On this animated episode of the Popzara Podcast our animation fanatic Nathan Evans talks with author Jeff Ryan about his new book A Mouse Divided: How Ub Iwerks Became Forgotten, and Walt Disney Became Uncle Walt, which details the fruitful – and contentious – relationship between Walt Disney and Ub iWerks through the creation of the most popular cartoon character in history: Mickey Mouse. The timing couldn’t be better: The Mouse celebrates his 90th birthday this year. If only we could all live on love and cheese.
Nate and Jeff squash and stretch their way through many of Disney and iWerks most compelling moments, from their innovative early days at Kansas City’s “Laugh-O-gram Films” to Walt Disney’s eventual triumph in California – one his partner would never fully share in. But there’s more to the story as Jeff reveals the true character of Mickey; his dualistic nature representing both sides of his creators’ often conflicting personalities.
Was Walt Disney anti-Semitic? No, and Hitler certainly wasn’t a fan of The Mouse. Can the roots of Mickey’s humor be traced to the classic vaudeville and – unfortunately – minstrel shows of the era? Answers and opinions await curious animation enthusiasts, as well as respect paid to artists who seldom received credit in service to the Disney brand, including Floyd Gottfredson and Carl Barks (who created many of Mickey and Donald Duck’s most iconic and beloved comics).
Also discussed is Jeff’s first book, Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, one of the few genuinely good works of gaming journalism that chronicles the beginnings of the Japanese gaming giant and their own mustachioed mascot. There’s more similarities between the Mouse and Plumber than some might think, and it’s impossible to imagine today’s gaming industry without the imagination and creative highlights of animation’s Golden Age serving as inspiration. See Cuphead, StudioMDHR’s hit platformer that takes inspiration – literally – from the style and creativity pioneered by Ub iWerks himself.