November 18, 2018 / 6:11 AM / 24 days ago

Mickey Mouse, the icon of an animation empire, celebrates 90th birthday

FILE PHOTO: Mickey Mouse rides in the 85th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It was the Roaring ‘20s. Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, the New York Yankees had just won their third World Series title and Mickey Mouse made his debut on the silver screen.

On Sunday, Mickey Mouse, the brainchild of cartoonist Walt Disney that eventually came to symbolize a global entertainment empire, celebrates his 90th birthday.

The iconic rodent, whose easily recognizable silhouette consists simply of a big circle and two little ones for ears, launched his celluloid career in “Steamboat Willie,” at New York’s Colony Theater on Nov. 18, 1928.

In the eight-minute-long, black-and-white cartoon, Mickey pilots a steamboat and entertains his passenger, Minnie Mouse, by making musical instruments out of the menagerie on board, according to IMDB.com.

Mickey Mouse, whom the Walt Disney Co calls its global ambassador, also starred in Disney’s critically acclaimed 1942 animated film “Fantasia,” and would go on to launch a franchise with “The Mickey Mouse Club,” the 1950s television series that was a favourite of American baby boom kids.

His image appeared on T-shirts, lunch boxes and watches, and the telltale mouse ears are still worn by kids visiting Disney theme parks today.

To mark his birthday, Disney opened a 16,000-square-foot art exhibition in Manhattan, called “Mickey: The True Original Exhibition,” featuring original art, larger-than-life photo ops and, of course, commemorative merchandise. The exhibition runs until Feb. 10.

After all, reaching one’s 90th birthday is a milestone for anyone, but especially for a mouse, which the pest control company Teminix estimates has a normal lifespan of no more than three years.

Reporting by Peter Szekely, editing by G Crosse

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