Steamboat Willie
Studio: Disney Release Date : November 18, 1928 Series: Mickey Mouse
Cumulative rating:
(8 ratings submitted)


Mickey is a steamboat pilot captained by Pete, trying to impress Minnie and make a little music along the way.


#boat / #parrot / #cow / #goat / #NationalFilmRegistry


Mickey Mouse
Minnie Mouse


Note: "Unverified" credits may not be correct and should be taken with a grain of salt.


Walter Elias "Walt" Disney
Ub Iwerks (unverified)


Ub Iwerks
Leslie James "Les" Clark
Wilfred Jackson


Carl W. Stalling


Carl Edouarde


Walter Elias "Walt" Disney


Walter Elias "Walt" Disney

Music Sources

Leighton, Bert and Frank Leighton : "Steamboat Bill "
Traditional : "Turkey in the Straw "

Clips Used In:

Steamboat Silly

Included in:

The Spirit of Mickey

Cut Scenes

  • Some scenes of what might be considered gratuitous animal violence have been cut including Mickey playing a nursing sow's teats like an accordion keyboard, pulling a cats tail and swinging it around his head, and using a goose as a bagpipe. Some of these cuts have since been reinstated.


  • The first Mickey cartoon released, and Disney's first animated film with a synchronized sound recording.


  • The short was based on an earlier Buster Keaton silent film (which was in turn based on an even earlier vaudeville routine) "Steamboat Bill, Jr."


The Mickey Mouse Club (Season 1, Episode 45)
The Mickey Mouse Club (Season 2, Episode 74)


United States

The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story
The Spirit of Mickey


Mickys Größte Hits


Le Meilleur de Mickey
Joyeux Anniversaire Mickey


I Capolavori di Topolino

CED Disc

United States


Laserdisc (CAV)

United States

Mickey Mouse: The Black and White Years


Mickey Mouse: The Black and White Years
Mickey Mouse: A Star is Born

Laserdisc (CLV)

United States

The Spirit of Mickey


Mickey's Greatest Hits


United States

Mickey Mouse in Black and White - The Classic Collection
The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Vintage Mickey


The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Mickey Mouse in Black and White

BluRay Disc

United States

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Three-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Celebrating Mickey
Mickey & Minnie: 10 Classic Shorts – Volume 1

Technical Specifications

Running Time: 7:45
Animation Type: Standard (Hand-drawn-Cel) Animation
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Cinematographic Format: Spherical
Color Type: Black and White
Negative Type: 35mm
Original Country: United States
Original Language: English
Print Type: 35mm
Sound Type: Mono: Cinephone

Reviews and Comments

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From Calvin Daprice :

I noticed that when they show the livestock at the landing site, the cow's FOB tag disappears as she moos. A second later, it is back again.

From Nick :

It's a great movie!

From Tyler Jacobson :

I first saw this short when I was about six. We were at my Aunt's house and I rented all sorts of videos with old Disney cartoons.

From what I remember, the short starts out with Mickey driving a boat. He must have been horsing around, because Peet comes up and yells at him. Somehow, Mickey picks up Minnie's cow and puts it on the boat. Minnie runs on the boat, so that she may retrieve her cow. Then, Mickey and Minnie begin playing Turkey In The Straw on all the animals.

This short rocks! It is completely awesome! Watch it!

From Jerry Edwards :

While I understand the importance of this short in the success of Walt Disney and the Disney Company, it is not among my favorites.

I rather dislike that the Disney Company's "official" version of the cartoon - one released on laserdisc and video and shown on the Disney Channel - is censored. The scene missing is as follows: Mickey, after pulling on piglet tails while they're suckling and making them squeal to the "Turkey in the Straw" tune, is then shown in the censored scene when he shakes the piglets off their mom and kicks one remaining piglet off. He then plays the sow's teats like accordion buttons to the tune.

I didn't realize for years that the censored version I had always seen was not complete.

There was one gag planned, but never animated. After loading the cow onto the boat, Mickey was to load the sow. You were to see the sow behind a crate as Mickey hooked on the belt. The sow would then be shown being lifted up, with her (previously unseen) piglets hanging on to her teats for dear life. That would have been a fun sight gag, but my research indicates that the scene was never animated.

