There have been so many views of what mickey is, and so it seems that people have their own idea of what mickey should be. People try to draw this character and they don ‘ T really understand how complex he is just to get this black and white color into his head and in his body it’s, not easy to draw mickey.
It looks. He looks very simple and because of that simplicity, he’s difficult to draw yeah. He’s. He’s. Deceptively simple. We like to say exactly. The pressure was super real. With this set not going to lie, i mean knowing that there are so many disney fans and experts out there.
I really had to do this set some justice. Imagine crafting your own wall art. Maybe it’s, a passion that fascinates you or maybe it’s. The promise of an immersive creative experience like no other, a piece of iconic art.
You can build for yourself, relax and reconnect with your creative side. We’ve created unique soundtracks curated around the world of art, animation, music and movies, and in this soundtrack we’re, going into the work of disney animation and especially mickey and minnie mouse.
We’ll, hear from four incredibly talented, disney animators, with a deep knowledge of mickey and minnie mouse from the early days. All the way up till today, and also into the future we’ll, also meet the lego designer who created the lego, art pictures of the two iconic characters and get a peek behind the curtain of what it’s like working at The lego group, you can listen as you build at your own pace and get the inside story alright, ready to dive in.
I’m andrea collins. Welcome to lego art. Now we are joined by our first two guests: principal character, artist, brian blackmore and senior character, artist, ron kohi. So ron tell us about that moment.
When you realized, you wanted to be a disney artist, and how did you get so interested in it? Oh gosh, it’s, a it all happened for me and well. I grew up in southern california, so disneyland was always a big part of my life, especially once i was about 18 and managed to get an annual passport and started going about every week or so i just i just fell in love with it all over again, Because i loved it as a kid and that all led to you know loving disney, seeing it on tv, of course, in the movies, and i ended up falling in love with animation, specifically at the at about that same time as a teenager.
Because when i was in junior high a lot of things, kind of happened at the same time, like great films were coming out – and i got this book called the illusion of life, which was uh by frank, thomas and ollie.
Johnston, who were two of walt’s greatest animators great book? Yes, yeah it’s, a bible. It is for disney animation. It’s like the it’s. It’s. The main book that led me to find out more about it there’s, a school right there that i found out later.
You know walt had started called california institute of the arts in valencia in california, and so i ended up going there. I didn’t, get accepted the first year, but you know i worked at it and got accepted the second time and basically, that’s, that’s, how everything got rolling for me wow! I’d, like to hear more about that school in a bit ron, but let’s also introduce brian blackmore.
Now you’ve, been with disney for around 30 years. As far as i understand, you knew very early on that you wanted to work for disney. What was five years old wow that i decided i wanted to work for disney and i think that’s.
The point in people’s lives. Prior to being five years of age, you’re. You’re, not really aware of the outside world, and i think it’s at that time. When people become aware of things and of course, walt disney was still alive at that time and he had the wonderful world of color, and so my folks and my brothers and sisters – and i had quite a few of them – eight wow – we would make it that Every sunday it was our thing to watch the wonderful world of cholera and, of course, you you had your live action, films in your nature, films and things, but what really piqued? My curiosity was the cartoons, the animation and and the stories and the characters it was.
It was a a fantasy world that was, i just loved, absolutely loved. That was kind of like my introduction to disney and and that’s. What i wanted to do, there was no other thing in my life, aside from maybe being an astronaut, but definitely a disney artist.
Now ron, you mentioned california institute of art, cal arts, that walt disney co-founded in 1961. You said that you applied twice. It makes me kind of glad to know that even the best illustrators do not necessarily get into the fancy schools the first time around right and some of the best ones.
Didn’t even go. You know to be perfectly honest: you know it’s, it’s, not always a guarantee for anything and it’s. It’s. Great though i mean that one specifically, it’s. One of many, but that one for me was really great because i still keep in touch with everyone.
I went to school with a lot of them and also we had the benefit of people in the industry in the animation industry were also teaching there and working at the same time. So you got that benefit of you know disney animators teaching you there, so that was good, but there’s.
There’s, plenty of really great schools around the country and the world that teach animation now brian blackmore and ron kohi. You’re, both based in orlando florida, and we’ll, get back to you in a bit, but now let’s, jump across the country to the west coast of the u.
s character, artist, jeff shelley. You started working for disney all the way back in 1987, fresh out of art school, but before that, when you were a boy you had a teacher. That was a huge inspiration for you is that right? Oh, my god, he was amazing.
