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1928 Index
"Plane Crazy"
     Release Date - May 15, 1928 Running Time - 6:00
Screen Shots
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Plane Crazy

Plane Crazy

Plane Crazy

Plane Crazy

Plane Crazy

Plane Crazy

Title Cards
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Plane Crazy

Plane Crazy

"A Mickey Mouse Cartoon"


Mickey tries to emulate his hero, Charles Lindberg, and woo Minnie with his own, homemade airplane.


Mickey Mouse
Minnie Mouse
Clarabelle Cow


Director : Walt Disney
Ub Iwerks
Hugh Harman
Rudolph Ising
Helen Sewell
Lillian Disney
Edna Disney
Music : Carl Stalling


The first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made.


United States
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions : Minnie
The Hand Behind the Mouse : The Ub Iwerks Story
Gold Editions : Minni
I Capolavori di Minni


United States
Mickey Mouse : The Black and White Years
Milestones for Mickey
Mickey Mouse : A Star is Born
Minnie's Greatest Hits / Pluto's Greatest Hits
Minnie : Limited Gold Edition
Mickey Mouse : The Black and White Years


United States
Disney Treasures : Mickey Mouse in Black and White
Disney Treasures : The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Vintage Mickey


The Ink and Paint Club : #2 : Mickey Landmarks

Technical Specifications

Color Type Black and White
Animation type Standard
Sound mix Mono; Cinephone
Aspect ratio 1.37 : 1
Negative format 35mm
Print format 35mm
Cinematographic process Spherical
Original language English

Released by Celebrity Productions, Inc.

Historical Footnotes

The official studio version of the creation of Mickey Mouse says that Walt Disney created the Mouse while on the train ride back to L.A. after losing the Oswald contract. But shortly before he died in 1971, Ub Iwerks told a somewhat different version about the Mouse's creation, and it is worth retelling here:

When Walt got off the train in Los Angeles, Roy and Ub were there to meet him along with two new employees that were hired while Walt was in New York. The defecting animators were still back at the studio finishing up an the Oswald contract; there were still three more shorts left to go before the contract expired. Walt told Roy the bad news that he had lost Oswald. He then met the new guys and then told them to keep a close eye on the defectors. "Make sure their faces are in those drawing boards." he said, "Don't even give them time to wipe their noses. I don't care what they put into those cartoons now, they're working for their new boss, Charlie Mintz. But for their own sakes, those shorts had better be good!"

The reason for all this was that Walt didn't want to the defectors to know what his next move was. But what was his next move? Walt scheduled a meeting to be held that evening in his living room. Roy and Ub attended. Walt explained to them that if the studio was going to survive, he had to start a new series. He asked them if they any ideas who or what he could use as a central character. Roy suggested a cat since they were popular. Walt nixed the idea saying he couldn't compete against Felix and Krazy Kat. Ub then suggested a mouse since there were no series starring a mouse. (Not quite altogether true, since Fables studio had produced a number of shorts with a Mickey and Minnie couple in them, but it was not an official series and the mice were unnamed. This, however would later become a bone of contention between Disney and Fables' corporate successor, Van Beuren) Walt was agreeable to that and asked to see what Ub could come up with.

Iwerks then drew up some continuity sheets (there were no such things as storyboards then) about a comedic story built around the Lindbergh flight which would be called Plane Crazy. Walt looked at the sheets, crossed out a panel, and gave Ub the green light. To make sure that the rest of the staff would not know what Ub was up to, Iwerks locked himself in an office and for the next six weeks, single-handedly animated Plane Crazy (In the 1920's it was unusual, but not uncommon for a single animator to produce a complete short as evidenced by cartoons produced by Fables and Pat Sullivan Studios. It was also during this period that Iwerks broke Bill Nolan's record of the most animation drawings produced in a day (564) by turning out an astonishing 700 drawings.) Of course, Ub didn't do everything on the short. The ink and paint was done by Walt and Roy's wives who were taken out of retirement and put to work in Walt's garage which he converted into a satellite studio. The photography was done after hours. It was in early May that Plane Crazy was in the can and Walt took the short over to a local theater for a test screening. He even coached the organist on how to follow the film.

