In 1928, Walt Disney had just lost the rights to his big cartoon star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to Charles Mintz at Universal Studios and needed a replacement. Ub Iwerks, one of three animators who had stuck with Walt after the Oswald fiasco, designed a mouse inspired by a pet mouse Walt had back in his farm life. Walt originally intended to name the new character Mortimer Mouse, but his wife, Lillian Bounds, suggested he go with the cuter-sounding name of Mickey.
And the rest is history.
Getting Mickey off the ground wasn't an easy task, though. Two cartoons, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho were made and given limited release, but they failed to impress audiences or find a distributor. For the third film, Steamboat Willie, they added a synchronized soundtrack. The addition of sound to the series paid off and made Mickey one of the most prominent cartoon stars of the time.
The early Mickey Mouse cartoons are some of the most prominent examples of Mickey Mousing ever done in a cartoon--it was done to the point where many, many cartoons were built solely around the novelty of the characters being able to tap or move to the beat of the soundtrack.
However, despite the initially massive popularity of the shorts, a critical flaw of Mickey soon became apparent--as cute and appealing as he was, he was pretty non-descript in personality. While hints of a mischievous personality were given in the earliest shorts, it soon gave way to Mickey becoming a generic everyman, possibly to guarantee that cosmopolitan audiences wouldn't complain about kids watching Mickey do something naughty.  While this was initially fine (since sound alone was still enough to keep audiences coming) it turned out to be a very, very bad idea in the long run--by the early 30's, storymen were quickly starting to run out of ideas for how to keep Mickey's antics interesting, and thus had to fall back more on the characters that surrounded him to have anything to work with. On top of that, Fleischer Studios unleashed their newest star Popeye the Sailor in 1933. The gruff, spinach eating Anti-Hero and his cartoons took the nation by storm, quickly toppling the domesticated Mickey in popularity. Fortunately, Disney's Silly Symphonies kept the studio afloat, especially with the success of Three Little Pigs that same year.
By 1935, Mickey's cartoons had upgraded to color, but his days as a headlining star in his own shorts was beginning to end--Pluto the Pup was soon dominating several of his shorts, and newcomers Donald Duck and Goofy quickly took control of the Mouse's cartoons, resulting in several beloved team-up cartoons like "Lonesome Ghosts".
In 1940, Disney tried to give Mickey a comeback via the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of Fantasia. Unfortunately, the film bombed and thus negated this comeback. During this time, Mickey was slightly redesigned to have more expressive eyes than before.
As time went by, Mickey's shorts became less and less frequent in number, overshadowed by his contemporaries and reduced to a bit player. While another attempt at a comeback was done via the Mickey And The Beanstalk segment of Fun and Fancy Free, it was once again a failure. In 1953, Disney finally retired Mickey, his last of the original theatrical cartoons being "The Simple Things".
For the next several decades, Mickey would still appear in TV reruns, The Mickey Mouse Club and merchandise, in addition to still being the face of the company, but it wasn't until 1983 that he would make his cartoon comeback in the featurette Mickey's Christmas Carol. While the film was billed as Mickey's comeback, he was still reduced to a minor role in the film as the character of Bob Crachitt, with Scrooge McDuck headlining the cartoon instead. Mickey would appear in, in a cameo with Bugs Bunny, in the 1988 hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. In 1990, Disney gave him another featurette, "The Prince and the Pauper", where Mickey received a central role in a cartoon for the first time in decades. 1995 then proceeded to give us a Darker and Edgier update of the character, via the theatrical cartoon Runaway Brain, obviously borrowing influence from the more adventurous Mickey of the Floyd Gottfredson comics. Unfortunately, it caused a big stir among parents, causing the short to fall into company Discontinuity, and Mickey's cartoon career was once again put on ice--well, theatrical cartoon career. For Disney blessed Mickey with a TV revival called Mickey Mouse Works, later retooled into House of Mouse. Essentially lower budget versions of the original cartoons, both programs went on to be big hits. In 2003, Mickey got a direct-to-video film along with Donald and Goofy called Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. In 2006, Mickey recieved a preschooler show called Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
But in 2010, Disney once again attempted a Darker and Edgier Mickey Mouse story, but this time with a video game--headlined by Warren Spector, creator of Deus Ex and System Shock, and then-closet Disney fanboy. The video game, Epic Mickey, brought the mouse back to his roots, reuniting many of the classic Disney characters, including Disney's original cartoon star and Mickey's lost half-brother, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Critical reception was hit or miss, but the game was a hit, selling over a million copies on release. A sequel is in the works.