He came into our class and he goes up to the chalkboard and draws donald duck and said: look guys. I was a disney animator back in the days i worked on, dumbo and and my eyes just lit up, and it was just such an amazing experience to watch him draw and i was learning from him like original disney animator and he was teaching me to put You know a soul into these characters and we would draw hands all day and turn them and twist them in animation, and he taught me the old way of drawing you know like he was taught back then at disney let’s.
Bring in our last disney artist and a legend within the company and the world of animation, david pacheco is character, artist and creative director and has been with disney for 40 years david. I take it.
You also grew up a big disney fan, exactly absolutely love these characters. They were, they were just so real to me. In fact, i had this major crush on snow white and it wasn’t until my father explained to me what the process of animation was that this was not a real person, but she was drawn and painted.
I thought my god that’s, absolutely magic and we would go to disneyland and my father would buy me the little flip books, and this is what animation is it & # 39? S like this is what i want to do for disney.
When i grow up, i want to make cartoons so um. I went to school very actually, four schools. At the same time, because i wanted my education quickly, i didn’t. I didn’t want to wait any longer than i had.
Oh, that’s efficient. I was very determined and that determination landed you a job at hannah barbera, where you got to work on characters like fred flintstone, and i was there for two years, always hoping that i would get to disney, and that was everybody’s.
Dream because that’s like the ultimate in terms of animation, so i was there for two years and uh decided it at one point: it’s like well. Let me just go. Try, my you know, send my portfolio out there and i drove out there and they um.
I didn’t, have an appointment and but the guard took my portfolio and i thought well. You know that’s, that let’s, see what happens and the next day they called me and uh. Two weeks later i was at disney, and that was you know, 40 years ago, wow and it’s.
Been it’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve, worked on some tremendous phenomenal projects. In my 40 years i’ve, been very pleased and very fortunate, so everyone’s grown up with mickey mouse david. What’s? Your story with mickey um? I i remember seeing – and this is what i i was told by my parents and my grandparents – that when i would watch the mickey mouse club, i would actually get up and start dancing to it.
I don’t, remember it, but i i can see that i probably would in fact, even today you know it’s like oh yeah. I remember that song and and uh you know it just kind of brings back memories and then going to the disney seeing the disney films.
They were released every seven years for every new generation. So when uh peter pan would be re-released, we would go and see it. It was great and seen mary poppins and seen all these films. We would go to the to disneyland, and you know my parents would buy, buy me the books and and the little figurines and so forth.
So we grew up with disney. We had the disney toys and – and you know the mickey comics and the mickey books and the mickey coloring books. This is what we grew up with and it’s. Just it’s such a part of my life, wow jeff.
What’s, your childhood memories when it comes to disney uh? When i grew up, you know my parents, we drove to disney world when it opened, and i just remember going out in the park. I couldn’t sleep the night before and then just seeing mickey and just growing up that way and always drew as a kid, and you know my dad was always sketching and he actually drew mickey and donald and that really inspired me.
You know as a kid – and i still have his sketches of that, and now i look at it. It’s like i need to do an overlay on this yeah mickey has been described as both the easiest and most difficult cartoon character to draw.
Would you guys agree on that? Let’s start with you ron. Do you find it difficult drawing him? Yes, absolutely to this day, he’s very fun, but sometimes i’ll go over and over and over it until i get it right, yeah he’s.
He’s, deceptively simple, we like to say, and to really put a fine point on it when it when it comes to drawing mickey i don’t think anybody’s ever actually totally satisfied with the way they draw. Mickey i know from my personal experiences i can draw mickey mouse for for something and i’ll.
Look at it and i’ll, say: oh, that’s, pretty good, and then i’ll go and get maybe a glass of water or i’ll or i’ll, go to the printer To pick up a copy, and i come back and i look at the drawing again i go.
Ah i want to redo it again. You know it’s. Funny there’s. There’s, eight of us in our department, and you can take mickey mouse. Each one of us can draw mickey mouse and set it on a table and each one of us can go through and say: oh, that’s.
A ron cohen mickey or that’s, an alex maramicki or that’s, a mike sullivan mickey or that’s. A brian mickey you can’t help, but put it in your own light. You’re, you, you add something to it that i know it’s like i guess it’s like drum players.
You know you get, everybody plays the drums, but they play it a little bit differently. Doesn’t mean it’s any worse or any best. It’s, uh just differently. Yeah yeah, but only artists seem to notice that our guests, don’t, seem to notice that so mickey is deceptively simple to draw jeff.