(The Disney studio has always maintained that Nov. 18th as Mickey's official birthday based on the first showing of Steamboat Willie. However, this showing of Plane Crazy six months earlier really marks the Mouse's true debut. Also this was the only time that Plane Crazy was shown as it was designed to be shown: a silent film.)

Both versions of the story do agree that Walt had decided to call his new creation Mortimer. But again accounts differ as to renaming. I have come across at least three different versions of the story:

Version 1 : In the most widely accepted version of this story it was Lillian Disney who found the Mortimer too pretentious and suggested the name change even including Minnie as Mickey's girlfriend. There may be some credence to this story. Comic book detective Bill Blackbeard had uncovered a 1920's Mickey and Minnie Mouse in the pages of Good Housekeeping Magazine in a strip drawn by Johnny (Raggedy Ann) Gruelle. The relationship between Gruelle's mice and Disney's were quite different but Good Housekeeping was one of the most widely read women's magazines (still is) and most certainly read by Lillian Disney which would go to show that if Lillian wasn't being especially creative in renaming the mice she at least had a good memory.

Version 2 : In this version, one of the first distributors that Walt approached with his new creation liked the character, but not the name, and it was his Objection that led Walt to the renaming.

Version 3 : This version comes from Mickey Rooney. In the 1928, Mickey was appearing in a series of comedies based on a character from Fontaine Fox's strip "Toonerville Folks": Namely Mickey (himself) McGuire. Rooney had taken that character's name as his own while he was appearing in the series. During a break in filming Walt visited the set and asked Rooney his name. He replied "Mickey McGuire". Walt repeated the name several times, and according to Rooney that was when Mortimer Mouse became Mickey Mouse.

P.S. It may be worth noting that when the Mickey Mouse comic strip began its run in 1930, the very first story it ran was a comic strip adaptation of Plane Crazy.


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From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Alright, so we know that Walt and his remaining crew had to work in secrecy to create the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy. For the most part, while the rest of the studio finished the remaining Oswalds, Ub Iwerks worked behind closed doors creating the debut of the Disney Studio’s newest character. It is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing animation achievements I have ever seen.

Not to say that Plane Crazy is perfect, but when watching it, you are drawn into the characters, their situation, and what is going on in Mickey’s head, which is truly amazing considering that most of the short was done by one man. Even the title card acknowledges it, listing the short as “A Walt Disney Comic – by Ub Iwerks.” That singling out of one man as the key animator is something that you would not expect from Disney, but it was vital here.

This time around, I watched Plane Crazy with the sound down, so that I could see it the way it was originally animated, without a soundtrack. I will revisit it again with the soundtrack to see the differences, but I think I can honestly say that the entertainment value could not increase.

The story is simple – Mickey Mouse admires Charles Lindbergh, and decides to get in his own plane and take a flight. The animals of the barnyard try to help him out by creating a plane, but that one doesn’t get off the ground. He creates a second plane out of a beat up car, and manages to get Minnie up in the air with him. Of course, as in any good Disney story, something goes horribly wrong, and the plane comes crashing to the ground.

The real thing to marvel at here, though, is not just that this short was done almost entirely by one man, but that there are no shortcuts. The backgrounds are more detailed than the Oswalds, the characters have more fluid motion, and the point of view changes frequently.

Take the sequence where Minnie is in the plane alone, flying behind a cow, and the POV is from behind her, as it shifts from side to side as an example. Then there’s the sequence when the plane begins to crash, and the POV is looking straight down at the ground, which circles around and around as the plane comes down. It’s simply amazing.

No review of Mickey’s first appearance would be complete without talking about the character design. He is obviously different from the current rounded, smiling mouse we know as the corporate symbol. Mickey in Plane Crazy is a spindly limbed mouse with a fat oval body and circular head. It’s a very different idea from the design of Oswald or even Julius, who each had thick limbs and a rounded feel.

