One of the most important videos in the history of cinema, Walt Disney has just made their original hit Steamboat Willie available for free.
Check it out in the video above.
The cartoon was released in November 1928, and was the first appearance by Mickey Mouse.
What makes this such a seminal and important moment in cinema is that this was the first cartoon with synchronised sound. Allegedly, Disney was inspired when he saw The Jazz Singer the previous year in 1927, which was the first black and white film with synchronised dialogue, officially starting the age of the “Talkies”.
Prior to synchronised sound, cinemas would project the film onto the screen, and music would be provided by either a pianist, or small orchestra in larger city cinemas. While some films came with sheet music which roughly matched the flow of the film, often pianists would simply improvise the music.
Steamboat Willie changed that for cartoons, creating sound effects which synchronised with the action on screen to such a degree as to give the audience the impression that they fit together. Almost as if the action on screen was causing the sound. If you watch the video, you will see moments which perfectly illustrate this, such as Mickey whistling, or when he plays the cow’s teeth like a xylophone.
At the time, this was nothing short of revolutionary.
Walt Disney himself described the moment they tested it out:
When the picture was half finished, we had a showing with sound.
A couple of boys could read music and one of them