Do you agree? Yeah i mean i’d. Look back at my sketches. I mean i seriously could stack up like reams of paper to the ceiling like five times so the amount of drawings i’ve done. I’m looking at these drawings and i’m going.
Oh my. I need to redo this or this because you know over time at that point, when you’re drawing, it looks great, you know, and you know the more you evolve and and develop things. And then you look back at your old drawings and it’s like well.
The ears need to be bigger. This needs to be bigger, so he is so simple as a character. He’s, so graphic that he’s. So complicated and people try to draw this character and they don’t really understand how complex he is just to get this black and white color into his head in his body.
How tall is mickey mouse uh? Well, he’s. Typically, he’s. Three heads tall that’s. What we go with three heads, so if you take his head uh, just the circular part of it and then move it down to beneath his neckline and then again that’s, three heads tall, so that’s.
How mickey is he has been two and a half heads tall, so you can see him where he is two and a half heads tall in the older days but uh typically, when we draw him now, we think about him as being three heads and the.
If i can interject about that as far as real life, if he were to be uh, you know in real life as he’s been represented in statues and also in like roger rabbit, for example, you know like what what height would he be Walt actually established that when he was recording his voice, i think back on the pointer was one of the films and the pointer.
Yes, exactly where mickey’s talking to a bear and he’s, saying hi, mickey mouse. You know mickey mouse, you know – and i hope you heard of me and he holds his hand out to kind of show. Like his height, you know kind of like you’re, describing a kid or something yeah, and so walt did that and they actually animated, basically the same movement on mickey, but when he did that that kind of defined what he, how tall he pictured.
Mickey, like what do you say about three feet, something like that and that’s very true. What what ron was saying that walt was in the recording studio and frank thomas who was one of the uh pioneers of disney animation, saw that and yeah.
So he reflected it in the illustration or the animation within the the film the pointer make note of that when mickey says that it’s, it’s pretty good. Is it part of the job interview process at disney that you can do a good mickey mouse impression, like you just did a moment ago, that’s, just part of our just individual passion, a repertoire? What is the recipe of drawing mickey mouse like for those of us listening if we wanted to try our shot at it are.
What are the pieces of the puzzle as far as the as far as designing or drawing mickey? The simplest way, of course, is always to start with a circle, and this is true for most characters actually, and you know it depends on, you could alter the shape of the circle and stuff as long as it’s.
Basically, you’re, you’re, providing a volume and you’ve, got to remember you’re, not drawing a line. You’re. You’re, you’re drawing. You know a representation on paper of a three-dimensional shape, so you’re gonna think in terms of volume and that’s, something we’re, taught, whether here or in animation.
Is you’re? You’re drawing in 3d, you’re sculpting paper yeah, you are you’re sculpting on paper. You start with that circle and then you just draw like a force of action. A line of action line that kind of goes down from the head down through the spine down to the bottom of the feet, just a quick line and showing what his basic pose is.
If he’s, pointing a finger that that line is shooting off that you know and yeah absolutely a line of action, it’s sitting down, and then he flesh out his you know his body his feet, his hands. You know, and sometimes i’ll, just draw it where it’s his head and then maybe his.
You know the the sort of bean shape of his body, real, quick and then his hands and feet and then add the arms and legs right after that, because those are the most important parts. So you’re, basically dealing with these ovals and circles and then later cylinders and putting them in a position that follows anatomy.
Yes, because even our own anatomy, when you look at it, if you can apply that to drawing the characters, then you can bring about a believability to the character and how the legs are meaning and how the legs and the arms are connected to the body david.
How was it for you drawing mickey for real the first time officially at disney? Did you feel any pressure i’ll tell you. It was very intimidating that’s, when we were working on mickey’s, christmas carol, which was the first time that mickey was going to be back after 30 years.
The last short that he did was who he was in was in 1953 uh, the simple things – and you saw him occasionally on television. You know – is kind of a little interstitial and maybe on a commercial or so forth, but there was never really another uh.
Theatrical short cartoon with them, so this was a special featurette that we were working on and we were all required to go to class on how to draw mickey, because there are proportions um it’s, not easy to draw mickey.
It looks. He looks very simple and because of that simplicity, he’s difficult to draw. There are proportions that you have to remember. Yes, he starts with a circle, but there is a specific placement for the ears.
The nose is below the center line. You have to think about the perspective. You have to think of mickey’s head as a three-dimensional ball and how the eyes fit onto that how they will curve there’s, a slight angle to the eyes there’s.
