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In 1928, to recover from the loss of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney came up with the idea of a mouse character named Mortimer while on a train headed to California, drawing up a few simple drawings. The mouse was later renamed Mickey Mouse (Disney's wife, Lillian, disliked the sound of 'Mortimer Mouse') and starred in several Disney produced films. Ub Iwerks refined Disney's initial design of Mickey Mouse. Disney's first sound film Steamboat Willie, a cartoon starring Mickey, was released on November 18, 1928[ChWDC 3] through Pat Powers' distribution company. It was the first Mickey Mouse sound cartoon released, but the third to be created, behind Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho. [ChWDC 3]Steamboat Willie was an immediate smash hit, and its initial success was attributed not just to Mickey's appeal as a character, but to the fact that it was the first cartoon to feature synchronized sound. Disney used Pat Powers' Cinephone system, created by Powers using Lee de Forest's Phonofilm system. [ChWDC 3]Steamboat Willie premiered at B. S. Moss's Colony Theater in New York City, now The Broadway Theatre. Disney's Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho were then retrofitted with synchronized sound tracks and re-released successfully in 1929. [ChWDC 3]

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