Walt Disney came up with the idea for Mickey in 1928 on a long train ride between New York and Los Angeles. Originally, he wanted to name his character Mortimer Mouse, but his wife Lillian thought it was too snobbish, so he changed it to Mickey.
"I had this mouse in the back of my head... because a mouse is sort of a sympathetic character in spite of the fact that everybody's frightened of a mouse... including myself," Disney remembered later.
Mickey's first silent cartoon was called Plane Crazy. Disney could not find a financial supporter willing to invest money into this project, but he was determined to try again. The Gallopin' Gaucho was Mickey's second and final silent performance. Next came Steamboat Willie, which was complete with dialogue and music.
The 1930s was Mickey's busiest decade. During that time Disney produced 87 of his 120 total short cartoons. In fact, Walt Disney himself did Mickey's voice until 1947. Since then there have only been 2 other official Mickey voices: Jim Macdonald until 1977, and Wayne Allwine, who has been playing Mickey ever since.
Mickey is far more than just a cartoon character. He is a very recognizable symbol in America and all over the world. Mickey Mouse represents childhood innocence and fun for millions of people, old and young.
In the words of Walt Disney, "I hope we never lose sight of one thing ... that it was all started by a mouse."