Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Disney and the war

My book on Disney's involvement in World War II is now available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon and through my publisher at

The book is a revised edition of Toons At War, which I self-published 13 years ago! The title of the updated and revised edition is: Service With Character. The Disney Studio and World War II.

The second edition contains a lot of new information on Disney's contributions to the home front, military training films, propaganda films, life at the studio during the war, and the Studio's creation of over 1,200 combat insignia. This book covers a huge variety of topics related to Disney during World War II.

Click on this link to check it out.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Carolyn Kay Shafer

While scanning the listings in a recent Hake's Americana auction, I came across a noteworthy lot attributed to Carolyn Kay Shafer, one of Walt Disney's first secretaries. The grouping had several very interesting items including a two-page letter, an article from The American Magazine and a wedding invitation. A 1931 Disney Studio Christmas card with her imprint was also sold as a separate lot in the same auction.

Not much has been written about Shafer, other than a short note in a recent Wade Sampson, Mouse Planet column. So, being the Disney history buff I am, I decided to embark on a quest to see what additional information I could discover.

According to Shafer's great niece, Carla Lakatos, Shafer was born on September 22, 1905, in Evansville, Indiana. Not uncommon during that time in history, Shafer was part of a large family - she was the 6th of seven children born to Jacob Shafer (2nd generation German), and Sarah Gleason (1st generation Irish).

Yearbook photo, courtesy Carla Lakatos.

The Shafer family moved to California in 1929 after sister Rosine's husband, who was badly injured in a horrific car crash, committed suicide. As an interesting sidenote, Rosine later remarried - she wed Frank J. Baum, son of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum.

In a letter written on February 5, 1932, to a friend in Texas, Shafer spoke briefly about her career before moving to California. "For the most part I have been going to school and teaching. My last mission was at Mt. St. Joseph Junior College in Kentucky. I taught physical culture, dancing, all the sports and the commercial subjects. I also substituted."

She continued: "I liked teaching very much. In fact I had my contract with me for the next year when I came out here on a visit [in] June 1930. My family had moved out here a year before and I liked it so much I decided to stay."

Shafer then spoke about her new position at Disney's: "I made good connections here. I had been in Los Angeles only two days when I started working temporarily for the Studio...but the work developed into such a nice position that I stayed on. I direct the publicity for Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons and in addition to that act as Mr. Walt Disney's Confidential Secretary."

Photo signed by Shafer to a friend. The photo contains images of several Mickey Mouse publicity photos, which Shafer appears ready to sign either as "Mickey Mouse," or perhaps on behalf of her boss, Walt Disney. Photo courtesy Carla Lakatos.

According to Robert Tieman of the Walt Disney Archives, Shafer was hired sometime in 1930, (probably in the latter half of the year going by what she had written in the aforementioned letter), and she left the Studio in 1934.

1931 Disney Studio corporate Christmas card bearing Shafer's imprint. Courtesy Hake's Americana.
While Wade Sampson reported in his column Shafer was fired for marrying a fellow employee, (contravening an unwritten "no studio marriages" rule), Tieman says, "There is no indication in the personnel record that she was fired."

I was able to locate and purchase a copy of the February 1934 issue of The American Magazine, which featured a one-page article on Shafer. In the story, "Kay," as she was referred to, was noted as being "the world's only secretary to a mouse."
This image appeared in the February 1934 issue of The American Magazine.

The article further stated Shafer "personally answered Mr. Mickey Mouse's actual count, he received 30,000 letters in one month."
The article referred to Shafer as the "confidential secretary to Walt Disney" adding she "also autographs each picture of her boss." The last statement could mean, incredibly, there are circa 1930-1934 photographs of Walt Disney bearing her signature and not Walt's.