A slight angle to the mouth you know: how far does the black mask or the black area of his head come down? It can’t come down too far, uh. If his ears are too low, they, he looks like a little bear cub.
If they’re too high. It’s too much, so the instructor that we had. He was probably, i believe he was 19 years old and he was just amazing and so facile and drawing mickey, and we had people in the class that had been at disney, for you know, 15, 20 years or more all learning from this very young kid on How to redraw mickey – and it was just so intimidating, but wow it was great to bring him back coming up.
We take a look at the history of disney how mickey and minnie came to be and the evolution of them as characters. He had didn’t have gloves at first and then they realized that he needs gloves, because if he moved his hand in front of his his body uh you would lose the hand, so they put gloves on them.
So you can actually see they. They hand against the body and then we bring in fiorella groves the lego designer who was responsible for creating the lego. Art set that you might be working on right now and when the opportunity came up to work with disney again for lego art, it was an absolute no-brainer that it had to be classic mickey and minnie.
They’re. The world’s. Most beloved animated couple, so of course it had to be them and so much more stay with us. [ Music ] now two things that are synonymous with childhood is disney and lego toys and today, one of the reasons we’re talking to you is because of the new lego sets for adults featuring mickey and minnie.
So i’d like to go around the table with all four of you. Do you have any history playing with lego bricks and sets let’s start with you jeff? Oh, i yes, i do. I mean when i i got so many lego sets when i was little uh and even when i was my cousin would get lego sets and i was in my teens.
I would sit there and play with them and you know i love building models. I love just building building buildings, so this with mickey and many will be a real fun thing for sure david, any history playing with lego bricks, oh yeah, in fact um.
When i was a kid there was a little little boy in our neighborhood. He was a couple years younger than i was. I was about six or seven and uh. We would go over to his house, my sister and i, and he would bring out he didn’t call him legos.
He called them snapping toys and i was fascinated by them. There was no themed, it was just a rectangular box with the bricks in it and i loved playing with them and he would just go off and play and it’s like i would go over by myself and say: hey.
Can i play with your snapping toys and i would sit at his dining room table and he’d, be playing? You know with his other kids or doing whatever, and i would be at the dining room table, building whatever it was.
I was building, but i actually asked my father to buy me a set of lego and i actually still have my very first lego set that’s, amazing and brian and ron. Do you also have a history playing with lego sets? I certainly do i, i’ve loved them, since i was a kid but also uh, my son, who’s 15 now, but he still to this day, loves legos.
I i used to just love how the bricks connected him. We we tried to build a copy of the house that we lived in up in new england. Did it look like it? No, the house had a lot of gables in it. It was uh, it was an old house, it was over 150 years old and all these little gables in it.
So it made it kind of difficult, so we did the best. We could, i think now, if you, if you use the pieces that are available now, you’d, be able to get it down to the smallest detail. Oh yeah, it’s. Amazing.
Definitely it’s. Pretty incredible. I know that when we go over to disney springs uh, i i still love looking at the the giant lego sea serpent out in the water there. Oh yeah really cool just in general.
I i i’m amazed constantly amazed at these. The sets that come out, you know when you’re talking about the giant. You know death star and things like that. You know, but every little thing, the smallest ones, the biggest ones they’re, so elaborate and detailed, and the instructions are so clear and they’re.
Just amazing – and i know that one of the directors at pixar, uh, angus mclean, is a huge lego fan and he designed the wally lego set. That, i think, was one of the choice ones or i forgot what you call that that uh, where people can submit ideas and – and we have that one because it’s just so much fun, and you know it’s.
Funny that you, you should bring that up ron, because when i, when i think about lego and and and all the things that can be made from it, i’d like to know your meaning lego’s approach when they select an Item that they’re going to do and how do they go about designing it and who do they get to do it? I’d like to get to know that kind of part.
Well funny. You should say that brian, because now i’d like to bring in our next guest lego designer fiorella groves, and this is something you can say a lot about. Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us how you ended up working at the lego group, hello? My name is fiorella and i’d like to first say what an absolute pleasure it is to be joining you and listening to you and hearing you talk about mickey um it’s been uh yeah, quite a journey kind of working On the skew on this on this set – and so i’ve really been looking forward to uh meeting you.
I guess meeting you but uh, but just to talk a little bit about me to introduce myself. My name is fiorella. I have a background in literature and graphic design and i’ve, actually been designing and art directing for a little over 15 years now i’ve, worked in lots of different industries in design um prior to working at the lego group.