From Lee Suggs :

Since the historical events surrounding Steamboat Willie have been wonderfully detailed already, I thought I would discuss the animation history leading up to the short:

Animation was part of the world of film since at least 1909. In that year Winsor McCay performed in vaudeville theaters with "Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur". The show was a sensation as the animated dinosaur appeared to respond to McCay's commands. The next year cartoons began to appear that told a story such as "Colonel Heeza Liar" which was the first cartoon series. The first great animation innovator appeared in 1917, when Max Fleischer introduced his "Out of the Inkwell" series. Fleischer's "Koko the Clown" character interacted with Fleischer in live action. Of course, all animation at this point was silent, and required accompiament by a piano or organ when shown in a theater. Without sound the animated characters tended to just be material for gags, and lacked personality.

Throughout the twenties Winkler Productions controlled the most popular cartoons which included "Felix the Cat" and the "Out of the Inkwell" series. Winkler also controlled the modestly successful "Alice Comedies", and later the somewhat more successful "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" series. These were both productions from Walt Disney Comics. Oswald, in fact, looks a lot like a certain famous mouse.

Felix was the only popular cartoon of this period, and even he was considered a filler before a movie, not a real character. This would all change in 1928. Winkler decided to squeeze Disney out of the production of the "Oswald" cartoons by cutting his payments and stealing his animators. Disney had to come up with something different. Which he did, resulting in the birth of Mickey Mouse. However, the first Mickey short Plane Crazy was a failure. This short was silent and very much like an "Oswald" short. Why buy an imitation Oswald when you could have the real thing? Disney had to come up with something else fast.

Max Fleischer had experimented with and released seven animated shorts with some sound effects. These shorts had not generated much interest and were quickly forgotten. (Fleischer went on to be the first animator to experiment with color, and to compete with Disney during the 1930's and 1940's. The most famous of his cartoon series include "Popeye the Sailor Man", "Betty Boop", and "Superman".) Disney may have seen the Fleischer cartoons, or he may have come up with the idea for a cartoon with sound on his own. Whatever happened Disney was the first to try a complete cartoon with synchronized sound. The gimmick worked, and people thronged to see "Steamboat Willie".

Mickey quickly became a phenomenon. However, I believe this isn't just because he was the first cartoon with sound. I think it is because Mickey had a personality. Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney had created an everyman, or a reflection of their culture. In 1928 this meant he was a wild, musical, scamp; willing to try anything. As the culture changed so did Mickey, and he remained a culture touchstone until at least the middle of the nest decade.

From Ryan :

This is truly one of my favorite Mickey Mouse shorts. The scene in which Mickey plays "Turkey in the Straw" using the animals is just hilarious. One scene that I want to see is the scene where Mickey, after pulling the nursing piglets in tune to the music, removes them and starts playing on their mother's teats. I hear that this scene is censored on both video/laserdisc releases and on TV. This was deleted back in 1953 for its theatrical showing as part of Mickey's 25th Anniversary. The people who show it on the Disney Channel/Toon Disney probably don't even know that its censored, but are just showing the version that they were given. I would like to see this scene on the Disney Channel if Disney reinstates their edits after they receive the letters from the petition.

From Rich :

If you've never seen this cartoon before then all I have to say is; "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" or in this case, if you're referring to Warner Bros., "Mammy!" (a common Disney gag that parodied Al Jolson's accomplishment in The Jazz Singer). This cartoon says it all, even though it's only words of dialogue are "Man overboard!". But all kidding aside, the way Disney thought of having his new star character bring sound into the animated world by playing a menagerie of animals like musical instruments in tune to the music, was classic. Disney answered right back to his ex-boss, Charlie Mintz, who fired him to make better profits, and shocked the world with just a seven-and-a-half minute musical cartoon short with sound, that went on to be one of the best animated films ever made.

From Jeremy Fassler :

Some people rank this as Mickey's best cartoon, and though it's not the best (that honor goes to The Band Concert), it is one of my favorites. I really do think that the Mickey/Minnie relationship isn't played out well here, though. I just bought the Walt Disney Treasures DVD of Black and White Mickey cartoons and this was one of the first ones I watched. I absolutely love it. The scene where he pulls the cats tail is hilarious, as is the scene with the xylophone cow and the potato being thrown at the bird, who should've been in more shorts.

Overall, one of the most important Disney cartoons, and more importantly, one of the best!

From Mike :

Up until I got the excellent Mickey Mouse in Black and White DVD I thought I had already seen Steamboat Willie. But I had not or at least never the uncensored version. This is one of my favorite cartoons ever, period. No not because of the whole synchronized sound issue but because it is simply hilarious. The exaggeration, the cruelty towards animals, and listening to a parrot drown and Mickey laughing at its demise were all classic bits. This also showed there were great things to come from Walt and Mickey as well as it would seem a strong supporting cast (Minnie and Pete were there too!). I love it.

