It’s the short film that revolutionized animation. Steamboat Willie is an animated short released in 1928 by the Walt Disney company. Mickey Mouse stars as the titular Steamboat Willie.

We don’t hear Mickey’s iconic voice in this short. But, the sounds synchronized with the actions in the short was an amazing achievement for the 1920s. This was right after the first “talkie” films, and Walt Disney was ahead of the curve when it comes to recognizing synchronized sound as the key to the future.

“Steamboat Willie” was not the first Disney short film to feature Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend, Minnie, but, it was the first to be distributed. And, it’s the most iconic. Anyone who has watched a movie made by the Walt Disney Animation Studios after 2007 has seen a short clip of this short before the film begins. The success of “Steamboat Willie” actually led to two other Mickey Mouse shorts to be reproduced with sound and given theatrical releases.

It’s an easy short to get through with a run time of seven minutes. For any Disney fan, or fan of older animation, it’s a must watch, despite some questionable content. The short has been censored at times because of the perception of cruelty to animals. However, Disney Plus shows the short in its entirety and the animal scenes are jarring to see. Mickey grabs a cat by the tail and swings it above his head. He also “plays” pigs and a duck as if they are musical instruments. It’s something that was accepted in the 1920s that is not acceptable today.

Overall, I enjoyed the short. I don’t think I would want to watch a two hour feature of the character with 1920s technology. I, probably, wouldn’t watch a 30 minute tv show with this technology. But, for seven minutes, it kept my attention. I laughed at parts. I cringed at parts. It was fun.

I never thought much about “Steamboat Willie” before. It wasn’t until my oldest son asked about the Mickey Mouse he saw before “Meet the Robinsons” that I explained to him what “Steamboat Willie” was. His first reaction was “Daddy, I want to watch that.” We watched it together and he said, “Daddy, that was a lot of fun, but nobody better do to Ginger what Mickey did to the cat!” (Ginger is our pet cat.) In the end, this short gave me something to watch with my son and he’s begged me to watch other movies and shorts on Disney Plus together. And, for that I’m grateful.

Ranking: 3 stars out of 5.

Have you seen “Steamboat Willie?” What did you think of it? Are you interested in watching it?

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Jeremy Brown

Jeremy has been a big Disney fan since he was a kid growing up during the Disney Renaissance. One day he hopes to go to every Disney Park in the world.

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  1. I Am Groot March 25, 2020

    Did you see the survey that Disney sent out asking if people would like to see shows like Modern Family and Black-ish on Disney Plus.

  2. Tia March 28, 2020

    Saw this short for the first time several weeks ago and I will admit that how seriously not PC it was, I found a bit jarring. How the animals were treated. How Minnie was treated (and acted). I... didn't like the short. I'd planned to have my preschoolers see it, but after previewing it, I changed my mind. I'll have them watch when they're much older and we can discuss these and other issues. It's a historically important piece of film, but not an enjoyable one, in my opinion.