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11 Adorable Facts About Mickey Mouse

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Image credit: Peter Lee via Flickr // CC: CC BY-NC 2.0

Today is a special day for Disneyphiles everywhere: It's Mickey Mouse's birthday. At least, it's the day Mickey was officially born, since it's the anniversary of the 1928 release of his very first cartoon, Plane Crazy. (Disney celebrates Mickey on November 18, the anniversary of Steamboat Willie—more on that below.) To honor the little rodent (we say that with love), here are a few facts you may not have known about Mr. Mouse.

1. Plane Crazy was Mickey's first flick, but Steamboat Willie is what made him famous.

Plane Crazy didn't really connect with audiences the way Steamboat did—it was also silent. Steamboat Willie was one of the first cartoons to feature synchronized sound. Disney was inspired to try out the new technology after seeing The Jazz Singer.

2. If things had gone a little differently, the mascot of the Disney company would have been Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

 Image credit: HirotomoT via Flickr // CC: CC BY-SA 2.0

Oswald was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for Universal. He was a pretty popular character, so when Disney and Universal had a spat, Universal seized control of the rabbit. Disney left shortly thereafter and ended up creating Mickey Mouse. You can see the resemblance in the figurine on display in the above photo. Universal later had the rabbit redesigned. In February 2006, Disney finally reacquired Oswald's rights. Oddly enough, this transaction involved sportscaster Al Michaels. Michaels wanted out of his ABC contract to join John Madden in the broadcast booth for NBC's Sunday Night Football. Since NBC wanted Michaels, Universal—which owns NBC—offered to return Oswald to Disney in exchange for the sportscaster.

3. Despite what Disney might tell you, Minnie and Mickey are actually married.

 Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // CC: CC BY 2.0

OK, the cartoon characters aren't married, but their real-life counterparts were. The people who voiced Minnie and Mickey were spouses. Wayne Allwine was the third person to give Mickey a voice and held the role from 1977 until his death in 2009. Allwine married Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse, in 1991. Taylor has been Minnie's voice since 1986 (and was also the voice of Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby, for fellow DuckTales fans).

4. Mickey hasn't always been so politically correct.

Some earlier cartoons have been edited or completely shelved because of content that wouldn't exactly go over with the public these days. One is the previously mentioned Steamboat Willie—there's a scene that involves what would be considered animal cruelty today when Mickey swings a cat around by its tail and uses a goose as bagpipes. Then there's Mickey's Mellerdrammer, a 1933 short that has Mickey and Co. doing Uncle Tom's Cabin, with Mickey decked out in blackface. There's a reason you don't really see that one playing when they run classic cartoons these days.

5. He may not have been on the front lines, but Mickey played his own small part during World War II.

Intelligence officers used "Mickey Mouse" as a password among themselves.

6. Disney wanted to name him "Mortimer."

The Mortimer Mouse Club doesn't exactly have the same ring to it, does it? We have Walt's wife Lillian to thank for the mouse's moniker—when he named his new character Mortimer, she told him she thought it sounded pompous and suggested the more kid-friendly "Mickey."

7. The supposed reason Mickey and his cartoon cohorts wear white gloves is simple.

It's so viewers can distinguish their hands when they were against their bodies.

8. You may have heard that Mickey Mouse is merely copyrighted, which would allow the character to eventually go into the public domain.

The Disney lawyers are all over that, of course. Mickey has also been trademarked, which means even when the copyright runs out, he's a protected as long as the Disney company continues to use him. And I don't foresee them exterminating the Mouse any time soon, do you?

9. We know Mickey as a wholesome, lovable little guy with only the best intentions—but his video game counterpart is a little "naughty."

Disney's Epic Mickey is a Wii game in which Mickey is a little less nice and a lot more deceptive and "naughty," says the game's designer, Warren Spector. "Mickey is never going to be evil or go around killing people," he said, but, "I wanted him to be able to be naughty—when you're playing as Mickey you can misbehave and even be a little selfish." The game also features a twisted take on Disneyland called "The Wasteland," a dark world Oswald the Lucky Rabbit created for cartoons who are past their prime. 

10. It's not just here in the States that Mickey is often a popular write-in vote for various elections—he's a candidate for office around the world.

In Sweden, though, it's Donald Duck (a.k.a. Kalle Anka) who is more likely to get voted in. "The Donald Duck Party" is what people write in when they either don't care or don't care for any of the candidates. In fact, in 2006, "The Donald Duck Party" came in 21st place out of the 40 represented parties running for office.

