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Ninety years ago today a struggling young animator named Walt Disney released this groundbreaking cartoon called Steamboat Willie. The rest is history.

It can be pretty hard to fathom how groundbreaking it was and it can also be pretty hard to fathom a time when Mickey Mouse wasn’t the biggest cartoon character. While there were animated cartoon shorts before Steamboat Willie, they were silents, which meant that there were no recorded music or dialogue. They were played in movie theaters where a piano player or organist would play the soundtrack live in the theater, just like they did with live action silent films. During the silent era the biggest cartoon star was Felix the Cat.

Many people think that Steamboat Willie was both the first sound cartoon ever made and Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon. It turns out not to be the case on both counts. There were some earlier attempts at making sound cartoons, most notably Max and Dave Fleischer’s Song Car-Tunes series and Van Beuren Studio’s Dinner Time but they didn’t catch on in the way that Steamboat Willie did.

Steamboat Willie was actually the third Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made. His first two cartoons, Plane Crazy and the Gallopin’ Gaucho, were made as silent animation films but they had failed to impress audiences and Walt Disney was unable to get a distributor for those two. Walt Disney came up with the idea of making a sound Mickey Mouse cartoon after the ground-breaking live action talking movie The Jazz Singer was released and it became a huge hit.

Had the people behind Felix the Cat gotten into making sound cartoons immediately after The Jazz Singer was released, it’s highly likely that Felix would’ve permanently quashed that cartoon rodent upstart Mickey and Steamboat Willie would’ve become a footnote in the history of animation. After all, Felix was the biggest cartoon star in the world while Mickey Mouse was a relative unknown. It’s very likely that Felix’s animation domination would have carried over into the sound era and Felix the Cat would have remained the biggest cartoon star today. People would be spending the day at a Felix the Cat theme park, visiting related Felix websites online, and buying all kinds of Felix the Cat merchandise ranging from clothes to toys to high-end designer handbags.

But the people behind Felix the Cat underestimated the potential of sound cartoons and talking pictures in general. They felt they already had a winning formula with Felix so why alter it? The fact that studio head Pat Sullivan suffered from alcoholism so bad that it affected his decision making and it ultimately took his life at an early age didn’t help. By the time there was an effort to start making Felix the Cat sound cartoons, Mickey Mouse had already overtaken him in popularity and the original studio folded. While there were short-lived attempts to revive Felix the Cat in the 1930’s (as a series of color cartoons with sound) and 1950’s (as a children’s TV cartoon show), Felix the Cat had never quite regained the immense popularity he lost from that disastrous decision to delay making sound cartoons. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the first Felix the Cat cartoon so we’ll see if there are any attempts to put Felix in the public eye again.

Earlier this year I realized that this year was the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie when I saw these specially marked Pepperdige Farms Goldfish Crackers on sale. I purchased a couple of them and I wrote this blog post about these special crackers (which featured crackers in the shape of the usual goldfish and special ones in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head).

If it weren’t for these crackers I would have completely missed this anniversary. But this is Disney, a giant multinational corporation, and it wasn’t going to let people forget that this year is another one of those important anniversaries where the number ends in either 0 or 5. Since buying those crackers I’ve seen other Mickey stuff in the stores. At the local Giant grocery store there was this display of Little Golden Books featuring Mickey Mouse.

The same store had special Mickey Mouse Oreos for sale. I purchased one of those packs for the heck of it. Here is what the outside package looked like.

I opened the package and noticed how the chocolate part of the cookies were designed. One side of the cookie had the usual Oreo stamp on it.

The other side had one of three special designs that were especially made for this package. One design had Mickey Mouse wearing a party hat.

Another design had a megaphone surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

A third design had the number “90” surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

The cream in the cookies was a special flavor known as “Birthday Cake.” Basically the cream tasted like vanilla frosting and I found it to taste far sweeter than the normal Oreo cream. While I found the taste to be passible, I personally prefer the regular cream.

If that wasn’t enough, Giant also had this special issue of Life magazine on sale, which was full of photos of Mickey Mouse over the years.

The closer it got to the anniversary, the more 90th anniversary Mickey stuff came out at a rapid rate. Here’s what I found at Target.

Of course there would be a Mickey Mouse Bluray DVD featuring “Steamboat Willie” and other seminal Mickey cartoons.

There were some special Funko Pops featuring cute versions of Mickey Mouse in his famous cartoon roles. While I didn’t see a Steamboat Willie Funko Pop, I saw ones based on other cartoons like The Brave Little Taylor and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia.

