Mouse?” was popular in the early 1930s from those with Depression-era paychecks feeling they were getting shortchanged to see a movie without a Mickey Mouse cartoon as part of the program.
That occurrence was referenced in the Warner Brothers live action film Lady Killer (1933) where actor James Cagney played theater usher Dan Quigley.
Slug, a movie patron: [Entering the movie theater] Hey, you got a Mickey Mouse on the bill today?
Dan Quigley: No, not today.
Slug : [Disappointed] What? No, Mickey Mouse?
Dan : No, no Mickey Mouse.
Dan : Because he’s makin’ a personal appearance in Jersey City.
Slug : Oh, you’re trying to kid somebody, heh?
Other movie patron: Come on, Slug, let’s get our dough back.
England’s King George V refused to go to the movies unless a Mickey Mouse cartoon was shown. His wife, Queen Mary, came late to tea rather than miss the end of a charity showing of the cartoon Mickey’s Nightmare (1932).
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “My husband always loved Mickey Mouse and he always had to have a Mickey Mouse animated short playing in the White House on movie nights.”
Irving Caesar (1895 – 1996) is perhaps best known as the lyricist of Tea for Two, Swanee, Just A Gigolo, Ten Cents a Dance and Animal Crackers in My Soup. Caesar wrote and published over 700 songs in his lifetime.
Caesar created a novelty song called What! No Mickey Mouse? (What Kind Of A Party Is This?) during the 1932 election urging listeners to vote for Mickey.
It was not widely recorded but it became a hit for veteran bandleader and popular radio personality Ben Bernie and his band. Bernie himself did the vocal in a “talk/sing” manner with “all the lads” in the band doing the backup chorus. Even Bernie’s version does not always stick to these original lyrics:
“When Noah planned his famous ark, he knew just what to do
He searched until he found a park and walked off with the zoo.
With lions, tigers, monkeys, donkeys he sailed the ocean wide
And when he lined them up on deck, ‘twas then some coo-coo cried,
“What? No Mickey Mouse? What kind of a party is this?
Your lions roar, your tigers snore, I’ve heard them roar and snore before.
I don’t see why you make a fuss about the hippopotamus.
Your dogs bow wow, your cats meow.
I know that you can milk a cow
But Mickey makes me laugh and how and I want Mickey now.
So where’s that tricky mouse?
That slicky, wacki, wicki, bolsheviki Mickey Mouse?
“Vote for Mickey Mouse!
And make him our next president!
To Congress he is sure to say, “Meow, meow. Okay. Okay.
Ja. Ja. Yes. Yes. Si. Si. Oui. Oui.
How dry I am; have one on me.”
And then he’ll cry, “Give me the facts.
Give me my axe; I’ll cut your tax!”
He’ll show us all what can be done when he’s in Washington!
So, let’s give Hoover’s house
To tricky, wacki, wicki, bolsheviki Mickey Mouse.”
The use of the word “tricky” was meant to rhyme with “Mickey” and was also used in the same manner in previous songs like the Mickey Mouse fox trot by Harry Carlton in 1930 and Mickey Mouse (We All Love You) from 1931.
“Bolsheviki” was also selected because it rhymed with Mickey. However, since the song was meant to be political, it also referenced that aspect of the common people uniting for a revolution. The urban worker followers of Vladimir Lenin used bolsheviki to describe themselves and later changed their name to the Russian Communist Party which may help explain Mickey’s red pants.
The sheet music for Caesar’s song was spotlighted in the 1932 United Artists marketing catalogs to theaters. United Artists was distributing Mickey Mouse cartoons. The cover of the sheet music featured a pie-eyed Mickey Mouse strumming a one-string homemade guitar (a standard image done by animator Les Clark for merchandise use) and the phrase “Published by License Arrangement with Walt Disney” but no distinct Disney copyright.
Musician and comedic actor Phil Harris sang a cover version of the song on a 45 rpm record single with a new version of Minnie’s Yoo Hoo on the reverse side in 1970. The record was perhaps in conjunction with Harris’ voice work in the Disney animated feature The Aristocats released that same year.
It was released as Vista Record Label #477. Harris substituted the phrase “Nixon’s House” for “Hoover’s House” on the recording since Richard Nixon was now president and not Herbert Hoover. Other recordings simply substituted the words “White House”.
By the way, Ward Kimball used that new recording of Minnie’s Yoo Hoo for the end credits of The Mouse Factory syndicated television series in 1972 with many people thinking he created the version just for use on the show.
The left library in the Walt Disney World Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction has a trumpet on a bookcase referencing an episode from that popular television series. Underneath it is the sheet music for What! No Mickey Mouse? (What Kind Of A Party Is This?) which must have still been popular when lightning struck the hotel in October 1939 and froze it in another dimension of both time and space.
Today, the song is just another of the many oddities surrounding the career of Mickey Mouse when his impact was massive.