Sampson also noted in his column Shafer edited and distributed the Mickey Mouse Melodeon, one of the Studio's first employee newsletters. She is also credited with writing a gossip column in the monthly under the pen name "Clara Cluck." The Melodeon was published from November 1932 until February 1933. Other bits of info contained in The American Magazine article included:
  1. "Loves her family, her black dog, Skippy, and a black cat named Tommy Quarts."
  2. "Never throws away anything she has ever liked."
  3. "Likes to lie on the sand but can't swim becauseof a 'bumpy' heart."
  4. "Dislikes dressing up and going to big parties."
  5. Claimed that if she "had plenty of money [she'd] be well dressed in plain clothes."
  6. "Has a mania for hand bags - owns more than a hundred but carries the same one for months at a time."
In her February 1932 letter Shafer wrote: "Now for 'romance.' I, like you, have not married. Most of the girls who were in my class at school are married or at least engaged. I was engaged...for five long years, but decided I was much too young. I have been engaged to a young surgeon from home...but can't make up my mind about living back in Evansville. I do so like Los Angeles, and there are so many interesting people here and I love my work. Being a Doctor's wife in a small town is not a lot of fun. There is a very interesting young musician here at the Studio and a still mroe interesting young Doctor that I see a great deal."

The "young musician" Shafer referenced was none other than Disney Studio composer Frank Churchill. Included in the Hake's lot was an invitation to the June 10, 1933 wedding of Carolyn Kay and Frank Edwin Churchill. The American Magazine article stated, "Their common interest is Mickey Mouse and any good music. They want to go to Europe some day so he can study and she can hunt hand bags."

Unfortunately, tragedy came into Shafer's life on May 14, 1942, when she was awakened by the sound of gunfire. An article appearing in the next day's
Los Angeles Times reported:
Big Bad Wolf Creator Suicide
Disney Studio Music Composer Ends Life on Ranch Near Castaic

"Ill health yesterday prompted Frank E. Churchill, 40, composer of music at the Walt Disney Studio, probably best known for his 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,' to take his life by shooting himself through the heart with a rifle at his Paradise Ranch...on Highway 99, near Castaic.

A note turned over to the Deputy Sheriff John Morell and addressed to Churchill's wife disclosed the motive. The note read: 'Dear Carolyn - My nerves have completely left me. Please forgive me for this awful act. It seems the only way I can cure myself. Frank.'

Churchill's body was found by his wife and Don Dunford, manager of the ranch, after Mrs. Churchill was awakened by the shot. He was lying on the .30-40 caliber rifle and a rosary.

Morell was informed that Churchill had been in ill health for the last six months and that he had gone to a sanitarium on several occasions for his health, but had worked at the studio the day before his death."

Funeral services for Churchill were conducted on May 18, 1942, in the Wee Kirk o' the Heather chapel at Forest Lawn in Glendale. He was buried near the grave of film star Tom Mix.

The month following her husband's death, Shafer had to contend with a lawsuit launched by Corinne Churchill, Frank's daughter by a previous marriage. A June 29, 1942 Los Angeles Times story reported:

"Cut off with $1 under the will of her late father...18-year old Corinne Churchill has launched a move to nullify the document. Miss Churchill filed her contest in Superior Court on the grounds that her father...had been mentally incompetent for some time before he signed the document Jan. 17, 1939.

Churchill, the daughter says, entertained an 'unnatural antipathy' toward her and it became aggravated by the influence of his second wife, Mrs. Carolyn Shafer Churchill. The contesting daughter also contends that her father drank to excess and that while he was under the influence of liquor, his second wife made such fraudulent representations that he became prejudiced against his daughter.

'The reason I make this bequest to my daughter,' the will explains, 'is because of her refusal to accept any education and advantages or moral guidance from me and her avowed preference to make home with her mother.' While the petition for probate of the will gives the value of the estate at $2,000, Attorney G. Vernon Brambaugh, representing Miss Churchill, expressed the opinion that it would exceed $50,000."

I was unable to find any record of the final judgement in the case.

In the fall of 1974, Shafer wrote to the "Accounting Department" at Walt Disney Productions. She indicated she had
been an invalid since 1969 and legally blind since 1971.

In the letter Shafer asked for help securing her widow's benefits through Social Security and she asked if the Studio had paid for her late husband Frank Churchill's funeral saying, "the shock was so great, I have forgotten if I received them or not." She also noted she had in her possession "several old manuscript's of Frank's," and wondered if the Studio might have any use for them.

An artifact from a happier time in Shafer's life. The Adventures of Mickey Mouse. Book I. 1931. David McKay Company. This copy was signed by Shafer to an orthopaedic doctor and his wife. The inscription reads, "To my good friends Dr. and Mrs. Samuel Fosdick Jones. With the hope that they will never forget Mickey Mouse or Carolyn Kay Shafer." After maintaining a practice in Denver for 24 years, Dr. Jones retired in Pasadena. I have been unable to determine what the connection between Shafer and Jones was. This book also contained a one page synopsis for the Mickey Mouse short Mickey's Orphan's tipped into the blank page at the back of the book. This copy recently sold for over $1,200. The inscription is dated July 16, 1931.