There were some large plush stuffed animals based on the opening sequence in Steamboat Willie when Mickey was steering the steamboat.

There were smaller plush stuffed animals as well, which not only featured Mickey as he appeared in Steamboat Willie but as he appeared in other cartoons.

There were special blind boxes shaped like Mickey heads.

The list on the label shows the Mickey figurines that one could get inside of blind box. Of course you won’t know which Mickey you got until after you purchased this special box and take it home with you.

If buying blind boxes aren’t your thing, you could spend $24.99 and buy the complete set of Mickey Mouse figurines.

I saw some special Mickey Mouse fabrics from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts, some of which feature Minnie Mouse as well. You could make yourself a special outfit with these special patterns.

There were other Mickey fabrics as well but I only wanted to highlight the ones that had the Steamboat Willie-era Mickeys.

There were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments and housewares available for sale at CVS.

A couple of days ago I made a return trip to Tyson’s Corner Mall. I went to The Disney Store where I saw this sign featuring Mickey and Minnie announcing that its Black Friday sale was going on right now. (By the way, my various store apps on my smartphone were pushing notifications all this past week announcing “Black Friday Preview Sales” and stuff like that? Is having pre-Black Friday sales a thing now in retail? God help us!)

There was a sign announcing Mickey Mouse-inspired activities at The Disney Store all weekend long. I showed up on Friday but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Today they have a thing where the first 90 customers to make a purchase will get a special commemorative Mickey key. I’m financially struggling too much to go for something like that. Even if I could afford to buy something, I think I can live without a special commemorative Mickey key.

The back of the store was having continuous showings of Steamboat Willie with seats small enough for young children to sit on.

There was just one small area of the store that had the commemorative 90th anniversary stuff, most of which were geared towards adults, such as paperclips and business portfolio covers.

The Disney Store wasn’t the only place that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff. The Build-A-Bear Workshop had a couple of special 90th anniversary Mickey plushies that one could have stuffed. One is Mickey wearing his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” outfit.

The other one was a regular Mickey Mouse wearing his usual red shorts. Like the other Mickey, this one had special soles on his shoes that were marked 90th anniversary. (The Mickey in this photo was unstuffed.)

Lolli and Pops had imported Mickey Mouse candy with the packaging written in some Asian language. (I couldn’t tell which language it was. I think it was either Japanese or Korean.)

Macy’s had these special 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Ray-Ban sunglasses.

The only thing about these sunglasses that I didn’t like was the fact that Mickey Mouse was visible from inside of the sunglasses frames—the frames that other people wouldn’t normally see. What’s the use of paying more money for something that can’t be seen by other people? I might as well buy regular black-framed sunglasses without Mickey Mouse lining on the inside.

Sugarfina is an upscale candy store that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse candy on sale. I thought about buying a Mickey Mouse dark chocolate candy bar only to find out that their candy bars cost $9.50 each. And that’s the starting price of the candy in that store.

There was a store that sold 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse watches, clocks, and backpacks.

There were a lot of stuff for the 90th anniversary that one could buy. I can only imagine what it will be like 10 years from now when the 100th anniversary comes up in 2028. While we’re on the subject, here’s one fact that frequently gets overlooked: This year is also the 90th anniversary of Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s longtime girlfriend. That’s right, she appeared in the first two silent Mickey cartoons and she also appeared in Steamboat Willie. She’s been a regular in most Mickey Mouse cartoons since.

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Way back in January I wrote a blog post about how last year the opening ceremony for the annual Festival of Lights in Greenbelt, Maryland was moved from the back of City Hall to nearby Roosevelt Center, which resulted in higher attendance since the movie theater, restaurants, and convenience store were all located there. I was there for the opening ceremony in its new location but I didn’t bother with taking pictures, which I regretted later. I took pictures of the lights in Roosevelt Center on the last day of the festival, which was on a Sunday night (when most of the businesses tended to close early on Sundays). The entire area was pretty yet deserted when I took those photos.

The opening ceremony was such a huge hit in its new location that the City of Greenbelt decided to do it again this year in Roosevelt Center. This time I took pictures of the festivities.

The festival gave out free hot chocolate. The festival organizers encouraged people to bring their own coffee cups or hot thermoses from home instead of using the free paper cups that were also available in order to get as close to having the festival produce zero waste as possible. I brought this coffee mug that had Stitch from the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. (It was one a gift I gave to my then-husband but it was among the many items he left behind when he walked out on me back in 2011.) It turned out that that coffee mug was a conversation starter because I had so many kids who literally focused their attention on this mug.