From Bengan :

None of my favorites though I can feel the historical vibrations. I met with this short on the Disney Treasures "Mickey Mouse in Black and White". The most interesting with this short is the follow up in the future shorts. A favorite theme will be the spitting, the xylophone playing on teeth (or on skeletons) and pulling tails. An other theme will be the interest in Minnies underwear (in this short the hook will be embarrassed - in the next (Plane Crazy) it will be used as a parachute and so on. I enjoyed the part when Mickey played the casseroles and the washboard. The latter grew very popular in the fifties - at least in Europe.

From Sam :

Although Plane Crazy and the Gallopin' Gaucho were the first to be animated, it would be Steamboat Willie that would introduce Mickey to the world. And what an introduction! Mickey plays as spunky deckhand on Captain Pete's riverboat, culminating with Mickey making music with anything he can get his hands on. Pure fun from beginning to end, it remains one of the best shorts of all time.

From Jenny :

I am only 14 years old but I have been brought up to enjoy all the classics including the earlier Disney cartoons. When I was about 5, I got a video of Steamboat Willie and it was my favorite! I loved it and I still watch it at least once a week!

From Baruch Weiss :

One of my favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons. The music was wonderful. While I really am not a fan of black and white cartoons, this one is an exception.

From Bill :

This short is considered the vehicle that started Mickey to stardom because it's Mickey's first "sound" cartoon. But further than that historical point it also showcased Ub Iwerks' vast talent as an animator and the fact that he almost single-handedly animated the first three Mickey shorts. Mickey's personality was also being groomed as a defender of the weak (Minnie losing her music) and doing what it takes to help, even though he ended up peeling potatoes for his efforts. he was brash, brazen, and most of all brave beyond his own strength.

The gags were great for such an early short and set the pace for future Mickey's.

From Gijs Grob :

This cartoon is a milestone, being the first cartoon in which synchronized sound is used. Of course sound boosted both Mickey's and Walt Disney's career and it gave a valuable shot to the ailing animation industry. Yet, it was also a setback, as can already be seen in this cartoon. In Steamboat Willie, sound is the sole raison d'etre of some of the shots (chickens cackling, a cow mooing). But more important, storyline has given way to an extensive musical number. While both Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho had strong, albeit simple stories, Steamboat Willie has almost none. It wasn't necessary: to see Mickey Mouse dance and play to the music was marvelous enough. Therefore, in the coming years Disney would favor often tiring sing and dance routines above great storylines. It took Disney several years to bring back strong stories to his cartoons (Mickey's 42th film, Traffic Troubles from 1931, is arguably the first).

Nevertheless, Steamboat Willie still is a great cartoon, and a lot of fun to watch. It's still rooted in the silent era, because lip synchronization had not been developed yet, making the characters' vocabulary rather limited. And it still uses a comic strip-like visual language to express the characters' feelings. Yet, the musical number is both fresh and catching. When you've seen Steamboat Willie, you'll be whistling 'Turkey in the Straw' for days, with a smile on your face.

From Christian :

Such a classic cartoon. It's a shame that you can only get the unedited version on Mickey Mouse in Black and White.

From Steven :

I thought this was a great short, but not as good as Plane Crazy. The scenes with the barnyard animals are hilarious, but the scene with Mickey playing the mother pig's teats was really weird (which is typical in these early cartoons.) Does anyone know what the parrot says to Mickey? I can barely hear, but I can't make up the words.

From Billy Joe :

Nick simply commented: "It's a great movie!" I strongly agree.

Steamboat Willie is a fun-filled cartoon. No matter how many times I watch it, I never get tired of the song Mickey and Minnie play. There are also some other laughs as well.

Also in this cartoon, Pete changes from a bear to a cat. (He's a cat from that short on.) I guess the Disney Studio made that change because the bear vs. mouse idea wouldn't be a good idea or they don't want to use a character from the Oswald cartoons they didn't own.

Anyway, Steamboat Willie is a fun short, and it's highly recommended for many generations. From a score of 1-10, it gets an 11!

P.S. The sequence when Mickey Mouse taps his foot, whistling, and driving the steamboat (at the beginning of the cartoon) is used in the new Walt Disney Animation Studios logo.

From Mike :

I first saw this short when I was 5 years old. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoy it now. I like the playing of the animals to Turkey in the Straw. I really laugh at the end scene when Mickey throws the potato at the parrot. Just funny all around.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project :

Finally, after nearly five months of working on it, we have come to the first “official” Mickey Mouse cartoon – Steamboat Willie. Sure, others were animated first, but the public got their first glimpse at the future icon in Steamboat Willie. So, we’ve all seen it a few times before, I’m sure, but how does it stack up after having viewed all that came before?

