Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Seiberling Latex Company

Walt Disney and a set of Seiberling Dwarfs appeared on the cover of Time magazine, December 27, 1937. The figurines are standing on a matted cel from the film that Walt Disney appears ready to sign.

In 1898 Frank Seiberling founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, named in honor of Charles Goodyear, the man who invented vulcanized rubber in 1839.

Employees working out of the company's manufacturing plant, located about seven miles southwest of Akron, Ohio, produced bicycle tires, horseshoe pads, hot water bottles, household gadgets and poker chips.
As with most American companies, the company was beset with problems with the onset of the Great Depression.

In 1933, Tom Casey, the company's Vice-President, happened to catch a showing of Walt Disney's
Three Little Pigs at a local theater. According to a 1938 newspaper article, "Casey liked it. He went to see it again. After his third trip [to the theater] he went to California."

Casey's sole reason for his trip out west was to secure the rights to produce rubber figurines based on characters from the Three Little Pigs. After successfully negotiating a contract, (that saw the Studio retain five per cent of the wholesale receipts), Casey traveled to New York, where he "hired an Italian sculptor and set him to work modeling the Three Little Pigs. His models of the pigs were wonderful. They sold like hot cakes. So, the sculptor went on sculpting. And out came Mickey Mouse, the Big Bad Wolf and Donald Duck."

The process involved in making one figurine was time consuming. None of the work was automated. After the model was approved, steel forms of the image were cast. Sheets of rubber were hand placed in the form.

"Then the lid comes down, steam runs the temperature up to about 450 degrees, and a million pounds of pressure is applied. The rubber cooks...for 15 minutes. When it comes out and cools there is ragged rubber all around the edge...this has to be trimmed off by hand."

The figurines were then hand-painted, a process that took about 15 minutes for each doll. According to a 1934 Kay Kamen Disney merchandise catalog, "Color decorations are not injurious in any way, they are fast and will not crack or run in water.

Casey believed Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarf's was going to be a huge hit. So much so that his little factory pumped out 40,000 of the figurines in anticipation of the film's success. Seiberling Snow White figures appeared in the marketplace two months prior to the film's premiere. When sales stagnated, Casey ordered a halt in production.

When Walt Disney's first full-length animated feature went into general release in February 1938, Snow White mania swept the nation. Many Disney licensees, including Seiberling, were caught off-guard by the sudden and unexpected surge in demand for related merchandise.

"The 40,000 Snow White rubber dolls were all gone and orders by the thousands began pouring in. They worked full shifts, 24 hours a day, and steadily lost ground. At one time they were 125,000 dolls behind."

Besides the Three Pigs, Big Bad Wolf, Mickey, Donald and Snow White figurines, Seiberling also produced a Ferdinand the Bull and an Elmer Elephant doll. The release of Pinocchio saw the introduction of Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Figaro, Cleo and a Pleasure Island donkey to the company's line of Disney toys. Prices ranged from 39 cents for a single doll, to $1.25 for a set.

Unfortunately, most of Seiberling's toys have fallen victim to oxidation, leaving collectors hard pressed to find examples in anything over very good condition. Luckily, boxes and related point of sale display items and advertisements have survived the elements of time.

Many of the images in this post are courtesy Hake's Americana & Collectibles.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Before Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney and crew produced cartoons featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This fantastic 27 by 41 inch poster was produced for the fourth Oswald cartoon and is currently being auctioned by Hakes.

According to the listing, "This treasured one sheet is one of the rarest. Not only is it a full-size, full-color poster featuring the character, it also promotes the specific animated short Great Guns rather than the character or cartoon series. This is the only poster example for this animated short known to exist and is also the earliest known cartoon specific Oswald poster."

This ultra rare gem already has a $20,000.00 bid. We'll see where it ends.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mickey Mouse Sunday newspaper strip

The Mickey Mouse Sunday color page first appeared in newspapers on January 10, 1932. The page was originally written and penciled by legendary artist Floyd Gottfredson and was inked by Al Taliaferro and Ted Thwaites.