Mickey here is also more of the adventurer and the mischievous soul than he would become later. While up in the plane, he forces a kiss on Minnie, which prompts her to jump out of the plane. What’s great is that simply by looking at him, you can see the mischief in his thoughts, which is more of the great personality animation that Disney is famous for. All in all, an extremely successful debut short for Walt Disney’s most popular character.

From Mac : Good points about Mickey being different to Oswald. It is often implied that the early Mickey was essentially Oswald with round ears and a long tail. However, when watching the earliest Mickey cartoon immediately after the Oswalds, this just isn't true at all. Not in terms of design, movement or personality.

Mickey is a bit of a rogue in this cartoon which is very different to Oswald. We didn't see Oswald deliberately scare and laugh at Sadie or try and force her to kiss him! Another change is how Oswald was constantly changing shape - getting squashed, losing his head, bouncing round as a ball, removing his tail and ears, wringing himself out etc. With Mickey and Plane Crazy these kind of gags are much less frequent. As a result, some of Mickeys bangs and crashes seem a lot more painful (check out Mickey's face when he crushes his nuts on a branch falling down the tree).

Another interesting thing to mention is that Mickey is immediately being established as a creature of the barnyard. There's no reason for a cartoon about flying planes to be set on a farm - in Oswald cartoons, the rabbit was just wherever the action was and you're not expected to think where he would live. Here, however, we're introduced to a character who apparently lives on a farm and so all his friends are farm animals (rather than a random assortment of dogs, cats, wolves and elephants).

From Ryan Kilpatrick : That's something I've noticed, too, about Mickey being a creature of the barnyard. He seems to be much more of the barnyard than Julius or Oswald.

I also agree on the design. He is much more spindly, not quite the round, fluffy guy that Oswald was. And he's definitely much more of a rogue.

I'm interested to see the evolution of Mickey much more than the Oswald or Julius characters. He just seems to have so much development over the years, that it will be very interesting to watch.

From Patrick Malone : I think the fact that this and a lot of the early shorts take place in a barnyard may have to do with the fact that Disney just couldn't animated people well yet. So his cartoons had to be populated with animals. Where is the obvious place to find a bunch of animals? In a barnyard. Couple that with Walt's fanciful idea of his bucolic youth and the barnyard scenes were a natural fit. It works well in shorts like The Barnyard Concert; not quite as naturally in some like The Barnyard Battle.

There's also a real change coming in Mickey, and the reason why Donald Duck surpassed him in popularity. Humor derives from pain; either our own or more often, someone else's. But with that, there is the part of our minds that, in order to see it as funny, you had to feel that the character deserved it in some sense. Mickey became such a nice guy that you couldn't feel his pain was comical; you ended up feeling more sympathetic. With Donald, you could laugh at him because you felt he deserved what was coming to him.

But this one is funny because the character of "Mickey Mouse" hadn't been established in people's minds, so you could get away with doing a lot more to him. And to Minnie.

From Mac : It is cool how the earliest Mickey cartoons keep a constant feeling of movement right from the first frame to the last. They don't even have the traditional iris opening and closing, but instead fill or empty the screen of complete black with a moving device such as panning foliage, a cow walking away from the viewer or a star zooming from a crash.

From Patrick Malone : I think it's also remarkable how often they did the full background animation in these early days. It must have been a pain, but it was doable when they were doing simple line drawings as backgrounds. Unfortunately they had to give up on it as the backgrounds became more and more complex and I don't believe they ever tried again with a full perspective moving background until 1935 with Three Orphan Kittens.

From Michael Sporn : An historical note rarely stated: This was the first animated film to use a camera move. The POV shot from the plane made it appear as if the camera were trucking into the ground. In fact, when they shot this scene, they piled books under the spinning background to move the artwork closer to the camera.