Shafer's great niece Carla Lakatos wrote the sad epilog to this story when she said, "I do know that Carolyn married Frank Churchill and after his death, Donald Durnford - who stole her assets - and she died July 26, 1977, penniless and nearly blind - very sad."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Diane Disney Miller 1933 - 2013

I received the horribly, sad, news, today that Walt Disney's surviving daughter, Diane Disney Miller, passed away on November 19 at the family home in Napa Valley. Reports indicate the cause of death were complications due to a fall she had suffered in September.

This is devastating news on so many fronts.

I got to know Diane and her husband Ron Miller through my involvement in The Walt Disney Family Museum, which was built on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco. My friend Jeff Kurtti was one of three creative consultants working with the family on the Museum (the other two being Paula Lowery and the late Bruce Gordon). In 2007, Diane and the others were wondering how to approach the Museum gallery that dealt with the war years. Because of my knowledge of the topic and my related collection, Jeff recommended me to Diane.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Diane inviting me down to San Francisco to see what they were up to and see if I wanted to participate. Needless to say, I accepted on both counts.

I will never forget that first visit with Diane and Ron, (and their son Walter), in the family condo overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. After a glass of Silverado wine, which came from the family vineyard in Napa, the trio took me for dinner at a great little restaurant around the corner from the condo. We proceeded to spend a wonderful evening together talking about the Family Museum, and Diane's father and some of the people he worked with and whom she had come to know.

The following day I received a tour of  a small museum in an old wooden warehouse on Gorgas Avenue - the old building housed the family's collection of artifacts and mementos. The items on display were amazing. Walt Disney's Academy awards and other personal awards, the Lilly Belle train that Walt had ridden around his Holmby Hills backyard, posters, letters, and much, much more. These items would become the foundation for the new Museum, under construction at the time.

This first meeting led to a loan of 48 items from my collection for inclusion in Gallery 6 of the Museum.

That first trip also led to a wonderful friendship. Over the course of the next six years, Diane and I exchanged literally hundreds of emails and many phone calls. I sent her information related to her father and his studio covering the years 1925-1945. She always graciously responded by saying she appreciated the work I was doing for her and the Museum.

I also located items for her I thought the Museum should have in its collection and on occasion she  took my advice and purchased what I had recommended. The last item I brokered a sale for was the Mickey Mouse coat of arms that had been painted on her father's Hyperion Studio office door circa 1933. This artifact had been owned by the son of the man who had purchased one-half of the Hyperion complex, after Walt and Roy had moved their operation to Burbank in 1940.

Diane and Ron were extremely gracious to my family and I. On two separate occasions Diane arranged for comp admissions to the two Disney theme parks in California and several other perks, including a private tour of her father's apartment above the Main Street Firehall in Disneyland.

I was fortunate to have been invited by Diane to the Museum on four separate occasions. My last trip was in March of this year for a presentation I gave on the history of 2719 Hyperion Avenue - the location of her father's studio on the eastern edge of Hollywood in Los Feliz. On the second day of that trip, Ron and Diane took me out for lunch. I always enjoyed my private time with them. She always had fascinating stories to tell about her father or someone he had known or she had come to know because of him. Ron, too, always had an interesting story to tell about his father-in-law or the company he had overseen in the early to mid-1980s. Sometimes I would throw out the name of one of her father's associates and Diane would relate anything she could recall of that person. It's funny because on every trip she would ask me when I was going to bring down my wife and children for her and Ron to meet. She once remarked that she looked forward to watching our children grow up. Sadly, the rest of my family never had the opportunity to meet her, although the kids did send her home-made cards, which she said she loved receiving.

So many memories have come flooding back to me since I learned of her death this evening. I was not the only Disney researcher who had a friendship with her. I was not a confidante or a close family friend. I was just someone who had an appreciation for her father's accomplishments and who had information to share with her. And because of that, she took an interest in me. She didn't have to. But she did. And for that I will always be forever grateful.

Diane Disney Miller was gracious, humble, intelligent, and witty. I will miss all of those things about her and much, much, more.