When Gottfredson retired from his duties associated with the Sunday page in 1938, he was replaced by Manuel Gonzales, who held the position until his retirement in 1981.

The Silly Symphony Sunday color page also marked its debut on the same date.

The advertisement in this post was printed in the January 6, 1932 Salt Lake Tribune newspaper. Four days after its appearance Mickey and his Silly Symphony friends would grace the pages of this paper's Sunday comics section.

Click on the image to view more detail.

D.C. Heath & Company

Mickey Never Fails. 1939. 102 pages.
The cover illustration still features the older style Mickey.

Reading, writing and arithmetic: the foundations of education. Almost every North American is familiar with the early Dick and Jane series of primary readers. But, how many are familiar with the line of educational books published for Walt Disney in the late 1930s and early 1940s?

Donald Duck and His Friends. 1940. 66 pages.

D.C. Heath and Company was a Disney licensee from 1939 until 1951. Heath was a Boston-based publishing company that produced a series of 12 Disney educational books, which featured a wide range of Disney characters.

Little Pigs Picnic and Other Stories. 1939. 102 pages.

The Heath Disney books utilized the same reading skills and were designed along the same lines as the Dick and Jane books - children learned how to read through the repeat use of words and simple sentence structure. The Heath series followed a logical sequence and became progressively harder as the child moved from one book to the next in the series.

Here They Are. 1940. 56 pages.

Most of the Heath books are quite common, especially those featuring either Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck on the cover, and most can be found with ease on various internet auction sites and at antiquarian and collectible bookshops. Harder titles to locate include: Dumbo of the Circus, Bambi, and Pinocchio.

Bambi. 1944. 101 pages.

Walt Disney's Pinocchio. 1940. 90 pages.

A Bongo book was proposed and even featured in a Heath advertisement, but this title was never published. Heath also published a teacher's guide and several heavy stock, die-cut advertising bookmarks.

Heath Donald Duck bookmark.

Heath Dumbo bookmark.

The art found in the Heath books was created by Disney artists in the Merchandise and Publicity Art Department. After the death of artist Tom Wood, this department was headed by Henry "Hank" Porter, whom Walt Disney once referred to as a "one man art department."

Original art found in the Pinocchio book, inked and painted on a cel.

It's not known at this time which Disney artist was responsible for the gorgeous art found in the Heath books, but an amazing point to note is the fact each illustration (except for the ones found in the Bambi title) was inked and painted on cels like the ones used in the films. This technique gave each illustration an amazing three-dimensional appearance.

The books originally retailed for between 69 cents and $1.04 each. They can be found these days for between $20 and $50 each, depending on condition.

Donald Duck and His Nephews. 1940. 66 pages.

Water Babies Circus and Other Stories. 1940. 78 pages.

Mickey Sees the U.S.A. 1944. 138 pages.
Notice Mickey now sports (humanized) eyes with pupils and three-dimensional ears.

Donald Duck Sees South America. 1945. 137 pages.

All of the books in this post are from the collection of and courtesy Dennis Books.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yosemite Valley, January 1935

The photo in this post was taken in January 1935, while Walt Disney and his wife Lillian vacationed in Yosemite National Park.
Walt and Lillian were at the park as guests of Yosemite's resident physician, Dr. Hartley Dewey and his wife. The Dewey's maintained a long personal friendship with the Disney's and would sometimes stop by the Disney's home for social visits.
While at Yosemite Walt and Lillian stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a luxurious facility designed by architect Gilbert Underwood that was built between August 1926 and July 1927. The location of the hotel offered stunning views of several of Yosemite's iconic sites including Half Dome, Glacier Point and Yosemite Falls. To see more fantastic images of the hotel click here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

No posts for awhile

UPDATE - January 17 -

I am happy to report we are back in business - I have a new computer. The lack of recent posts was due to a catastrophic hard drive failure. Luckily almost all of my material (about 80% or so) was backed-up. The few files that weren't were retrieved by a resident tech at work who managed to get into the drive and pull out what I hadn't saved elsewhere...but only after two days of hard work.