From Samuel E. Lago : I saw this film recently and I must say, it was surprising. The Mickey in this film is far from the lovable Mickey character we know of today. I now realize how much of him was softened. His personality is the same, except he is less caring and kind than he is now. For example, when he is calmly flying the plane, winning Minnie's admiration, he asks her for a kiss. When she refuses, he puts on a devilish grin and charges the plane forward, upsetting and frightening Minnie. The he forcibly grabs her and tries to kiss her, he is unsuccessful thusly in wooing her in the end of the film. Nonetheless, this is still a good film with some hilarious moments (like when Mickey tries to climb on the out of control plane by grabbing on the udder of a cow that is hanging on for dear life on the back of the plane. Everytime he grabs on, milk spills onto his face, drowning him and sending him tumbling onto the floor.)

From Yolanda Wallin : Mickey sure was different than he is today. I mean look at his appearance. No shoes, no gloves. All he has are his shorts. Compare this Mickey to the one in The Simple Things.

From Jerry Edwards : While interesting historically as the first Mickey Mouse cartoon animated, I find little of interest in the short. The sound doesn't add anything to the short, it was obviously animated as a silent cartoon, with sound added later. I do enjoy the excellent aerial stunts in the animation and the fun gag of the cow being chased by the low-flying plane.

From Ryan : Unlike Jerry Edwards, I absolutely loved this short. In fact I liked Mickey's character a lot better back then than in his final days. Let's compare him with the one in the 1952 short Pluto's Christmas Tree. If Mickey were like he was in Plane Crazy, he would have probably just thrown Chip and Dale out of the house. Mickey was not terribly cruel back then, just mischievous and bratty. He certainly would've never tried to hurt or kill anyone. All through the short, one can hear familiar songs. At the beginning, the first few notes to "Reuben and Rachel" are played. "Yankee Doodle", "Hail to the Chief", and "Dixie" can be heard later on. The only dialog in here is when Minnie says "Who, me?" after Mickey offers to give her a ride on his homemade airplane.

From Lee Suggs : One of the "MouseWorks" shorts this week (9/16) featured a rather mean and nasty Mickey Mouse. My favorite thing about the "MouseWorks" series is that the series' animators have made Mickey a more complex, and thus more interesting, character. Of course, this is a regression not a new development. You know this if you've seen: Plane Crazy (1928). Plane Crazy was the first Mickey Mouse short made, but Walt couldn't sell it. (As a silent short it was probably too similar to the "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" series he had lost the rights to.) After the success of Steamboat Willie, Plane Crazy was released as the second Mickey Mouse short with sound effects added in. Watching the film it is easy to tell it was once silent since it uses written words and written sounds. The short is interesting because it has some excellent sight gags and many wild camera angles. This short is also pretty racy by later standards. There is an outhouse gag, shots of Mickey's posterior, shots of Minnie's undergarments, and the famous cow udder scene, that's repeated in Steamboat Willie. In the early 1930's the Hays Board set up standards that banned such scenes well into the 1960's. However, what is most interesting about this short is Mickey's personality. He is outright cruel and quite irresponsible. He demands a kiss from Minnie, then endangers her life to force her to kiss him, and finally just physically overwhelms her for a kiss. Not the Mickey we know today, and he pays for his misdeeds. Now I wouldn't want to go back to this Mickey, but he was certainly a more interesting character. It pleases me that Disney made him a more moral character, but he overdid it. Mickey eventually became a bland, boring straight man. This meant that his great popularity was eclipsed by Donald Duck and later by Bugs Bunny. These characters had an "edge" to them, you never knew what they might do. When Mickey's personality stopped having an "edge", he became uninteresting, and eventually he disappeared as a regular cartoon character. Fortunately the "MouseWorks" series has given him back a great deal of that "edge" and I have high hopes for his continued development as a complex and interesting character. Who knows, he might even become the "everyman" he was in the early to mid-1930's.

From Tim Carter : The excellence of Ub Iwerks' perspective in his artwork is outstanding---even thrilling. This is not seen in nearly anyone's animation through the 20th Century. It needs to be seen to be appreciated, as words can only hope to compel. The movement in the distances and the coming up close are very painstakingly and faithfully represented. It is a medium that is unique because of the care taken. The gags are dated, and no doubt on the money of his contemporary audience. It will make you laugh if you appreciate as well as he did.