11. He's more controversial than you think.

The lovable character has been banned in Germany and Iran, from the Seoul Olympics, and Seattle liquor stores. In 1935, the Romanian government decided it would be best to not show Mickey on the large movie theater screens that were then new to the country because officials were worried that children would be terrified by the sight of a 10-foot-tall rodent. 

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A Physicist Weighs In On Whether Scrooge McDuck Could Actually Swim in a Pool of Gold Coins
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Batman has the Batcave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, and Scrooge McDuck has his money bin. For 70 years, the maternal uncle of Disney’s Donald Duck has been portrayed as a thrifty—some might say miserly—presence in cartoons and comics, a waterfowl who has such deep affection for his fortune that he enjoys diving into his piles of gold and luxuriating in them.

It’s a rather gross display of money worship, but is it practical? Can anyone, including an anthropomorphic Pekin duck, actually swim in their own money, or would diving headfirst into a pile of metal result only in catastrophic injury?

According to James Kakalios, Ph.D., a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota and author of the recently-released The Physics of Everyday Things as well as 2005’s The Physics of Superheroes, the question really isn’t whether someone could swim in a mass of gold. They could not. It’s more a matter of how badly they’ll be injured in the attempt.

Diving into a gold pile the Scrooge way—hands first, prayer-style, followed by your head—is the most efficient way to begin breaking bones. “Keeping his arms stiff and his elbows rigid, he’s definitely going to break his wrists,” Kakalios tells Mental Floss. “Gold is a granular material like sand, a macroscopic object. You can’t swim through sand or dive into it easily.” Launch yourself off a diving board from 3 or 4 feet up and you will meet a solid surface. Landing with your feet, a far better bet, is unlikely to result in injury—provided you try to bend your knees.

In that sense, diving into gold is not dissimilar from “diving” into a concrete floor. But with gold being granular, it might be possible to break the surface and “swim” if the friction were low enough. “A ball pit is a good example,” Kakalios says. “The balls are lightly packed and have low friction relative to one another. The key is to have objects in front of you move out of the way in order to advance.”

Despite being a fictional character, McDuck hasn’t totally ignored the impossible physics of his feat. His creator, Carl Barks, has written in repeated references over the years to the implausibility of using his money vault as a swimming pool and has depicted the villainous Beagle Boys trio as getting hurt when they tried to emulate the stunt. Scrooge smirked and said there was a “trick” to making the gold dive.

That’s led to one fan theory that McDuck has used his fortune to coat the gold coins in some kind of lubricant that would aid in reducing friction, allowing him to maneuver inside the vault. Ludicrous, yes. But is it possible? “You would need a massive amount of lube to slide your body past the coins with minimal effort,” Kakalios says. “The ball pit is easier because the weight of the elements is low. Gold is a very dense material.” Diving and swimming into it, even with lubricant, might be analogous to trying to shove your hand into a deep bowl of M&Ms, he says. “M&Ms have a low friction coating. Continuing to move is really the problem.”

Presuming McDuck could somehow maneuver himself deeper into the pile, his delicate duck bones would almost surely succumb to the crushing weight of the gold above him. By one estimate, diving under one of his 5-foot-tall gold piles would put 2492 pounds of pressure on his bill.

We'll see if he tips his top hat to any further gold-diving tricks—or if he's in a full-body cast—when Disney XD relaunches DuckTales this summer.

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There Will Be Plenty of Easter Eggs in DuckTales
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Disney XD/Disney XD - © 2016 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Call them duck eggs. In an interview with io9.com, producers of Disney XD's new DuckTales reboot have promised fans that the series—which continues the adventures of gold-hoarding Scrooge McDuck and his excitable nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie—will feature nods to previous incarnations of the characters.

“There’s so much even in what we’ve released already,” executive producer Matt Youngberg said. “There are so many Easter eggs and even some that people haven’t picked up on yet.”

Fans who study the available footage like the Zapruder film may have spotted paintings in the background that are beautifully reminiscent of Carl Barks, the celebrated illustrator who created Scrooge and drew many of his comic book adventures, as well as the eight-bit theme to the original Nintendo game. There will also be nods to the previous series, the games, and other DuckTales-related media. That, Youngberg said, is because not everyone has had quite the same DuckTales experience.

“A lot of people watched the cartoon,” he said. “There’s also the comics, the international comics, the video game, the old Disney duck cartoons. There’s so much to draw from. We want to try to put that all together in a version that speaks to everyone.”

Already, fans have been quacking (sorry) about the inclusion of Darkwing Duck, the cloaked lead of the 1990s series of the same name. The new DuckTales has a one-hour film premiering August 12, with the series debuting September 23.

[h/t io9]

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