I once read that when someone you know passes, you should not be sad that they have gone. You should be happy that they had lived. I can tell you I am happy that she lived and that I had a chance to meet her. But right now I also feel horribly sad.

Thank you, Diane, for everything you did for me and the legions of Disney fans who admire your father's accomplishments.

My condolences to Ron and the rest of the Disney-Miller family.

Here are two image of Diane I snapped on my second visit to the Museum, which was still under construction at the time. If I recall correctly, the first image was taken on the Museum's second floor - the big display case with all the Mickey Mouse memorabilia would be on the right side and when you walk through the brick opening you'd be in the gallery where the Silly Symphony cartoons are showcased and where the Ink and Paint samples are on display. The second image was taken in the basement - we were going down there to look at the theater that was under construction.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Service With Character - e-book now available on Amazon

My book on Disney's involvement in World War II is now available as an e-book on Amazon. It's a revised edition of the book Toons At War, which I self-published 13 years ago!  The new title is: Service With Character. The Disney Studio and World War II.

The book contains 14 chapters, 10 appendices, end notes, 385 images (of which 340 are in color), and numbers some 88,000 words in length!  Please click on this link and check it out.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Walt Disney - the first Academy Awards

November 1932 was the hottest on record in Los Angeles. A cold snap would follow in December, but that month, those living in the Los Angeles area endured daily temperatures in the mid-80s.

On Friday, November 18, 1932, Walter Elias Disney and his wife Lillian traveled from their home on Lyric Avenue, down to the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard. The four mile journey would normally take about 15 minutes, but on this day, the traffic would be much heavier.

Four years to the day of the release of the first Mickey Mouse sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, Walt and Lillian were on there way to the 5th annual Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' banquet, being held in the Fiesta Room of the Ambassador Hotel.

The Ambassador Hotel as shown on an early postcard.
In addition to hosting several Academy Award ceremonies, the Hollywood landmark was also home to the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub. The hotel was demolished recently to make way for a public school.

In front of hundreds of film notables, including movie stars, directors, studio executives and state and city politicians, Walt Disney would collect the first two of his many Academy Awards. One newspaper article stated, "It was a glittering ceremonial, attended by more than 900 of the great and lesser-great of the film world."

The Fiesta Room circa 1940s.

According to another newspaper report, "The event drew thousands of spectators who blocked traffic for more than a block in front of the hotel. The crowds parted as sleek limousines drew up and discharged the feminine stars, many of them with great puffed sleeves, high neckline and fur-trimmed gowns, and accompanied by the immaculately groomed escorts."

November 18, 1932 - four Hollywood luminaries pose for a photo at the 5th Academy Awards banquet. L-R: Stan Laurel, Walt Disney, Hal Roach and Oliver Hardy.

Walt Disney socialized that evening with several of his Hollywood friends. As testimony to Disney's acceptance in Hollywood social circles, one year later he would attend a party given by fellow producer Hal Roach. Held in a sound stage at the Roach Studio, the gathering of Hollywood's who's who celebrated Roach's 20 years as a filmmaker. Besides Walt Disney, those in attendance included Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, John Weissm
uller, Jean Harlow, Darryl Zanuck, Jesse Lasky, Louis B. Mayer, Will Rogers and Sid Grauman.

The ceremony in the Fiesta Room was hosted by Conrad Nagel, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization he and 35 other like-minded industry insiders founded in May 1927.

At some point in the banquet, a short color cartoon produced at the Disney Studio was played for those in attendance. Parade of the Award Nominees featured caricatures of those nominated in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories.

Several internet sites indicate artist Joe Grant was hired specifically to work on this short, however no production records for this film exist at the Disney Archives to confirm this. Some historians suggest Grant's first work at the Studio was on the film Mickey's Gala Premiere.

Parade of the Award Nominees is notable for the fact the film marks Mickey's first on screen appearance in color, preceding the color Mickey Mouse short The Band Concert by several years.
As Mickey Mouse led the procession the actors and actresses walked down a carpet dressed as the characters they portrayed.

Wallace Beery, (with child actor Jackie Cooper in tow holding on to Beery's coattails), was nominated for his portrayal of an alcoholic boxer trying to get his life back in order on account of his son in The Champ.