From Rich : Yes, my friends. This is where the gig all started when it was released at a Hollywood theater on May 15, 1928 AS A SILENT FILM but wasn't really seen too much after that. For everyone who thought that Mickey was too mean and nasty in this cartoon, gimme a break! He may have been a bit bratty at times like when he was trying to flirt with Minnie, or when he used the nearby dachshund (I can't spell that word for my life) as a rubber band, but this is definitely one of Mickey's better performances as opposed to Pluto's Party and other films from the 50's where he next to nothing except play a supporting character. I like this early, daring, devilish Mickey Mouse because he simply made those cartoons a lot more interesting to watch.

From Vincent Alexander : Plane Crazy is not only notable for being the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, it is also notable for being one of the funniest Mickey Mouse cartoons of all time! Very few other Disney cartoons can hold a candle to this one. It's wonderful.

From Milan Brandon : This short was of mainly interest to me because of its history of being the first Mickey Short made. I do find it to be not one of my favorites because of the bodily distortions the animals turn themselves into. All in all, it is a great short.

From Bill : Although Steamboat Willie is considered the start of Mickey's film career, this first short, again, almost totally animated by Ub, should be considered by all Mickey fans as the true starting point. Although it did not become as well known because it was a silent, the artwork by Ub is fantastic for a 1928 short. The air scenes were brilliant and the story line was well taken. The gags were also well written for the time, especially when the plane with Minnie in it chasing the cow. Again, very well animated by Ub. Though Mickey was drawn a little primitive in the first three shorts, Ub honed up on the character and by Mickey's Follies he began to look like the Mickey we all know and love.

From Ashley : It's always such a kick to see that Mickey didn't start out as such a nicey-nice little goody two shoes. And I know that sounds really harsh, but it isn't really meant to be. I remember seeing Plane Crazy as a kid because the local rental store had the Minnie tape of the Cartoon Classics Limited Gold editions. It's neat to see a piece of history like that. Being an artist, it's always cool to see how the characters that people create progress. I was lucky enough to see production drawings from Plane Crazy at an animation based showing in the art gallery of the local college I was attending. Seeing those and remembering what fun I had as a kid watching this stuff. It really was a magical experience.

From Gijs Grob : Mickey's first cartoon and it hasn't aged a bit. Yes, it's a silent cartoon with sound added later. Yes, Mickey looks and behaves rather differently than he would do later, and yes, some of the jokes are rather crude. Yet, Plane Crazy is outstanding for its fast-paced jokes, its extraordinary rubbery animation, its awesome use of perspectives and its effective pantomime character animation. Ub Iwerks is often praised as a fast animator, but this short shows that he is also an original animator with a distinct style and an excellent sense of comic timing.

From Baruch Weiss : I last saw this short 6 years ago on the "Limited Gold Edition" video "Minnie." I thought it was OK. I like it from a historical perspective being that it was The first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made.

From Jon Pytko : Are you kidding me? Not much of interest in this short? This is beautiful. I get chills when I hear "Hail to the Chief" being played as Mickey walks up to the plane amidst the silent acclamation of the barnyard crowd. It is a coronation at the very outset of his career. The spontaneous, rude and unguarded humor of the very early shorts is preferable to the closely scripted productions of the color years.

From Steven : This is one of my favorite Disney cartoons. There's great animation by Ub Iwerks and I like how Mickey looks in this cartoon. I love the gag where Mickey's plane is going out of control and Minnie's scared to death and Mickey wants a kiss from her, to which she refuses, and Mickey drives even more out of control. I give this visually stunning cartoon a ten out of ten.

Referenced Comments

Trolley Troubles (1927)
The Ocean Hop (1927)
Gallopin' Gaucho (1928)
Steamboat Willie (1928)
The Opry House (1929)
When the Cat's Away (1929)
The Plowboy (1929)
The Skeleton Dance (1929)
Mickey's Choo Choo (1929)
The Jazz Fool (1929)
Wild Waves (1930)
Arctic Antics (1930)
The Cactus Kid (1930)
Fishin' Around (1931)
Musical Farmer (1932)
Runaway Brain (1995)