It's well known that in 1928, Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie were the first animated Disney cartoons to feature Mickey Mouse - a character that would become an iconic part of American culture and the symbol of Walt Disney's studios and magical kingdom. But what isn't so well-known is the role that Walt Disney's longtime friend and animator Ub Iwerks played in Mickey's creation.
Created overnight after Walt Disney's previous character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was stolen from him by his previous distributor, Mickey Mouse was a joint effort by Disney and Iwerks. Disney produced the films and supplied Mickey with his voice, but Iwerks first drew and animated the unassuming character.
Mickey Mouse changed the life of both Disney and Iwerks, and the two would establish the base that ensured a future for animation and saw it transcend mere cinematic novelty and become one of the most successful and loved forms of film.
The story and works of Ub Iwerks in both his time at the Disney studio and beyond is the subject of a special program screening in the fifth Melbourne International Animation Festival this week at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
Central to the program is The Hand Behind the Mouse - The Ub Iwerks Story. Completed in 1999, this feature documentary was written, directed and produced by Iwerks' granddaughter, Leslie Iwerks, who will be in Melbourne for the festival and will introduce her documentary and a session of her grandfather's first Disney animations.