The events that followed are largely circumstantial, but Middletown historians believe it is likely that Walt Disney borrowed his most creative idea from the Performo-Toy Company. It is known that a mouse toy with the name Micky was being sold in toy stores all over New York City while Disney was visiting. Disney historians say the idea for Mickey Mouse was conceived by Disney while on the train to California, following the stressful New York business trip. The story goes that Disney suggested Mortimer for the name of his mouse character, but his wife Lillian felt Mickey was a more appropriate name. Regardless of how Disney reports the origin of Mickey Mouse, Middletown historians are certain that Micky Mouse originated in Middletown more than a year before he appeared in Hollywood. Was Disney's idea for Mickey Mouse derived from the popular Micky Mouse toy? Before you decide, consider the possibility that Micky Mouse toys were so popular they may have been sold on the train Disney was riding on his way from New York City to Los Angeles.Link (Thanks, John!)
Micky Mouse, the toy, and Mickey Mouse, the cartoon movie star, coexisted from 1928 to 1931. By 1931, Disney's new animation and sound techniques had launched the cartoon Mickey to superstar status. Walt's brother Roy was put in charge of marketing Mickey Mouse merchandise. One of the items he sold was a toy replica of the cartoon. Mickey and Micky were now competing in the same market. Ironically, they used the Borgfeldt Company, the same distributor Performo-Toy Company had been using for years. The Disney Corporation sued the Performo-Toy Company claiming they took Micky from Disney. The small toy company was no match for the large production company and the courts ordered the Performo-Toy Company to stop all production of the Micky toys and destroy any existing stock. Even catalogs containing Micky had to be destroyed. This tragedy, along with the Great Depression, was enough to put the Performo-Toy Company out of business.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.