I was a creative director for a danish sportswear company and and after about eight awesome years in the sports apparel industry, i really was looking for a bit of a change and a different challenge and – and i still wanted to continue working for brands with values that Really match my own and and it’s just one of those days where you know it was a lovely spring day that uh a friend of mine, gave me a call and brought my attention to a job ad on lego.
com on their job page And pointed me to a position that was available there and uh. I guess the rest, as they say, is history cool, and is it true that this is the first product line you’ve worked on at the lego group? It really is yeah.
I’m super excited about this um. I’ve, actually been working at the lego group for about four and a half years now, um, but the past three and a half years has been really working even more behind the scenes.
At the lego group design organization, so previously i was working across the design categories and creating strategies and working with the design leadership teams on the who. What and how of design at lego – and so you know finally getting to work on an actual lego product – is a dream come true.
I’m, really really chuffed. To say that lego art is my first product line and what’s? It like working at the lego group – oh it’s, so fun it’s. So fun i mean you know it’s, a toy company. It’s, um it’s, just full of really fun um characters.
Actually, i have to say that there are just so many talented people where that we’re so fortunate to be working with and from all around the world. So it’s, a real sort of like um, a real hot pot of like you know, fun, talented, passionate people, and everyone is just you know, vibing off of this really lovely positivity, uh vibe around the office, and so you know, and it’s, a toy company, as i said so there’s, always something to play with there’s.
Uh there’s. A nice energy around which i really do traditional lego building is three-dimensional and this lego art is two-dimensional. So how was this task different yeah? Well, it might seem like we have one dimension list to work with, but um we do have a slightly bigger challenge in working with pixelated graphics and with lego and making sure that we get the color blending right in the lego.
Art mosaic. So this can be rather tricky when we’re working with the bricks um. We have. You know a color palette that we work with and we have to make sure that everything is blending in in the right way.
So there’s. Just so many small pieces to work with um with lego, art and depending on the content um a single round tile out of place, can really throw a piece of track, so it does take um a little bit more attention.
It does require a little bit more attention to detail and to make a really really nice piece. Can you tell us what the process is like from okay? This is the image we want to use now. How do we create it as the lego art set? Can you walk us through how that went, yeah sure um with the lego art sets being two-dimensional.
We do start doing quick, doodles first on paper and to roughly work out the composition and the content of the sets um. We then take these drawings onto the computer and work on them a little further, and since there are over, like i think, 2003 tiles to cover an average lego art set, it would really be just far too time consuming to start painting with the bricks first um.
So we really don’t get to the bricks until we’re about 80 happy with the design i’d, say we do maybe about 10 to 20 of it on sketch, at least i do in my notebook first And then we take it into computer into a graphic uh software to work on it and get the composition right to get the right amount of you know the colors in there and then a lot of the finessing will happen when it’s built In brick form, what can you tell us about the finessing uh, the finessing i mean with this particular set.
I don’t know if you can see. Well it’s. Quite um, as i said, like you know, mickey and minnie. Are they look very simple because they’re, two-dimensional sort of graphic forms? They’re, very graphic, and the colors are very strong and contrasted um, but to do that on bricks.
Just don’t translate too well, because also while we’re building with bricks, we want to create something that looks really visually stunning, but also we want to create a really really nice building experience out of it.
So we can’t just have like you know: black and white um round tiles. All over. When you look at the set you’ll, see that we ‘ Ve tried to create some texture for using some tan, some browns and some grays um and different shades around certain areas to create a little lift and to add a little dimension, and it’s, really subtle.
It really is subtle, because we don’t want to kind of make this version of mickey mini. Look too 3d, but it really is there to give them a little life because they are a dynamic duo and they like. I would like for people to look at this set and almost feel them moving and that you would get through.
You know just finessing by actually like taking like literally once they’re built. I’ll, then put it up and stand it on that stand and then step back and then literally just kind of i have a pair of pliers where i would just kind of pluck the tiles out that i need to take and then replace It with the right colors and then just keep doing this process until we’re 100 happy with it sounds meditative and maddening.
It was very meditative actually um yeah and in the booklet that comes with the lego, art set. It says: relax and reconnect with your creative side. Can you tell us a bit more about that and why it’s so appealing for us adults now well, um.
We do know from insights and understanding emerging attitudes from around the world that we’ve, simply been spending too much time being busy and not spending enough quality me time really as adults. So you know we really need to dedicate and we want to encourage um some dedication on our own well-being, so reconnecting with your creative side is an amazing way to exercise mindfulness and the lego.
