What Were Mickey Mouse’s First Words? … and Why You’re Wrong About Them

Mickey Mouse is arguably the most famous cartoon character in history. The character has numerous iconic traits, including his three circle silhouette appearance, base outfit of little red shorts, white gloves, and yellow shoes, and the falsetto voice that various performers have used throughout the decades.


However, the story of when, why, and who uttered Mickey Mouse’s first words remains unfamiliar to many.

As we’re sure a vast majority of our readers are aware, Mickey — whom Walt Disney and animator Ub Iwerks had created in response to Disney losing the rights to the studio’s first successful character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — made his public debut in the 1928 animated short Steamboat WIllie. However, in actuality, Steamboat Willie wasn’t the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever produced. It was in fact third, produced after Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho. However, both of those shorts failed to find a distributor.

Looking for a new angle to sell the character, Disney decided to produce a third cartoon, Steamboat WIllie, featuring something that had never been done before. The short was the first animated cartoon to have a fully synchronized, post-produced soundtrack. The novelty of the sound and score, combined with the entertainment value of the shirt and it’s star character made Steamboat Willie a sensation and Mickey the most popular cartoon character in the country.

However, despite Steamboat Willie’s use of a synchronized soundtrack, the short didn’t feature Mickey Mouse speaking! In fact, Mickey would appear in 8 sh0rts — including Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, both of which were reworked for sound — without speaking any dialogue, only occasionally letting out a “ha” or a whistle. However, that would change with the character’s ninth starring vehicle.

Karnival Kid Title Card – Disney

When audiences stepped into theaters to see the ninth Mickey Mouse short The Karnival Kid in 1929, they were treated to a story that featured Mickey working at a carnival, and uttering the Mouse’s first words. And what were these words that would go down in cinema history as the first spoken by arguably the most famous fictional character of the 20th century?

“Hot Dogs! Hot Dogs!”

Yup, that’s right, Mickey’s first words were an extortion to buy hot dogs. Furthermore, despite Walt Disney having provided the previous aforementioned whistles and laughs and being the “official voice” of Mickey Mouse until 1947, he actually didn’t provide the vocals for Mickey’s first words. That distinction instead goes to the short’s composer Carl W. Stalling.

While audiences at the time loved hearing Mickey speak, the effectiveness of the mechanics behind Mickey’s first words have been retroactively criticized. In 2018, animation historian Gijs Grob wrote, “The Karnival Kid shows that lip synchronization was far more difficult to master than synchronized sound itself. The animation of the mouth to form syllables was a totally new feat, and initially it was done all too literally. This led to awkward facial expressions at times, with especially Mickey’s face distorting into a multitude of mouth gestures. The problem would become even worse in Mickey’s next cartoon, Mickey’s Follies.”


However, despite these animation issues, Mickey’s first words as seen in The Karnival Kid still leave a legacy today. The falsetto voice first introduced by Stalling and perfected by Walt is still the basis for the actors who currently voice Mickey. And the character frequently uses the exclamation “Hot Dog!” as one of his catchphrases. The fact that the Mickey of today says the singular “hot dog” rather than the plural “hot dogs” that were his first words has tripped up many a Disney fan playing Disney trivia games!

Were you familiar with Mickey Mouse’s first words, and the fact that it wasn’t Walt Disney delivering them? Let us know in the comments below.

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