As Mickey Rooney often reminded us, at one point he was the number one star in the world. No star at MGM shined brighter than he in his heyday. As his star dimmed, he often reveled in whatever adulation still greeted him. His frequent appearances on talk shows often saw him sharing dubious stories of what life was like at MGM when he was on top of the world. One such story concerned a rather famous mouse.
According to Mr. Rooney, he was wandering the MGM Studio Lot as a child actor when he came across an office in which a man was drawing at an artist’s table. The man ushered the young Rooney into his office and showed him some hilarious drawings. Rooney was enchanted and after the impromptu meeting, the man introduced himself and asked what Rooney’s name was. “I’m Mickey, Mr. Disney.” Months later, the young boy was astonished to see a very special cartoon premiere of Hollywood’s biggest new star- Mickey Mouse.
An amazing story, right? Too bad there was little truth behind it. At the time that Walt Disney was working on Mickey Mouse, his studios were 15 miles and a world away from MGM. While Walt Disney eventually became good friends with Louis B. Mayer, his small operation would have been unknown to the film titan at the time, so it wouldn’t have made sense for Walt Disney to have been at MGM. Additionally, before Mickey Mouse, Walt’s films were distributed by MGM’s competitor Universal Pictures. The truth is that Mickey received his name from Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian Disney and not from a chance encounter with Mickey Rooney.