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AMERICAN MOSAIC - A Question About TV's 'Smallville' / Mickey Mouse's 75th Birthday / A New Album from Seal - 2003-12-11

Broadcast: December 12, 2003


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a program in VOA Special English about music and American life. And we answer your questions.


This is Doug Johnson. This week, we answer a question about a popular American television show. And we play music from the singer and songwriter known as Seal. But first – birthday wishes to the world's most recognizable rodent.

Mickey Mouse at 75


Mickey Mouse has celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday. He first appeared in November of nineteen-twenty-eight. The Disney Company honored his birthday with a big party in Orlando, Florida. Steve Ember has more about the mouse and the man who created him.


Walt Disney was born in nineteen-oh-one. As a young man he hoped to become a movie producer or director. But he could not find a job. So he decided to make animated movies. In traditional animation, cartoonists draw each image by hand. They draw picture after picture, each one a little different from the last, to create movement.

Walt Disney believed animated characters could be just as popular as real actors. He decided he needed a cartoon hero. So he created Mickey Mouse. The mouse had big eyes and ears. He stood on two legs like a human. On his hands he wore white gloves.

Mickey Mouse first appeared in nineteen-twenty-eight in the movie "Steamboat Willie." He was known then as Mortimer Mouse. In nineteen-thirty-two, Walt Disney produced the first cartoon filmed in the full-color process called Technicolor. This movie was called “Flowers and Trees.” It starred Mickey Mouse. Both the mouse and Walt Disney became famous.

Over the years, children read Mickey Mouse comics in newspapers and played with Mickey Mouse toys. They watched the "Mickey Mouse Club" on television. People checked the time of day on their Mickey Mouse watches and used Mickey Mouse telephones.

Mickey Mouse has had a lot of cultural influence. Too much, some say. But these days, products with another Disney character, Winnie the Pooh, sell better than Mickey.

In two-thousand-four, the Disney Company will release the first full-length movie starring Mickey Mouse and other characters. Then, the next year, Mickey is to appear in his first computer animated film. Both movies will be released only on video.

And, next summer, the United States Postal Service will start to honor Disney characters with postage stamps. Guess who goes first.

Smallville and Metropolis


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Dong Phuong asks about a program on Vietnamese television -- the American show "Smallville." That is the name of a town in the show. People who live there sometimes talk about a big city, Metropolis. Our listeners asks, "Where are these two places?"

The answer is, nowhere. At least not on a map. Smallville is the hometown of Clark Kent, better known as ... Superman.

The story of Superman goes back to nineteen-thirty-three, during the Great Depression. Jerry Siegel was a high school student in Cleveland, Ohio. He came up with the idea of an action hero named Superman. He asked his friend, Joe Shuster, to make a series of pictures to tell the story.

They also formed a business, called DC Comics. The company published picture magazines for children. These comics were a popular form of entertainment during the Depression. The imaginary heroes helped people forget the poor economic times.

In nineteen-thirty-eight, DC Comics published its first Superman magazine for just ten cents. Within two years there was a Superman radio program. That led to books, television shows and movies. Superman comics are sold in more than thirty countries and in many different languages. People can buy Superman clothes, toys and other products. And lately there is the TV show “Smallville.” This is where Superman grew up, a small, imaginary town in the state of Kansas. The show is about his life as a young man. During this time, he discovers who he really is and what superhuman powers he has.

Superman is from the planet Krypton. When he was a boy, his father sent him to Earth to save him from an explosion that destroyed their world. John and Mary Kent, a couple in Smallville, discover him and raise him as their own. They name him Clark. In time, Clark Kent learns that he must move to the big city, Metropolis, to discover his true purpose in life.

In Metropolis, he works at a newspaper -- that is, when he is not fighting evil as Superman. The woman in his life is Lois Lane, another reporter at the paper.

Superman stands for "truth, justice and the American way." He has been a part of American culture for seventy years. He holds a place Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, those two boys from Ohio, never dreamed possible.



The singer and songwriter known as Seal has received praise from music critics and fans since his first release in nineteen-ninety-one. Now he is out with his fourth album. Phoebe Zimmerman tells us more.


Sealhenry Samuel was born in London, to Brazilian and Nigerian parents. The forty-year-old singer calls himself a citizen of the world.

His first album was called “Seal.” His second album was also called “Seal.” It was released in nineteen ninety-four. It included the hit song “Kiss from a Rose.” That song won three Grammy awards.


His third album was "Human Being." And now his fourth release is called “Seal IV” [Seal Four]. Fans had to wait five years for this CD. Seal says he wanted to make the album as good as it could be. Here is “Waiting for You.”


Seal combines popular music with soul, rock and other forms to create lively dance songs. His songs deal with social issues; "Prayer for the Dying" was about AIDS. And they tell about love. From “Seal IV" we leave you with “Get It Together.”



This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC today and will join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson, Jill Moss and Lawan Davis. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Andrius Regis.