I brought my mug from home for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

I brought my mug from home for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

As you can see, this event drew a lot of people of all ages.

A crowd gathers for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

There were lights strung everywhere.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

A local band played Christmas and Hanukkah music.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights. The band performs Christmas music.

The Christmas tree remained darkened until Santa Claus arrived.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights. The tree is waiting to be lit.

Santa Claus arrived on the back of a fire truck.

Santa arrived at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Santa arrived at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The lights on the tree were lit after Santa arrived.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The nearby Greenbelt Theater was having a free showing of the original made-for-TV cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas just like it did last year. I saw it on the big screen last year and it was such a different experience from simply watching it at home on the TV. I thought about seeing it again but the line at the movie theater was really long this year. (I later heard that every single seat in the theater was filled.) I decided to skip it. It was no big deal since I saw it on the big screen last year plus I have that show on DVD so I can watch it at home anytime I want.

Makerspace 125 decided to schedule an Open House to coincide with the Festival of Lights opening ceremony. Someone decided to decorate a ladder with lights and ornaments instead of a tree.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Makerspace 125 had this one free hands-on activity where people could make fancy paper ornaments.

A lot of making went on @Makerspace125 at the Open House held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

One person brought her dog, Honey, who totally enjoyed herself at the open house.

At the Makerspace 125 Open House held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Most of the festival attendees basically cleared out after the Greenbelt Theater finished with showing the Grinch. Here are a few more photographs of the lights that are currently up in Roosevelt Center.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The lights will remain up until after New Year.

UPDATE (December 25, 2016): After I attended a special Christmas Day Sunday service at my church I decided to head to the Beijing Restaurant in Roosevelt Center (where I took advantage of its special Sunday buffet). After I left the restaurant I noticed that the Christmas tree from the Festival of Lights looked very glittery. Of course it helped that it was a very bright sunny day. Here are a couple of extra daytime photos.

Festival of Lights in the Daytime

Festival of Lights in the Daytime

I recently helped out with the yard sale that was put on as a fundraiser for Changing Focus, my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The yard sale was held on the grounds of the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church. My role was basically collect people’s money as they bought stuff that was donated to the yard sale. Here are just some of the items I managed to photograph with my smartphone.

Someone donated a whole bunch of pink flamingoes along with the metal legs that are supposed to support the plastic birds. The only thing is that most of the metal legs didn’t even fit these birds. I remember trying to fit them in the holes and they just wouldn’t go in. Other people tried as well but very few of the legs actually fit the flamingoes. As a result we had to lay most of them on the ground. Despite this the pink flamingoes were completely sold out by the end of the yard sale.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 30, 2016

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 30, 2016

These shoes were the ultimate in Christmas kitsch, complete with Santa Claus.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 30, 2016

I once had something like this. There was a time when many people owned a VHS rewinder because rewinding the VHS tapes tended to put stress on the VCR motor that would cause that machine to wear out. So basically we used to play the VHS tape in the VCR until we were finished then transfer the VHS tape to the VHS rewinder to rewind the tape back to the beginning. These rewinders became obsolete with the advent of DVDs, online streaming, programs on-demand, etc.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 30, 2016

Here’s a throwback to the days when America Online was the big name on the Information Superhighway and that corporation would put its logo on all kinds of freebies like this coffee mug.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 30, 2016

Conair Hot Sticks, the perfect product for getting your hair in that perfect 1980’s hairdo.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 30, 2016

While the yard sale went on outside the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, inside the church there was a massive used book sale where all the proceeds went to the church itself. I saw this book on sale but I ended up not buying it. I regret it now because the title is pretty hilarious.

Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church Book Sale, April 30, 2016

Here’s an obsolete book from Kodak on how to make good sound movies.

Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church Book Sale, April 30, 2016

Here’s an antique Bible that’s written in Swedish.

Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church Book Sale, April 30, 2016

I scored big time at this book sale. I managed to buy all three Hunger Games books and the first two books in the Vampire Diaries series for under $10. See, there is a benefit to being behind in pop culture. (LOL!)

If that’s not enough, there was also the Festival on the Green, which is an arts and crafts show that’s held nearby on the grounds of the Crofton Country Club. Here are some photos I took there.

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

I made just two purchases at the Festival on the Green. Both of them were bars of soap that I purchased from Naturally Silky Soap and Natural Image Botanicals.

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

Festival on the Green, Crofton, Maryland, April 30, 2016

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