Mickey Mouse was originally created as a replacement for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character Walt Disney had created, along with Ub Iwerks, for Universal Studios. When Disney requested a larger budget for his popular Oswald series, Universal quickly fired him and hired other artists and writers to work on the show--to which Universal owned all the rights. Disney learned an important lesson from this incident and made sure that, in the future, he owned the rights to all of his creations.
Mickey Mouse made his first appearance in the short film "Plane Crazy" on May 15, 1928. In this five-minute short, Mickey is inspired to become an airplane pilot. He builds his own plane and invites Minnie Mouse to accompany him on his debut flight, during which he repeatedly tries to kiss her. Playing hard to get, Minnie resists his advances and eventually parachutes out of the plane to escape the amorous Mickey. Distracted, Mickey loses control of the plane, and a comical out-of-control flight ensues, resulting in a crash-landing of Mickey's new aircraft. Although audiences were only luke-warm to Mickey's first adventure, Walt Disney, determined to make a star out of Mickey Mouse, pressed on and soon scored a big hit on November 18, 1928, with "Steamboat Willie" in which Mickey serves aboard a steamboat under Captain Pete.
On May 23, 1929, Mickey Mouse spoke his first words -- "Hot dogs!" -- in "The Karnival Kid," a short which featured Mickey selling hot dogs at a carnival. In all of his previous appearances, Mickey would express himself vocally by whistling, laughing, crying, etc... but he never actually spoke.
In 1934, the Encyclopedia Britannica gave Mickey Mouse his own encyclopedia entry. He did, however, receive many other honors as well in later years. In 1935, the League of Nations awarded him a medal for being an ambassador of good will. He was also honored in 1935 by the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which was led by a fifty-five foot high Mickey Mouse. And in 1978, in honor of his fiftieth anniversary, he became the first cartoon character to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.