Art system of building can really offer a unique medium to channel your artistic site, um in a joyfully focused way, and you know, and at the end of it you have a really stunning piece of wall art to show off.
You know how satisfying is that it’s, really really nice, then you can meditate on your piece as you look at it on your wall exactly. Why did you decide to recreate mickey and minnie in lego bricks? Oh well, disney’s, been a fantastic partner for lego for so many years now, and when the opportunity came up to work with disney again for lego art, it was an absolute no-brainer that it had to be classic mickey and minnie.
They’re. The world’s, most beloved animated couple, so of course it had to be them. What’s, your own relationship with disney, specifically mickey and minnie? I have a rather special relationship with um disney disney’s, mickey and minnie actually um, because my mom is perhaps the biggest disney fan.
I know um. You know i grew up in hong kong uh. Well, i spent you know, part of my childhood in hong kong and um disney is pretty big over there um and i remember you know growing up. You know my first ever cinema experience, for example, was to see disney’s.
Uh cinderella – and you know i still have the tiny glass slipper that my mum bought me after the movie but um, but through her she’s, really shared her love of the disney brand um with me through making mini toys stories.
Animations and you know, and ever since then you know, i’ve really had developed. This sort of emotional attachment to disney brand, and mickey minnie in particular, has always been her favorite disney characters of all.
She loves their love story and you know and how they’re, just a wonderful team, together their relationship together and – and so you know, she still collects a lot of the mickey mini merchandise and sends him over his treats for me or for her Grandchildren so um disney’s.
Mickey minnie has always been a big part of my life growing up and even now she must be very excited that you’re working on this. Ah, i can’t tell her that i’m working on this, that’s; okay, so it’s, a big secret until until it’s out and launched.
What do you think her reaction? Will be oh, my gosh, i i don’t know. Actually i think she will just be so moved so proud and um yeah and to think that you know for her to know that you know that her her influence has actually worked.
You know um because i think at one point you know i think i had a bit of a mickey mini like you know, there was just an overdose of stuff yeah like i want to see something else, and you know, but but she’s, Been quite persistent with it so for her to see that i’ve worked on the mickey mini ski for lego.
I think she ‘ Ll, be immensely proud, her persistence paid off. Yes exactly! I bet you’ve, drawn mickey mouse many times while working on this. Do you agree with what disney artists said before that it’s super tough to get them just right? Oh absolutely! Absolutely i mean you know.
The pressure was super real. With this set not going to lie, i mean knowing that um there are so many disney fans and experts out there. I really had to do this, set some justice, um and as jeff says, you know just it’s.
He’s, not as simple as he looks um. You know there’s, a certain symmetry with mickey that you have to get right and the balance in the proportions have to be just right. So you know, not only did i have my mom in mind when building the set, but you know it’s.
Uh it’s. Only mickey minnie, like the world’s, most famous, most beloved animated character. So anything less than perfection, it wasn’t gonna cut it so um. You know just just kind of getting those proportions right.
We did a lot of um different um sketches um, actually on paper um to get the the composition right in the in the square format um, but also you know, on the the brick on the uh, the brick built item itself, um to kind of you know Really move uh, some of the mosaics around just to kind of like you know, take one out here and then you change the proportion there and take one out there, and then you perfect it over here.
You know so um there was a. There was a lot of finessing and uh squinting and chin stroking involved. I bet so so jeff. What do you think of the lego arts set of mickey and minnie? Do you think fiorella and the team did a good job? No, it’s.
Awesome yeah i don’t need to do any corrections on it. I’m, so pleased to hear that jeff, you have my approval. Thank you that’s. That’s really made my day. It’s made my year to hear you say that, but it was nice to hear that how you you worked on it and you did your homework and it and, like you said it’s, it’s like you Have to to really like focus on it to make it look right, um david, do you agree with jeff? I think they did a great job because it’s, a pointillism.
You know you you can you can’t see it up. Close, but you have to really step back to see it and to be able to create and replicate this character or any image in with all these colored tiles. Just these mosaics is just amazing to me.
It’s, wonderful ron and brian. Oh, i think that’s great, oh, my god, brian can chime in. Of course, you know that looks just like the models that you see of those characters that that, at that time, collide uh representations of them from the 30s.
Exactly it’s very appealing, i have to tell you uh the the collide one. I find that probably the most appealing uh yes, the contemporaries is fun too, but i i have this like mickey the brave little taylor.
