The Hand Behind the Mouse: the Ub Iwerks Story

Monkey Monkey

DIS Veteran
Jan 17, 2008
I didn't even know this documentary existed (and didn't know who Ub Iwerks was until recently!) but it's on the OvationTV channel right now (on the west coast).

They often re-show the same programs a few times, so I bet it will be on again soon.


She runs to get away from you.
Mar 2, 2007
i keep tabs on disney related programming and post them to

my times are eastern and i don't know how the schedules are carried over to the other coast, but it aired twice tonight. once at 8 and again at 11.

it's an interesting show to say the least. although it makes some interesting claims that disney would probably dispute. most notably it gives ub iwerks full credit for creating mickey mouse and for creating the multi-plane camera if i'm not mistaken.

it's probably on every few months or so. i believe it's also available on dvd or whathaveyou
  • JohnZ46

    Dec 14, 2006
    This documentary is also included in "Walt Disney Treasures - The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" DVD set that came out last December.
  • blackjackdelta

    <font color=darkorchid>Uncle had an "in" with Walt
    Jul 23, 2005
    I met Ub Iwerks back in 1962 when my Uncle worked for Walt as a wildlife photographer. I can not remember much of the conversation, but the impression I had of this man was" what a brain." I got a tour of his workshop and the bi-plane camera system they were working on.
    I will have to find that special..I usually watch what is going on ovation but the hours have been loooooooooong lately.



    DIS Veteran
    Jan 17, 2008
    It can also be found on the Walt Disney Treasures CD "Oswald The Lucky Rabbit".

    UB was the man with the drawing talent. Walt was the man with the incredible artistic and business vision.


    <font color=darkorchid>Uncle had an "in" with Walt
    Jul 23, 2005

    Iwerks was considered by many to be Walt Disney's oldest friend, and spent most of his career with Disney. He was responsible for the distinctive style of the earliest Disney animated cartoons. In 1922, when Walt began his Laugh-O-Gram cartoon series, Iwerks joined him as chief animator. The Studio went bankrupt, however, and in 1923, Iwerks followed Disney's move to Los Angeles to work on a new series of cartoons known as the Alice Comedies. After the end of this series, Disney asked Iwerks to come up with a new character. The first Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was animated entirely by Ub Iwerks. Following the first cartoon, Oswald was redesigned on the insistence of Universal, who agreed to distribute the new series of cartoons in 1927.
    In the spring of 1928, Disney lost control of the Oswald character, and much of his staff was hired away. Disney asked Ub Iwerks, who stayed on, to start drawing up new character ideas. Iwerks tried sketches of frogs, dogs, and cats, but none of these appealed to Disney. A female cow and male horse were created at this time by Iwerks, but were also rejected. They would later turn up as Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar.[1] Ub Iwerks eventually got inspiration from an old drawing. In 1925, Hugh Harman drew some sketches of mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. These inspired Ub Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney, eventually called Mickey Mouse.[2] Thus, in a very real sense, Iwerks can be called true the creator of Mickey Mouse because Iwerks, and not Disney, originated the character.
    The first few Mickey Mouse cartoons were animated almost entirely by Iwerks. Walt Disney understood the value of Ub so much that Ub made twice what Walt was making. Walt would make $75.00 a week and Ub would make $150.00 a week. Eventually, however, Iwerks and Disney had a falling out, and their friendship was severed when Iwerks accepted a contract with a competitor to leave Disney and start an animation studio under his own name.
    Sinbad the Sailor - 1935

    The Iwerks Studio opened in 1930. Financial backers led by Pat Powers suspected that Iwerks was responsible for much of Disney's early success. However, while animation for a time suffered at Disney from Iwerks' departure, it soon rebounded as Disney brought in talented new young animators.
    Despite a contract with MGM to distribute his cartoons, and the introduction of a new character named Flip the Frog, and later Willie Whopper, the Iwerks Studio was never a major commercial success and failed to rival either Disney or Fleischer Studios, despite Iwerks' cartoons being technically superior, and more intellectually sophisticated in many ways[citation needed]. Backers withdrew further financial support from Iwerks Studio in 1936, and it folded soon after.
    In 1937, Leon Schlesinger Productions contracted Iwerks to produce four Looney Tunes shorts starring Porky Pig and Gabby Goat. Iwerks directed the first two shorts, while former Schlesinger animator Robert Clampett was promoted to director and helmed the other two shorts before he and his unit returned to the main Schlesinger lot. Iwerks then did contract work for Screen Gems (then Columbia Pictures' cartoon division) before returning to work for Disney in 1940. The cartoons created by Iwerks' own studio remained largely unseen for many decades, but have been released to DVD by Image Entertainment on their series titled Cartoons That Time Forgot.
    After his return to Disney Studios, Iwerks mainly worked on developing special visual effects. He is credited as developing the processes for combining live action and animation used in Song of the South (1946), as well as the xerographic process adapted for cel animation. He also worked at WED Enterprises, now Walt Disney Imagineering, helping to develop many Disney theme park attractions during the 1960s. Iwerks did special effects work outside the studio as well, including his Academy Award nominated achievement for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).
    Iwerks' most famous work outside creating and animating Mickey Mouse was Flip the Frog for his own studio. The Flip The Frog cartoons are much admired by fans of classic animation, and have now acquired a cult following.
    Iwerks was known for his fast work at drawing and animation and his wacky sense of humor. Animator Chuck Jones, who worked for Iwerks' studio in his youth, said "Iwerks is Screwy spelled backwards." Ub Iwerks died in 1971 of a heart attack in Burbank, California, aged 70.
    A documentary film, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story was released in 1999, followed by a book written by Leslie Iwerks and John Kenworthy in 2001. The documentary, created by Iwerks' granddaughter Leslie Iwerks, was released as part of The Walt Disney Treasures, Wave VII series

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