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.
Note that it was adults who were fascinated by Mickey Mouse, back in an era when cartoons were specifically targeted toward adult audiences. Today, except among collectors, Mickey Mouse is considered children’s fare exclusively. “The Mickey Mouse Playhouse” is targeted toward pre-schoolers.
The film “Mickey’s Gala Premiere” shows Mickey hobnobbing with the likes of Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, the Barrymores, and other popular Hollywood stars of the era–a good indication of his amazing popularity in the 1930’s, and his adult appeal.
““The Mickey Mouse Playhouse” is targeted toward pre-schoolers.”
You’re probabbly thinking about “The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, which has already been replaced by “Mickey and the Roadster Racers”. Ah well. The new Mickey Mouse 2D shorts are more entertaining, though I’d still love to see a “Mouse Tales” animated series in the adventure style of the old Floyd Gottfredson comic strip serials.
Yeah the new Mickey Mouse shorts are pretty good but people didn’t seem to care much about his 90th anniversary because aside from those nice shorts, Mickey has mostly been the same character for decades.
Bolsheviki Mickey sez: no collusion!
Thanx Jim; another great post.
Well, a cartoon mouse would make a far better POTUS than the sad excuse of a figurehead we have for one right now. >:^P
Trump Derangement Syndrome is so sad.
Who else wants Cagney’s hat with the WB badge?
When I recently saw the movie ” Return of Mary Poppins”, I said to my wife while exiting the auditorium, “A Disney movie without a Disney cartoon, I did not foresee that”.
Disney can’t afford to reissue their older product to theaters. Which is why we have those live-action remakes!
T. Maynard: just curious, what do you mean by “a Disney movie without a Disney cartoon”? Not sure I understand. I thought the Mary Poppins sequel was made in the same vein as the original 1964 film (mostly live-action, but with some hand-drawn animation).
I think T. Maynard is referring to the old practice – back in the 1960s-70s – of Disney releasing a new feature with an accompanying new featurette or short cartoon. Even most Disney (and Pixar) animated features released today are distributed with a short. But that practice had been discontinued decades ago for their live action films – there was no reason to expect it with MARY POPPINS RETURNS (which did contain a much welcome a hand drawn animation sequence).
The new Disney streaming service will supposedly make the entire Disney catalog available. I wonder if that means just movies or if cartoons and tv shows are also included. If cartoons are included, I wonder to what extent they will be censored. Mickey’s cartoons can be pretty violent. In Mickey’s Mellerdrammer he goes in blackface, and that’s, I’m sure, not the only time. In his first cartoon, Plane Crazy, he tries to use the fact that Minnie is stuck in the plane with him to force an unwanted kiss, forcing Minnie to jump out of the plane and use her bloomers as a parachute.
And, I don’t really expect Song of the South to be included. It would be nice if the old Mouse Factory shows will be available, but I suspect not.
Yes, I have the Treasure tins and package features in their mostly complete glory. But I still crave old clip shows like “The Mouse Factory” and those anthology hours with pretty good linking animation (Von Drake observes Donald’s parenting skills; Goofy daydreams with the encouragement of a Goofy Peter Pan; Chip and Dale remake “Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame”; producer Jiminy Cricket tries to gather the gang, etc.).
“Mickey is still celebrating his 90th anniversary but very few people really seem to care.” I think it might be because November 18th (Mickey’s official birthday) came and went.