A TRIBUTE TO A WORLDWIDE KNOWN CHARACTER: Today marks the 80th anniversary of Mickey Mouses first appearance in front of an audience ...at the Colony Theater in New York before the main feature, Gang War ...starring Olive Borden, Eddie Gribbon and Jack Pickford, Mary Pickfords brother ...Although, like so much about Mickey Mouse, there is some inexactitude about his birthdate. Walt Disney claimed to have fathered the Mouse out of desperation ... on a train ride from New York to Los Angeles in March 1928 after he discovered that his distributor ...a weasel named Charles Mintz, had the legal rights to the previous character Disney had created ...Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and had surreptitiously hired away most of his animators. Essentially fired from his own studio, Disney, only 27 at the time, set to work with the three animators who had not defected ... and together they made a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Disney always thought of Mickey as a kind of Chaplin-esque imp, who provoked and was put upon by the world. Iwerks, on the other hand, thought of Mickey as a Douglas Fairbanks-like swashbuckler who wasnt so much subversive as he was heroic. His Mickey had a gallantry that the modest, painfully introverted, monosyllabic Iwerks clearly saw as a self-fantasy. Thus was Mickey Mouse born a schizophrenic, never certain of who he really was. You see the split personality in the very first two Mickey cartoons. Plane Crazy was the first to be animated and Steamboat Willie, with its sound accompaniment, was the first to be released. In Plane Crazy, Mickey fancies himself a Charles Lindbergh, slapping together an airplane out of auto parts and animals and taking his girl, Minnie, for a ride with comic consequences. Thats Iwerkss Mickey. In Steamboat Willie, Mickey is a mate on Pegleg Petes boat. Much to Petes consternation, Mickey finds himself seized by music mania and turns everything he sees ...from a goat to a cat to a sow, into a musical instrument, often pulling, hitting or squeezing with casual sadism. That's Disney's Mickey. This oscillation between Fairbanks and Chaplin would continue even after Iwerks decided to leave the company early in 1930 and run his own studio. Mickey till now was either a hero or a subversive... He also expressed a ludic joyful infantile liberty... among other specifities.He had rapidly become the most popular star in movies... Where the early Mickey was all lines and angles, with pipestem legs and arms and a pointy nose, the new Mickey as redesigned by the great animator Fred Moore (who would later design the dwarves in Snow White) was rounder, softer, squatter, heavier, more pear-shaped, which led to another identity crisis. The early, rambunctious Mickey was mostly mouse. (In fact, Louis B Mayer of MGM had angrily rejected an opportunity to distribute the cartoons because he said that pregnant women in the audience would be terrified of a giant mouse on the screen.) The reconceptualised Mouse was more man or boy.He had shed his trademark red shorts for a whole new wardrobe ... and he had seemingly moved with his dog Pluto to the suburbs where he courted Minnie .... (romantically and often musically, rather than aggressively as he once did) ...and he assumed a number of disparate roles, like any Hollywood actor.Mickey the scientist, Mickey the giant slayer, Mickey the detective. What he had lost was his mischief his deepest or at least his most interesting self. Already by the late 1930s the Disney animators felt strapped by Mickey. Because he could be everything, he was essentially nothing.... but soon mickey disappeared... or of course, we could say Mickey survived, but he has become a name, an icon, a corporate logo, a brand of merchandise. At least HE HAD CEASED TO BE WHAT HE WAS ESSENTIALLY, THAT IS TO BE A CHARACTER. He then appeared in different ways but Even then, it was another indication of how much his identity had evaporated that when he did return it was in Mickeys Christmas Carol, as the nondescript Bob Cratchit. What Mickey fans celebrate today, then, is what Mickey once was way back before success ruined him. It is that early Mickey, with his sinister toothy grin and his limitless elasticity ...The Mickey we enjoyed and who we miss 80 years after he arrived on the scene.