Not too bad, but not too good would be my first assessment. Steamboat Willie, oddly enough, is much more derivative than the first two Mickeys, borrowing several gags from the Oswalds and even the Alice Comedies. The animation is good, although not as inventive as some of the sights we saw in Plane Crazy or in some of the Oswald shorts.

So, is it the sound that made Steamboat Willie so popular? It certainly doesn’t hurt. The sound effects are key to the timing and comedy of the film, although the character’s voices are pretty terrible. The squeaks and grunts are frankly annoying, and probably would have been better served with musical cues instead.

It’s not the story, either. This is definitely the weakest story so far in the Mickey shorts, with Mickey serving as a first mate on a steamboat, captained by Pete, and all of the action stems from there. He picks up Minnie, a musical interlude takes up most of the short, and Pete finally implores him to get back to work towards the end.

No, the thing that makes Steamboat Willie work is the real every man sense the viewer gets from Mickey in this film. You’ll recall, that’s at odds with the intent that Ub Iwerks had for the new character. Ub wanted Mickey to be a dashing hero, as seen in Gallopin’ Gaucho. But the Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie is not that. In fact, he’s much like Oswald, trying to enjoy himself but being harassed by Pete as he does.

In this short, though, Mickey shows his human side, trying to please Minnie after a goat eats her music, by cranking its tail and turning the goat into a record player. Sure, it’s a gag straight out of Rival Romeos, the Oswald short, but it gives a little glimpse into Mickey’s personality.

I’ve gathered from comments here and in other places that the musical interludes would become a crutch in the early Mickey films, and it’s easy to see how that would happen. In this film, Mickey turns all the animals into instruments, including swinging a cat around by its tail and picking up a pig and playing its teats like an accordion. Both of these are scenes that had been cut from the film, but they are intact on the Walt Disney Treasures DVD.

Strangely enough, I feel like this is the weakest of the first three Mickey films. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. But the animation, storytelling and characters are not as strong. However, Steamboat Willie will always hold a warm place in my heart as the first Mickey film.

It still holds sway, though, over young kids. My son watched it with me a few days ago, and has been asking me to see it again every day since. My daughter loves it as well. They both saw some of the Oswalds and the other two Mickey films reviewed so far, but they keep coming back to Steamboat Willie. Maybe this was the beginning of the Disney magic we all keep hearing about.

From Patrick Malone :

So much has been written about Steamboat Willie that it's tough to come up with anything new. The picture of Mickey at the wheel of the steamboat has become an iconic legend in Disney history.

But the question remains ... would Mickey have been as popular without sound? I believe so, but it would have taken a much longer time. Remember, after Alice folded her tents and Oswald was taken away from him, Mickey Mouse was the first character that Disney could truly say was his own. I think he would have been loathe to give up on him without an extended fight.

On he other hand, would sound have survived without Mickey? It might have, but without the ebullience and accessibility of Mickey's character it might have just been a passing novelty for cartoons. But the fact that the Disney artists were able to create so convincingly the illusion that the characters on the screen were actually making the sounds, married with the seductive personality of Mickey Mouse proved to be the marriage that catapulted him, and Disney, to fame.

From Mac :

I love this cartoon! Steamboat Willie really is something new. The last few generations have grown up with sound films and cartoons. We're used to moving images that talk, play music and make sounds, but in 1928 this was really innovative.

I also think it's a really good idea for Disney's cartoon with sound. Mickey's on a boat that's carrying livestock which he uses to play music and entertain Minnie. It's unusual, but simple enough to be perfect for a short. Absolutely everything moves to the beat, the music is really catchy and comes from unexpected places. It's silly at the same time as being clever and funny. I even enjoy those funny squeaks and grunts! Compare this cartoon with the early Krazy Kat sound cartoons on David's blog or Dinner Time (the Paul Terry sound cartoon that beat Disney to it .)

There is perhaps an over-reliance on music in early Disney cartoons rather than on action or adventure. It could be seen as a crutch or maybe it was just giving the public what it wanted. I still find there to be something absolutely irresistible about the match of music synchronized with animated antics. I just love it! (what is a shame is when Mickey was ready for real adventures again in the mid-30's, they stop all too soon).

Even though I hate the expression, I think it is the use of music that helped create that special quality, that "Disney Magic", that people find, but can't quite define. The 'scientific formula' seems to have something to do with the blend of music and action combined with personalities.