Steamboat Willie is a 1928 American animated short film directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It was produced in black-and-white by The Walt Disney Studio and released by Celebrity Productions. The cartoon is considered the debut of Mickey Mouse, and his girlfriend Minnie, but the characters had both appeared several months earlier in test screenings. Steamboat Willie was the third of Mickey's films to be produced, but was the first to be distributed.
The film is also notable for being one of the first cartoons with synchronized sound. More precisely, it was the first cartoon to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack which distinguished it from earlier sound cartoons such as Inkwell Studios' Song Car-Tunes (1924-1927) and Van Beuren Studios' Dinner Time (1928). Also distinguishing Steamboat Willie from earlier sound cartoons was the level of popularity.
Music for Steamboat Willie was arranged by Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis, and included the songs "Steamboat Bill," a 1911 Arthur Collins composition, and "Turkey in the Straw." The title of the film is a parody of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), itself a reference to the song by Collins. Walt Disney performed all of the voices in the film, although there is little intelligible dialogue.
While the film has received some criticism due to humorous depiction of cruelty to animals, it has also received wide critical acclaim, not only for introducing one of the world's most popular cartoon characters, but for the innovation. In 1994 members of the animation field voted Steamboat Willie 13th in the book The 50 Greatest Cartoons, which listed the greatest cartoons of all time. In 1998 the film was selected for preservation in the United States' National Film Registry for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."