Fredric March was nominated for his dual screen appearances as Dr. Jekyll,
and Mr. Hyde.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were nominated for their screen performances in The Guardsman. Convinced his wife (Fontanne), was cheating, Lunt impersonated a Russian guard in order to seduce her. He succeeded but she claimed she knew it was him all along.
Helen Hayes was nominated for her role as a wrongly imprisoned woman who turns to prostitution in order to support her illegitimate son in The Sin of Madelon Claudet.

And Marie Dressler was nominated for her portrayal of a devoted housekeeper
in Emma, who marries her employer only to have his three children turn on her when he dies..
The Best Actress statuette was awarded to Helen Hayes and for the first time in the Academy's history, a tie was declared for Best Actor - Beery received one less vote than March, but under the rules in effect at that time, a nominee had to poll at least two votes more than his nearest competitor to win. A tie was declared and the two actors were awarded statuettes. Both men had recently adopted little girls and in his acceptance speech March reportedly delivered one of the funniest lines of the evening, when he said, "Under the circumstances, it seems a little odd that we were both given awards for the best male performance of the year."

Parade of the Award Nominees was, by all accounts, a hit that evening. One new
spaper reported the film garnered a "huge laugh."

Walt Disney knew prior to arriving at the banquet that he was going to receive two awards. Up until 1941 winners were informed beforehand
, in order to allow members of the press attending the function time to meet their filing deadlines.

It's not known at this time if Disney gave an acceptance speech. The assembled crowd though agreed with the Academy's decision to award Disney the honorary statuette. One newspaper reported, "Judging by the applause, the greatest enthusiasm was for Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse, and for Helen Hayes."

A press photograph taken at the banquet shows an obviously happy Walt Disney standing beside his obviously proud wife. In the photo Lillian holds the statuette, an Honorary Special Award given to her husband for the creation of Mickey Mouse, while Walt holds the C
ertificate of Honorable Mention, awarded to him for Flowers and Trees.

The photo appeared in several newspapers and magazines in the days following the banquet. The accompanying caption in one newspaper read:

"Mickey Mouse, the hero of the comic strip...and of the animated cartoons in the movies, has won for Walt Disney, his creator, the coveted distinction of a special award by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mr. Disney is shown in the picture above, snapped at the annual banquet...where the award was made, together with Mrs. Disney, who is holding the inscribed...statuette symbolizing the award.

At the same time Mr. Disney was honored with one of the Academy's annual awards, this one for his color shorts. This is the first time that two awards in the same year have come to one man."

The ceremony marked just the third time the Academy had bestowed an honorary award and the first time an award had been given in the newly created Cartoon Short Subject category.

Walt shows off his two awards while on the grounds of the Hyperion Studio.

The Certificate of Honorable Mention stated:
"Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Walt Disney Productions Ltd.
has been judged worthy of the Academy's
for the Cartoon Short Subject

"Flowers and Trees"

This judgment being rendered with reference to
Motion Pictures, First, Regularly Exhibited in
the Los Angeles district during the
year ending July 31, 1932."

Flowers and Trees was in production as a black and white short when the decision was made to scrap all of the completed footage. After witnessing Technicolor's newly developed three color process, Disney stated, "When I saw those three rich, true colors on one film, I wanted to shout."

Ever the visionary Disney was able to convince Technicolor to grant him an exclusive multi-year contract for the right to use their new process. As soon as Studio technicians developed new adhesive color paints, production on the short resumed.

At the urging of a mutual friend, Disney showed some of the completed short, totaling no more than one minute, to Sid Grauman, owner of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Grauman was so impressed, he requested Disney finish the film as soon as possible so he could show it at his next major film premiere. Disney rushed the short through production in order to have the short finished in time to be shown at Grauman's world premiere of Strange Interlude, a feature starring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer.

The critical reviews praised Disney's venture into color: "Given its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater..the reception was such that the next ten [Silly Symphony films] will be on rainbow diversion. [The] critics rave over Flowers and Trees has been nationwide wherever it has been shown...the reviewers as well as the industry hailing it as a revolutionary step in the progress of cinematic development." In England Flowers and Trees "broke all short subject records by running for seven solid weeks in various West End theaters."

Taken at the same time as the previous photo, Walt Disney is pictured with his two awards and a Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse doll.

At the banquet's conclusion, many of the attendees filed over to the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove nightclub. While it's not known if Walt and Lillian joined in on the festivities, there can be no doubt the couple enjoyed their drive home that evening.