He’s pie-eyed in that i mean colite and it it’s so cute. It really is. I i’m right there with with ron, i i really like the choice, plus you’re, trying to put a soul into this character as well, so make him not look so stiff and – and he has a line of action going Through him again, these characters were animated.
So when you look at it, you still want to feel like he’s in motion and not just a stand-up cardboard character. That’ll fall over absolutely. He’s uh! He’s. Really. He’s really tricky to get right, and i i have the utmost appreciation for you know for what you’ve, what you’ve, been doing over the years, and you just to get that right.
Every single time it’s, yeah it’s, really quite a skill. Let’s, go back in time and talk about the history of walt disney and how mickey and minnie came to be. I’m. So glad we have david pacheco with us for this david.
Some of your colleagues refer to you as a disney historian. Well, not so much a historian just that i’ve been there for so long. I remember a lot yeah for sure. So maybe you could tell us a bit about walt disney’s background leading up to the creation of mickey mouse.
Yes um, he was mickey walt was born in chicago in 1901 uh and his family moved. You know occasionally, and he grew up in marceline missouri and then eventually they moved to kansas city missouri and walt always enjoyed art and drawing he was always drawing as a kid and in fact there was there’s.
One story where he was in grammar school and they had an art class and they were supposed to draw this. You know a bowl of flowers or whatever. So all the kids, you know drew what you know. The teacher told them to and made their their pictures of the flowers and so forth, but walt he put faces on his flowers and gave them personalities, and his teacher said.
That is not the assignment and she reprimanded him a little bit because he did not follow the directions. Years later. In 1932, the very first color technicolor cartoon was flowers and trees where the flowers actually had faces and personality.
So he told her in about 1920 uh walt met ab iwerks, who was a tremendous draftsman and together they created a company called laugh grams and they created kind of little ads and short cartoons. That would you you would see before the uh main feature in the theater, and this went on for about three years and eventually went bankrupt in 1923, walt moved to hollywood, with the idea that he was going to become a hollywood director of live action films.
But he couldn’t get into the door and it just didn’t work out for him. So with his brother roy, they established the disney brothers studio and they created the alice comedies. Now the alice comedies were just short cartoons where they had a live little girl that lived in a cartoon world kind of like alice in wonderland, and this went on for you know i think, a few years until about 1927 alice, just kind of wore itself out And in 1927 uh walt created oswald the lucky rabbit and uh he and and by works, but unfortunately he lost it to the distributor charles mintz, because he walt did not copyright or own the rights to this particular character, so he lost them.
In fact, charles mintz took all of his films and almost all of his animation staff. He just almost completely wiped walt out and was devastated and um that uh. That was an unfortunate, but something good came out of that and that’s.
How mickey mouse came to be exactly walt uh and his wife were on the train back to uh hollywood, and he was coming up trying to come up with a replacement for oswald, and they came up with this idea of mickey because walt at one time had A little pet mouse that he would keep on his desk and hub eyeworks actually did the original drawings of mickey and help with the original design, but it was walt that helped give and establish the personality of mickey mouse.
In fact, mickey mouse is kind of an extension of walt’s, own personality with his own morals and his own ideals. In fact, walt was actually the voice of mickey mouse for for many many years from the the 20s up until the 40s and uh mickey’s, uh actually real name.
His official name was mortimer, but walt’s. Wife lillian thought. Oh, my god, that’s, way way way too pretentious. So let’s, cut it down and just let’s just make him mickey mouse instead and that’s, how he came to be born on a train from new york to hollywood wow, you mentioned ub iwerks, i’ve heard a lot of people refer to him as the father of mickey, at least he was the other parent.
What can you say about him and his collaboration with walt? They were partners for for years and years, and he was just a drawing machine. He was an absolutely phenomenal animator when animation was kind of still in its infancy and he could do up to 700 drawings a day and it’s, just just amazing the output of work that he would do and what he would do is.
He would animate what we call straight ahead, so he would start at drawing number one put a number two, three, four, five, all the way to the very end of the scene, and he was just phenomenal. He could just produce all these.
In fact, the first three films were almost entirely animated by ub himself in the late 30s. They they parted ways so created his own company and moved to florida, and he had a series of cartoons called comic, color and uh.
They did very well, but they they kind of lacked a lot of the personality that walt was able to give to his characters. What was a good animator, but walt knew exactly the best way to tell a story, the the uh.