That hasn't been the only major Mickey's contribution to the video game medium. In 1990, Disney licensed Castle of Illusion developed by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System. It was a 2D side-scrolling platform game with Mickey as the main character. The game became a major hit and it's considered to this day as an all-time classic which even had a sequel: World of Illusion, released in 1992. It's also remarkable his prominent role in the popular Kingdom Hearts series, from Square Enix, in which he displays a Badass Adorable personality and Yoda-like combat skills.
A theatrical film starring Mickey is currently in development. If it gets the greenlight, it may become the first theatrical Disney film that properly stars Mickey and where the story concerns him through the whole thing in the company's history! We can still hope that Mickey will go on and on into the future, to be loved by old and new generations.
- Plane Crazy: May 15, Walt Disney: Made in secret by Disney and Ub while they were still finishing the last Oswald cartoons. Ub animated the whole short on two weeks notice. Debut of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Originally a silent cartoon. Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- The Gallopin' Gaucho: August 2, Walt Disney: Second short produced in the series. Originally a silent cartoon.
- Steamboat Willie: November 18, Walt Disney: First Mickey Mouse cartoon with sound, first cartoon with Mickey wearing shoes and the one short that got Disney Studios off the ground and kicked off The Golden Age of Animation. One of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- The Barn Dance: March 14, Walt Disney
- The Opry House: March 28, Walt Disney: The first short where Mickey wears his famous White Gloves.
- When the Cat's Away: May 3, Walt Disney: An odd short in the series, depicting Mickey and Minnie as actual household mice.
- The Plow Boy: Walt Disney, June 28: First appearance of Horace Horsecollar.
- The Karnival Kid: Walt Disney, July 31: Mickey's first speaking appearance--his first lines being "Hot dogs!"
- Mickey's Follies: Wilfred Jackson, August 28: First appearance of Patricia Pig, and debut of Mickey's original theme song "Minnie's Yoo Hoo".
- Mickey's Choo-Choo: Walt Disney, October 1
- The Barnyard Battle: Burt Gillett: October 10
- The Jazz Fool: Walt Disney, October 15
- Jungle Rhythm: Walt Disney November 15
- "Haunted House" Walt Disney December 2
- "Wild Waves" Walt Disney December 21
- "The Barnyard Concert" Walt Disney April 5
- "Just Mickey" Walt Disney March 14
- "The Cactus Kid" Walt Disney May 15
- "The Fire Fighters" Burt Gillett July 25
- "The Shindig" Burt Gillett July 29
- "The Chain Gang" Burt Gillett September 5: First appearance of Pluto.
- "The Gorilla Mystery" Burt Gillett October 10
- "The Picnic" Burt Gillett October 23
- "Pioneer Days" Burt Gillett December 5
- "Minnie's Yoo Hoo" Walt Disney December 25: A sing-a-long reel made for the Mickey Mouse Clubs featuring Mickey leading a rendition of the theme song from "Mickey's Follies".
- "The Birthday" Burt Gillett January 7
- "Traffic Troubles" Burt Gillett March 14
- "The Castaway" Wilfred Jackson April 6
- "The Moose Hunt" Burt Gillett May 3: The first of two speaking appearances of Pluto.
- "The Delivery Boy" Burt Gillett June 13
- "Mickey Step's Out" Burt Gillett July 7: Pluto's second and last speaking appearance, where he says "Mammy" at the end.
- "Blue Rhythm" Burt Gillett August 18
- "Fishin' Around" Burt Gillett September 25
- "The Barnyard Broadcast" Burt Gillett October 10
- "The Beach Party" Burt Gillett November 5
- "Mickey Cuts Up" Burt Gillett November 30
- "Mickey's Orphans" Burt Gillett December 9
- "Around the World In Eighty Minutes": An otherwise live action feature contains a very brief animated segment featuring the lovable mouse.
- "The Duck Hunt" Burt Gillett January 28
- "The Grocery Boy" Wilfred Jackson February 11
- "The Mad Dog" Burt Gillett March 5
- "Barnyard Olympics" Wilfred Jackson April 15
- "Mickey's Revue" Wilfred Jackson May 25: Debut of Goofy.