Walt Disney received many congratulatory telegrams and letters following the banquet. Perhaps the most touching came from former business partner Ub Iwerks, who had left the Disney Studios in February 1930. According to Iwerks' biography, "Ub's [telegram] was reportedly one of the few [Walt] truly cherished."

The two awards bestowed upon Walt Disney that night signaled the beginning of Disney's dominance of the cartoon genre. There would be many more awards to follow in the years to come.

My thanks to Jeff Pepper at for providing me with the screen shots from Parade of the Award Nominees. Check out his site - he does great work. Thanks Jeff!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Anyone know a good insurance broker?

While scouring eBay the other night, I came across the following image.

I had read about Walt's brother Raymond in Jack Kinney's excellent memoir, Walt Disney and Assorted Other Characters. An Unauthorized Account of the Early Years at Disney's. Kinney's book is filled with great stories of his time at the Disney Studio - he also created all of the the humorous illustrations found in the book, including this one of Raymond, the insurance broker.

The above illustration's accompanying text read:

"Walt's brother Ray was a familiar sight in the 1940s. He lived a few blocks from the studio in Burbank and often came around to sell insurance. The kickstand on his bike was loose and it made a rather loud racket, but he didn't care as long as he saved gas. You could hear him coming for miles.

Ray had a lot of customers at the studio. They bought from him because they thought it would get them in good with Walt. Ray's prices were none too cheap, though, and when people saw that Walt couldn't care less, many canceled their policies."

According to the address on the label pictured at the beginning of this post, Ray's office was less than a mile-and-a-half from the Studio when it was located at 2719 Hyperion Avenue, in Los Feliz.

I highly recommend Kinney's book. Although it's been out of print for a very long time now, copies do pop-up for sale occasionally, and it's definitely worth having in your reference library.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Any good movies playing ?

Earlier this year I purchased two sets of scrapbook pages on eBay. The browned crumbling pages of these tomes are like time capsules - they're memories of what was important to their former owners at that point in their life. 

One set of pages came from a Disney staffer who worked in Ink and Paint during the war years. It's filled with fascinating documents related to the inner workings of her particular department, as well as a couple-of-dozen Inter-Office memos related to the Studio's war work. I'll save that one for another day.

Today's post features a couple of items from the scrapbook of one Marjorie Louise Walker. Glued onto the tattered pages are poems, humorous quips, and newspaper clippings. One page contains a notice of the impending nuptials of Marjorie and her sister Darolyn to Hobert and Ken Fenwick, the double ceremony taking place on May 14, 1938. Also included is her Hollywood High ID pass and a report card (all A's and B's) from the Mabelle Scott Rancho School for Girls.

The neatest thing for me, though, was this ticket stub:

Marjorie saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Carthay Circle Theatre 75 years ago today. Disney's feature-length film didn't go into general release until February 4, 1938, so Marjorie was among the first moviegoers to see the film at one of the premiere engagement runs at select theaters around the country.

Also glued onto one of the scrapbook pages was this program Marjorie bought - it's filled with so-called "Disneygrams," which give little snippets of info about Disney's film. The program is a bit tattered but knowing it was at the theatre just a few short days after Snow White's initial premiere is neat.

And finally, while not part of the scrapbook but interesting all the same is the following image:

The photo was taken on January 22, 1938 during Snow White's cross-country publicity tour, and the costumes pictured are the same ones worn by dwarfs at the film's Hollywood premiere.

Happy New Year !

Wishing all my visitors a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013.

I'm not sure where I found the above image - it may have been an eBay auction but I can't recall. If you happen to know where the illustration was published and in what year, please drop me a line. (Or if you happen to own the image let me know and I'll give you credit.)

And if you happen to be a collector, here's hoping you find that rare treasure you've always wanted to add to your collection.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas and that you had the opportunity to share the magic of the season with friends and family.

Here's a neat item I acquired about two years ago for a very reasonable price. I love the graphics!

This print was available to school teachers in Great Britain and Australia circa 1932. The item measures approximately 13 1/2 by 14 inches, and was part of a series of 60 illustrations printed on heavy-stock paper used as classroom decor and teaching aides. The print is stamped with the number "55" in the top left and right corners, while the words "Macmillan's Projects and Pictures" appear in the bottom right corner. The print's caption reads, "A Present For Mickey And Minnie Mouse."

