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LETTER: An Auburn connection to Disney

To the editor:

Charles Osgood’s Sunday Morning (Dec. 13) spotlighted Walt Disney’s initial triumph. He said Disney “found success” in 1928 with Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie, his first animation with synchronized action and sound.

How did Willie get his “voice?” There is a connection between the work of Theodore W. Case (1888-1944) of Auburn, N.Y., and the success of Walt Disney. Here’s how it happened:

In 1925, Mr. Case abruptly ended a partnership with Dr. Lee DeForest, a businessman who took credit for the sound-on-film system invented by Case. In 1927, Dr. DeForest was on the verge of bankruptcy and needed funds for legal fees. He advertised at cut prices his remaining pieces of Case’s equipment. American movie investor, Patrick Powers, bought De Forest’s (really Case’s) sound system, and renamed it Cinephone.

Walt Disney decides to enter the silent-to-sound explosion. He used Powers’ newly acquired equipment to achieve that goal. Steamboat Willie was an overnight sensation. The realistic coupling of action and sound as characters whistled, sang, spoke and played musical instruments lifted Disney’s popularity and profit. Disney’s magical kingdom came alive and its star, Mickey Mouse, would forever hold his banner high … thanks to the Father of Talking Movies, Theodore W. Case, who started a technological revolution in Auburn, that swept the world.

ANTONIA K. COLELLA

AND LUKE P. COLELLA

AUTHORS: “NOW WE’RE TALKING: THE STORY OF THEODORE W. CASE AND SOUND-ON-FILM

— 2ND EDITION” AUBURN

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