It was in September 1928 that the world's most famous rodent made his screen debut, in Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon with synchronised sound. It revolutionised animation, and formed the foundation of the Disney empire of which the eternally youthful septuagenarian remains the mascot. They were heady days for Mickey. By 1931 the Club, with its special handshake, song and oath, boasted one million members; by 1934 Disney employed 15 people just to oversee product licensing agreements. Mickey, born during the Depression, had a simple, optimistic outlook, and Walt Disney decreed that he should always symbolise "the ideals, dreams and struggle that made America". After an extended screen absence, a distinctly "cooler" Mickey re-emerged in the Nineties in a series of new shorts. But he still had his old gang: girlfriend Minnie (now holding down a job), Pluto and Goofy (two dogs, only one of which wears clothes) and of course Donald Duck. And the unalterably uncool falsetto voice remained, this time courtesy of Wayne Allwine, who learnt the role from Jimmy MacDonald, who in turn inherited it from Walt Disney himself.
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