- "Musical Farmer" Wilfred Jackson June 23
- "Mickey in Arabia" Wilfred Jackson July 18
- "Mickey's Nightmare" Burt Gillett August 13
- "Trader Mickey" Dave Hand August 20
- "The Whoopee Party" Wilfred Jackson September 17
- "Touchdown Mickey" Wilfred Jackson October 15
- "The Wayward Canary" Burt Gillett November 12
- "The Klondike Kid" Wilfred Jackson November 12
- Parade Of The Award Nominees: November 18: Technically not a Mickey Mouse cartoon, although it does have Mickey appearing in the opening, in his very first color appearance, no less!
- Mickey's Good Deed: December 17
- Hollywood Party: While this is actually an MGM movie, the bulk of which is live action, Mickey does make a brief appearance, in an interesting live-action / animation encounter with Jimmy Durante.
- Camping Out
- Playful Pluto: A short that has gained recognition among Disney animators for the famous "Flypaper Sequence", a milestone in personality animation.
- Gulliver Mickey
- Mickey's Steamroller
- Orphan's Benefit: First appearance by Donald Duck in a Mickey cartoon. First cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy all in the same cartoon, though not performing as a team.
- Mickey Plays Papa
- The Dognapper
- Two-Gun Mickey
- Mickey's Man Friday
- The Band Concert - First full length Mickey Mouse cartoon in color. One of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Mickey's Service Station – First cartoon with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy acting as a team. Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Mickey's Kangaroo - Last Black & White Mickey Mouse cartoon.
- Mickey's Garden
- Mickey's Fire Brigade: Second team-up of Mickey, Donald and Goofy. First Disney short that disney legend Bill Tytla animated on.
- Pluto's Judgement Day: First short where Mickey is redesigned to have a pear-like body.
- On Ice
- Mickey's Polo Team
- Orphan's Picnic
- Mickey's Grand Opera
- Thru the Mirror: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Mickey's Rival
- Moving Day: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Alpine Climbers
- Mickey's Circus (The first appearance of Salty the Seal)
- Donald & Pluto: Billed as a Mickey Mouse short, although he is completely absent from it.
- Mickey's Elephant
- The Worm Turns
- Magician Mickey
- Moose Hunters
- Mickey's Amateurs
- Hawaiian Holiday: Notable for a scene of animation done by animation veteran Shamus Culhane--he did the sequence of Pluto and his encounter with a pesky crab.
- Clock Cleaners: One of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Lonesome Ghosts: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Society Dog Show: Last Mickey Mouse Dot-Eyes Cartoon.
- Mickey's Surprise Party: Rare Mickey Mouse short with a Nabisco promotion at the end, made for the World Fair. First appearance of Mickey Mouse with his redesigned eyes.
- The Pointer: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- The Standard Parade
- Tugboat Mickey
- Pluto's Dream House
- Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Released as segment #3 in Fantasia)
- Mickey's Birthday Party
- Symphony Hour
- Squatter's Rights
- Mickey and the Beanstalk: The second half of the feature film Fun and Fancy Free.
- Mickey's Delayed Date
- Mickey Down Under
- Mickey and the Seal
- R'Coon Dawg
- Pluto's Party
- Pluto's Christmas Tree
- The Simple Things: The last of the original theatrical Mickey Mouse cartoons.
- Mickey Mouse Club: Made appearances in animated openings for the show.
- Mickey's Christmas Carol: Mickey's first film in several decades, although he only plays a minor role in it.
Notable Mickey shorts:
- Plane Crazy
- Steamboat Willie
- The Mad Doctor
- The Band Concert
- Clock Cleaners
- Moving Day
- Lonesome Ghosts
- Brave Little Tailor
- Mickey's Christmas Carol
- The Prince and The Pauper
- Runaway Brain
- Fun and Fancy Free
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - In which it is shown that he and Bugs Bunny actually get along pretty well.
- Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas
- Fantasia 2000
- Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
- Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas
- Mickey Mousecapade
- Castle of Illusion
- Land Of Illusion
- World of Illusion
- The Disney's Magical Quest series
- Mickey Mania
- The Kingdom Hearts series
- Epic Mickey
- The Artifact: Some animators noted that as time went by and the characters got more and more realistic, Mickey's old-school abstract design, as well as his perspective-defying ears got more and more outdated and out of place. A full-on redesign was out of the question due to familiarity, so Disney briefly tinkered with Mickey's design in the early 40's, making his design more loose and organic, as well has having his ears work in perspective -- this can be seen most prominently in the short "The Little Whirlwind". For some reason, they quickly went back to the original design afterwards. However, the ears not matching up with perspective was Handwaved as early as 1929, in "The Karnival Kid": Those aren't really Mickey's ears -- it's a loose fitting hat.
- Ascended to Carnivorism: "The Worm Turns" is about Mickey inventing a spritzer that can cause prey animals to turn against their respective predators: A fly attacks a spider, a mouse attacks a cat, a cat attacks Pluto, and finally Pluto attacks Pete the dogcatcher.
- Author Avatar (for Walt Disney)
- Badass Adorable: In Kingdom Hearts and Epic Mickey and certain shorts.
- Banned in China: The short "The Barnyard Battle" (1929) was banned in Germany in 1930 for depicting enemy cats with German World War I helmets. In 1931, the short was finally distributed, but with all scenes of enemy combat cut, making it an extra-short three-minute cartoon.
- Black Bead Eyes: In his original designs.
- Blowing a Raspberry: Used to do this all the time in his early cartoons, all the way back to Steamboat Willie.
- The Cameo: Mickey appears briefly in the cartoon segment of the live action film "Hollywood Party", alongside Jimmy Durante.
- Captain Ersatz: Of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who was already an ersatz of Felix the Cat. We're not saying Expy here, because Walt technically never owned Oswald to begin with.
- Cartoon Conductor
- Chaste Toons: In his comic strip, he was given a pair of nephews named Morty and Ferdie. They've rarely appeared in animation (their only appearances there being Mickey's Steamroller, a cameo in Boat Builders, and Morty as Tiny Tim in Mickey's Christmas Carol).
- Cheated Angle: Mickey's ears are always round, no matter what angle you're looking at him from.
- Clothes Make the Legend: Where would Mickey be today without his trademark red shorts, buttons, White Gloves and oversized shoes?
- Colossus Climb (his method of defeating a giant).
- Conjoined Eyes: In the earliest cartoons, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho.
- Covered in Kisses: Minnie sometimes does this to him.
- Demoted to Extra: In a lot of projects, Mickey would be billed at the star only for Donald Duck (in attractions like Mickey's Philharmagic) or Pluto (in most of the later shorts) or even Uncle Scrooge (in Mickey's Christmas Carol) to be the real focus of the feature.
- Downer Ending: In The Barn Dance, Minnie dumps Mickey for Pete, who surprisingly acts like a gentleman in this short. The cartoon ends with Mickey facing the viewers and sobbing.
- The Everyman: More pronounced after the Flanderization.
- Flanderization: All because of the Hays Code, really, he became Lighter and Softer and as a result less popular.
- Forgot to Pay the Bill: The plot of "Moving Day" is set in motion by the fact that Mickey and Donald Duck haven't paid the rent in six months.
- Fountain of Expies: Mickey had numerous ripoffs back in the 1930s--among them are Bosko the Talk Ink Kid, Foxy Fox, Piggy and Buddy of Warner Bros., and the Columbia Cartoons interpretation of Krazy Kat.
- Furry Confusion: Mickey is, well... pretty big for a mouse. And there's been at least a couple shorts where Mickey encounters an actual tiny mouse.
- Furry Denial: One strange rule that Disney sometimes enforces to this day is that Mickey is to never be shown with cheese. "Cheese makes Mickey seem like a mouse. He's not really a mouse, you know, he's really more of a human." However, in House of Mouse, he was shown several times both purchasing and eating cheese, so it appears familiarity lead this to eventually be subverted.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: He rarely wears a shirt.
- Happily-Failed Suicide: An old comic book story. Mickey jumps off a bridge but lands on a boat. An angry sailor (who resembles Pete) yells that he throws stowaways overboard. Mickey starts pleading by saying he can't swim.
- Haunted House: Featured in the appropriately named "Haunted House", as well as Lonesome Ghosts.
- The Hero
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: In his guest spot on Bonkers and the first Kingdom Hearts game.
- Interspecies Friendship: With Goofy and Pluto.
- Kid Hero: Sometimes.
- Limited Wardrobe: Red shorts with big buttons on them, yellow shoes, and White Gloves.
