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Mickey Mouse celebrates 75th birthday. It's been 75 years since a little black-and-white cartoon called ''Steamboat Willie''

Walt Disney Company | SAYONARA MICKEY Mickey Mouse and friends appear in Tokyo on Nov. 18
Image credit: Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck: Toru YAMANAKA/AFP PHOTO/NewsCom
SAYONARA MICKEY Mickey Mouse and friends appear in Tokyo on Nov. 18

A mouse who was nearly named Mortimer turned 75 today. Iconic cartoon character Mickey Mouse -- who narrowly escaped being named Mortimer by Walt Disney -- debuted in the cartoon short ''Steamboat Willie'' on Nov. 18, 1928 (it also was the first cartoon to feature synchronized sound). The entertainment empire that Disney has become will celebrate in Walt Disney World Tuesday, with CEO Michael Eisner on hand.

For the occasion, Disney is unveiling 75 six-foot-tall statues of Mickey, each customized by a celebrity -- from Janet Jackson to Ben Affleck (alas, J. Lo must be waiting for Minnie's big day). ''It's a true testament to Walt that he was able to create Mickey Mouse with such depth and personality that, on his 75th anniversary, Mickey continues to take us on adventures, make us laugh and inspire us,'' Eisner said in a statement.  Um, inspire us?

Originally posted Nov 18, 2003
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