He was a master storyteller and he could just hone in on the individual personalities of each character and that’s. A little bit where, where, where i’m, just kind of stood off to the side in regards to to his product and then later on up was more of an inventor for uh studios and he came up with uh.
He won several academy awards for his uh technological achievements in film, so, for example, the uh in the movie, the birds, the alfred hitchcock movie, the birds. He did win uh an academy award for the special effects of of the birds themselves and so forth and then later on, he he and walt came back and they you know, enjoyed their friendship again.
You know years later, but uh he was an amazing person wow to be the person in charge of the birds and the birds that’s, that’s, quite something among many things. Yes, yeah exactly so now, walt and of iwerks were creating the first mickey shorts, but walt wasn’t able to find a distributor that would take a chance on the first two mickey shorts walt refused to give up so one day when they were Working on a third mickey mouse cartoon steamboat willie, he said we’ll make him over with sound it.
Wasn’t. The first cartoon was sound, but this was different. It was the first cartoon with synchronized uh soundtrack to the movement of the character, so this was a big deal. Oh, it was. It was absolutely tremendous because the uh, the jazz singer, uh with al joseph, was released in 1927, and that was the very first talking film ever and walt was always the innovator.
He was always looking. What is the latest technology? What is the newest that we can do and when he saw the jazz scene, he’s like this is what i need to do. I need to add sound to this, and that was an innovation for the very first time that walt was able to bring to this, and you know walt had so many innovations throughout his career.
It was, he was a phenomenal, phenomenal uh guy. I bet making a soundtrack in sync, with the animation on screen was very difficult at that time. How did they do it? Basically, they projected it in the home of one of the animators.
They had the projector outside shooting in from the window, so they wouldn’t, hear the motor running from the projector and it was being projected on a sheet and they were behind the sheet walt and then the other animators making the sounds with the Whistles and the and the the little musical instruments and so forth, and they were watching this and they had a little metronome click.
Click click click, click to give them the actual beat, and so they could watch us over and over and over again until they got the synchronization right and that’s, how they recorded it. It was very, very, very basic at the time, and but it was, it was the very first synchronized sound cartoon ever wow.
What a process [ Music ]. Now let’s. Talk a bit about the different voices of mickey mouse david. You mentioned it briefly before, but let’s circle back to that who’s. The first voice of mickey the first voice of mickey was actually walt himself and uh.
He voiced uh mickey from the 19th 1929. The very first line was hot dog. He was mickey, was selling hot dogs in the carnival kid and uh. He would just do mickey. It was just kind of him and his little falsetto and he did the the voice for many years up until the late 1940s.
When running the studio just got to be way way way too much for him. So then he passed it the uh, the voice on to the head of sound effects, a man by the name of jamie mcdonald and jimmy did the voice up until uh.
He passed away, but his protege in sound effects was wayne allwine and jimmy taught wayne how to recreate the voice of mickey and then wayne did the voice of mickey up until the time he passed away and now uh there’s, a new um Voice artist, brett ewan – that does the voice of mickey.
So now there have been four official voices of mickey mouse a little fun fact. One of those official voices of mickey mouse was actually married to the official voice of minnie mouse. Mickey’s voice from 1977 to 2009 wayne alwyn was married to russy taylor, who did the voice of minnie from 86 to 2019 [ Music ].
The first mickey short that was made was plain crazy. The first one the world saw was the one we just talked about. Steamboat willie mickey looked a bit different back then. Can you take us through how his look has evolved over time? There have been so many views of what mickey is, and so it seems that people have their own idea of what mickey should be.
Oh yeah, uh, like you, said 1928. He had already done a couple of shorts prior to steamboat willie, where the sound was introduced. Galloping gaucho and plane crazy within even 10 years. Less than that of that time you saw him change repeatedly.
Well, initially, mickey and minnie were just black and white characters. They were pretty much in black ink on whiteboard, pretty much like what you saw in the newspaper. Every day in the comics they were just plain black and white.
Maybe on sunday you might see them in color. They had to keep things very simple back then, because they were, they were knocking these cartoons out really quick, oh yeah. He originally had suspenders, but they got rid of that to save time, but the two buttons and it became the icon of his pants and it’s more like little boy shorts back, then waltz always wanted these characters.
To look cute, like you’re, a kid in your parents or grandparent’s, closet putting shoes on walking around, which brings it to the little cute factor. Yeah. Definitely he had didn’t have gloves at first uh.
Then they realized that he needs gloves, because if he moved his hand in front of his his body uh you would lose the hand so they put gloves on them.