Children’s book illustrators — draw your pets. That’s our message for today.

He really did have a pet mouse while working at Laugh-O-Gram, his commercial animation studio in Kansas City.

realistic mouse etching

And when Universal Studios, his cartoon film distributor snatched away the rights to the Oswald the Rabbit character, which he’d developed with his animator partner Ubbe Iwerks, he started making doodle sketches of Oswald’s replacement — an innocent, irreverently childlike mouse.

Iwerks re-drew and simplified the character to make him easier to animate. But although the final artwork on the screen was Iwerks’ — the personality and “soul” of the mouse came from its creator, Walt Disney.

The first two cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse could not even find distribution. But when Disney and Iwerks added music and a voice to the third animated short, Steamboat Willie Mickey became an “overnight” sensation.

Mickey’s recorded voice, by the way, was actually Disney’s — and he continued to provide Mickey’s distinct vocals until 1947.

Mickey continued to lead the way for short sound cartoons through the 1930s and 1940s. Metaphorically speaking, he still leads.

Trivia question of the day: Mickey was not the first moniker picked for the mouse. Do you know Mickey’s original name?

Leave your answer in a comment.

We’ll randomly pick one of the comments (it must contain the correct answer) next Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

The winner will be sent the link to the complete video lesson, Dauntless Design from Dynamic Drawing and Design — a module of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! course in children’s book illustration.