- Long-Lost Relative: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
- Mascot: Arguably this has done more to hurt his image than help it. Which is partly why Epic Mickey was made.
- Mickey Mousing: The Trope Namer. Happened more in his early shorts.
- Moose Are Idiots: The "Moose Hunters" short. "Kiss me!"
- Moral Dissonance: He engages in animal cruelty in his earliest shorts, usually by using live, conscious animals as musical instruments, and it's Played for Laughs.
- Nice Guy: Except in some of his earlier appearances.
- No Sex Allowed: By word of Walt, Mickey and Minnie do not have a sex life.
- Old Shame: According to The Illusion of Life, apprentice animator and director Wilfred Jackson was so ashamed of his first directorial effort "The Castaway" that he vowed never to make another film that didn't feel like a Disney picture again.
- The Other Darrin: He was voiced by Walt Disney from his debut through Fun and Fancy Free, after which James MacDonald took the reins. During Walt's run as Mickey's voice, Clarence Nash (the voice of Donald) substituted for Mickey's voice for the 1934 short The Dognapper. Wayne Allwine took over the role in 1977 and would voice him until his death in 2009. Mickey is now voiced by Bret Iwan.
- Out of Focus: Later on Donald Duck, Goofy and even Pluto the Pup became far more popular, being the characters who had an easier time adapting to the Screwy Squirrel and Iron Butt Monkey archetypes becoming more popular in animation in the 40's. Though Mickey remains the symbol of Disney.
- Pie-Eyed: Occasionally in early shorts, when he doesn't just have Black Bead Eyes.
- Prehensile Tail: Especially in the early shorts, when he'd often use his tail as a kind of third hand to pick things up and manipulate them.
- Press-Ganged: The aptly-named "Shanghaied". The cartoon begins with Mickey and Minnie already on the ship, but it's not hard to tell how they got there.
- Public Domain Animation: "The Mad Doctor" is one of the very few Disney shorts to slip into the Public Domain, although its extremely rare for it to appear in compilations (the only known time is in "Attack of the 30's Characters" from Thunderbean) due to legal fears over the usage of a copyrighted character like Mickey.
- The Quiet One: Mickey was this in several of his 1930's shorts.
- Rodents of Unusual Size: In the earliest cartoons to feature both him and Donald Duck together, Mickey is much taller than Donald. Nowadays he's generally the same height as Donald, but he's still a three foot tall mouse.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: As early as the 1934 film "Hollywood Party" (which was one of the very few non-Disney works where Mickey was allowed to appear) and of course, his appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. He appeared along-side then-chairman Michael Eisner in his promo appearances and in a theme park movie. In both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, he thanks the conductor of the orchestra after his own sequence.
- He even appeared at the end of a Muppet TV special where the Muppets head to Disney World, made as an attempt for Disney to buy the brand. In this special, Mickey is the Disney CEO!
- Screwy Squirrel: In his earliest appearances. His appearance with Bugs Bunny Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is a Call Back to those days.
- The Speechless: In his earliest shorts, up until The Karnival Kid.
- Straight Man: Whenever Donald and Goofy are around.
- Took a Level in Badass: In all but one of his appearances in the Kingdom Hearts series, Mickey Mouse has apparently taken several. He is not only an amazingly skilled wielder of the Keyblade, but is a beloved king, and a Badass Longcoat in his first real appearance.
- He's also like this in Epic Mickey, but as a pragmatic fighter utilizing a magical brush.
- He was also very much like this in the 1930s-1950s comic strip serials later reprinted as Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, where he was an heroic action-adventure detective with Goofy as a not-too-dumb sidekick. The huge, evil cat Pete (then called Black Pete, or Pegleg Pete if it was a nautical tale) was his constant adversary. Kids could pick up some cool historical and geographical facts in these stories.
- Also, this...
- Too Many Babies: In "Mickey's Nightmare", Mickey dreams about getting married to Minnie, after which a flock of storks drops about twenty babies down his chimney in rapid succession.
- Trickster Archetype: In the very earliest days.
- Underestimating Badassery: Especially in Shanghaied, Two-Gun Mickey, and Runaway Brain.
- The other two being Les Clark and Wilfred Jackson
- Fortunately, this only applies to the animated cartoons--the comics by Floyd Gottfredson had MUCH more leeway in what they could do with Mickey, and actually gave him some character to work with.