Over the years, Walt Disney made several memorable and successful characters. During the years prior to making Snow White, he focus primarily on cartoon shorts. It was in these early years that he came up with his oldest character that is still featured today… And no, it’s not Mickey Mouse!
In 1925, the Alice comedy Alice Solves the Puzzle featured a large, gruff, bear-like villain. In this particular short, his name was Bootleg Pete.
Over the years, his nickname has changed a few times, but he has always been called Pete. Bootleg Pete, Peg Leg Pete, Pirate Pete. But always Pete. As is the case with most long lasting cartoon characters, his appearance has also changed. By the time he was appearing with Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie, Pete was looking more like a cat than a bear.
Pete began his career in Hollywood in the same way as Walt: The Alice comedies. This was a popular series of 10 minute films in which Alice, a real girl, is swept into a cartoon world. Pete was featured in this series a total of 19 times! When Walt moved on to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, all of the Alice characters were left behind. All of them except Pete!
Oswald was essentially an early version of Mickey Mouse. Oswald had some silly dealings with various characters throughout his films, including the nefarious Pete. In 1927’s The Ocean Hop, Pete became a regular villain for Oswald. While Oswald was still a Disney property, Pete appeared a total of 10 times. Once Walt Disney lost the rights to the Oswald character, Pete was still used frequently as Oswald’s nemesis in the non-Disney versions.
The very first antagonist Mickey Mouse ever had to deal with was Pete. In Steamboat Willie in 1928, Pete is the boat captain insisting the Mickey get his work done. Pete may have changed his appearance, but he’s still the same Pete. He continued to appear in Mickey shorts, Disney comics, video games, TV shows like Goof Troop, and short movies such as Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Sometimes he even played a good guy! Pete is a versatile actor.
Did you know Pete was so old? Do you think he’s the same guy even though he used to be a bear? Let me know!