[I read your interesting posting about Meek’s Mouse yesterday and have a little to add to it.
I have done some research on the early Mickey the last year and stumbled over the connection to Meek some months ago - including his mice drawings on Lambiek Comiclopedia.I also read about the interview with Walt Disney where he told a little about Meek’s mice, quote from Mary Braggiotti’s article in the New York Post, June 30, 1944:
“There was a man named Clifton Meek who used to draw cute little mice and I grew up with those drawings…. They were different from ours - but they had cute ears.”
We can understand that Meek, when reading this felt flattered - and that he later wrote:
“Needless to say I was surprised and delighted to learn that I had in some small way kindled a spark of inspiration in an unknown country boy who was loaded with genius.”
This according to Meek’s article: After writing to Disney and thanking him, he got his photo with a written acknowledgement and signature.
After what I have found out, I believe that the inspiration from Meek was something that Disney got - not Iwerks - and I can’t quite accept the latter’s version of the creation of Mickey Mouse.
I have found a couple of early Johnny Mouse cartoons by Meek - published in The Pittsburgh Press in 1914, when Disney was still a boy. See image above.
They sure are a bit different from Mickey Mouse, as Disney pointed out, but they do have a few things in common with the earliest Mickey.
A couple of years before Mickey Mouse was created, Disney sent a birthday card to his father.According to Mickey Mouse in Color (with the collection of Gottfredson’s comic strips) where a photo of this is found, this card with three drawings of mice, was drawn by Disney himself. This seems plausible, but we probably can’t quite rule out that a studio artist made the drawings for him. See image below.
Especially one of these mice has a bit more in common with Meek’s early Johnny Mouse than with Mickey. Disney’s drawing could seem to be “the missing link” between Meek’s mouse and early Mickey as we see in on the drawing belonging to The Walt Disney Family Museum and in Plane Crazy.
- Skinny arms and legs- Elbows with sharp angles.- Naked feet- For the most part: black and with round ears
In the interview with Iwerks that you quote from, he said:
”I tried some sketches of dogs and cats, but there were too many cats (like Krazy Kat). Then I went through a batch of magazines. In Life or Judge I ran into cartoons of animals by [Clifton] Meek and got an idea for a mouse.”
According to this he asserts that he got an idea for a mouse - with the inspiration from Meek - and Walt Disney is not mentioned. I don’t believe that this version is the correct one. The question that must be asked in connection with this is: When was the mice by Meek published in Life or Judge ?
According to Meeks article from 1967 he stopped drawings mice before starting to work for World. Here he started with a pantomine strip named Grindstone George. This ran from 1916 - 1919.I don’t find it very probable that magazines from 1916 or earlier were ready at hand for Iwerks to browse through in 1928.
As we all know: According to Walt Disney’s version of the creation of Mickey Mouse, he got the idea for Mickey and made some sketches and even made an outline for a story on the famous train trip from New York to Los Angeles in March 1928.
This story is often refered to as a legend or myth, but I have the impression that several leading Disney historians believe that it is basically true. It may have been somewhat embellished by Disney in interviews through the years. I agree with those that believe that it is true.
Walt Disney would certainly not have sat idle during a three days train trip - and just worrying because of what had happened. This would have been against his nature and inclination. He knew that he would have to come up with a good idea for a new ”leading star” - and there is every reason to believe that he did that on the train.
According to an article by John Culhane in Saturday Review, Nov. 11, 1978, Otto Messmer - the creator of Felix - told him:”Walt designed a mouse, but it wasn’t very good. He was long and skinny. Ub Iwerks redesigned the character.”
Thanks to Jim Korkis for pointing towards this article.
If this was true, we probably have here the inspiration that Walt got from Meek: resulting in a long and skinny mouse.]
My answer: It is important to note that this interview was not fully transcribed and came as notes that often do not include the subject in the sentences. We have reproduced it re-instating the missing words and the active voice. The notes read “in Life or Judge ran into cartoons of animals by Meeker – got an idea for a mouse.” The context of the previous sentences suggests that the subject is Ub, but in reality the sentence could also be “In Life or Judge Walt ran into cartoons of animals…” We know that “Meeker” is in reality “Clifton Meek”, who drew in Life and Judge before 1916.