The Santa depicted in the print is a great representation of Disney's Silly Symphony Santa Claus cartoon incarnation, which first appeared in the 1932 short Santa's Workshop, followed in 1933 with The Night Before Christmas.

The following two items appeared in the December 8, 1932, edition of The Film Daily, a prominent trade publication of the day. The author of the article, Jack Alicoate, offered Walt Disney advice when Walt was battling his New York distributor Charlie Mintz back in 1928.

This post concludes the "Big Holiday Number" here on Vintage Disney Collectibles. I have several other neat Christmas-themed items to share, but they'll have to wait for next Christmas. Hope you've enjoyed this year's offerings.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Yoo Hoo! Merry Christmas Mouse Club members!

This post showcases one of my favorite items. The reason? Because it's such a great crossover collectible that pushes my collecting buttons on two fronts - 1930s Disney Christmas-related and 1930s theater-based Mickey Mouse Club: two areas that I collect. When this 1934 item was offered for sale I just had to purchase it.

The theater-based Mickey Mouse Club had its first meeting at the Fox Dome Theater in Santa Monica, California, in the summer of 1929. The club idea was the brainchild of theater-owner Harry Woodin. 

Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks, and studio musician Carl Stalling even took time from their busy schedule and made a special appearance at one Fox Dome meeting, and at one point in time the theater Mickey Mouse Club had attained such a cult following membership allegedly exceeded that of the Boy and Girl Scouts!

The Clubs weren't only a hit with children but also retailers who often sponsored club activities or offered special promotions for Club members. Penney's department store was one such sponsor.

Minnie's Yoo Hoo was the Club's official theme song. (Listen to the tune by clicking here.) Sheet music featuring the piano arrangement and lyrics was offered to Club members and the song was featured in a theater trailer. The song made its first public appearance in the 1929 Mickey Mouse short Mickey's Follies.

I have a HUGE archive of 1930s Mickey Mouse Club research material as well as around two-dozen actual items. One of these days I plan to write a monogram detailing the history of the organization. In the meantime, enjoy this neat piece of rare memorabilia on Christmas Eve,and stay tuned for one more Christmas-related item which I'll post tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Everybody loves a parade . . .

Here are some great images from the 1934 Macy's Christmas Parade that I've gleaned from various sources over the years. Note that many of the volunteers holding onto the tethered lines of the inflatable Mickey Mouse balloon are dressed in Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes. I absolutely love the image of the Big Bad Wolf.

Here's the New York Times article with parade coverage, which was published on Friday, November 30, 1934:


Here is some related British newsreel footage. The first clip shows the finishing touches being put on the Mickey Mouse balloon. The second clip shows a minute or so of the actual parade.

Finally, click here to read about a couple of now rare Disney-related premiums the Macy's Santa Claus gave away to visiting children in 1934 and 1935.

Friday, December 21, 2012

For a jolly time at holly time, Mickey Mouse!

Here are a few examples of advertising mats found in Kay Kamen's 1936 Christmas Manual.

Click here to read a post regarding Kamen's 1934 Christmas Manual.

Still the fairest one of all . . .

On this, the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Walt Disney's masterpiece, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I present a police pass that was used on premiere night, December 21, 1937. This artifact (or a rather excellent facsimile thereof) is on display at the Carthay Circle Theatre building at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim.

The trade paper Variety ran a story the day following the momentous premiere that made mention of the police presence that night. It read in part:

20,000 Jam Streets at Snow White Premiere

Crowd of more than 20,000 jammed entrance to premiere of Walt Disney's first all color feature-length cartoon 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' at the Carthay Circle Theatre last night. Assistant Chief of Police George Allen had 80 coppers on hand, 15 more than for the ordinary preem [sic] detail. Aiding them were 11 RKO studio policemen. Two women fainted in the early crush.

Over the course of the following weeks, hundreds of newspapers across the nation devoted columns of text to Disney's achievement. Here's one such account, which was published in the Twin Falls Evening Times on December 23, 1937. The article's headline and slug read:

Disney Premiere Proves Success
Hollywood Celebrities Pay $5.50 Each to Witness Full-Length Cartoon

To read more about the premiere, click this link to read several other posts I've published on the topic over the past several years. 

My friend Robert Lughai has also published a great post detailing premiere night on his own blog Filmic Light Snow White Archive - it's well worth a visit.