Thursday, December 31, 2009

1st Disney Studio Christmas card - 1930

Thanks to my friend Gunnar Andreassen for the heads-up on this great Christmas card currently up for auction at Hake's Americana.

Image courtesy Hake's Americana.

According to the auction description, the card measures 4 1/2 by 6 inches. The reverse is blank.

The illustration was created by legendary Disney newspaper strip artist Floyd Gottfredson, and was apparently the first piece of Gottfrdson's work to be reproduced in color. Hake's claims there are just two examples of this card known to exist.

What a great way to end the year! A little late for Christmas, but what a super find! Thanks Gunnar!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter fun with Walt and Mickey

I found this really cool, no pun intended, photo of Walt recently. It took me awhile, but I've also found the story behind the image.

In his early days, Walt Disney had the time to partake in wintertime fun. Numerous photos exist of Walt and his wife Lillian engaged in winter activities, including tobogganing, ice-skating and skiing.

This photo was taken at Lake Arrowhead on January 19, 1933. Walt Disney has just presented the little girl, Mildred Chanter, with a Mickey Mouse doll created by seamstress Carolyn "Charlotte" Clark. Mildred won a "Mickey Mouse" snowman building contest. Judging by the looks of her snow sculpture, I'd say she deserved to win!

Turns out the contest wasn't a spur of the moment idea. The contest was part of a Mickey Mouse Club Mid-Winter get together.
According to the December 31, 1932 Hamilton Daily News:

"...the Mid-Winter Snow Carnival, dedicated to Mickey to be held January 14 in the Arrowhead mountains. The affair will be under auspices of the Mickey Mouse clubs and 50,000 children are expected to attend."
During the 1930s, literally tens of thousands of children across America were members of the theater Mickey Mouse Club. At one point, Mouse Club members outnumbered the combined memberships of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The Clubs held various special events for their members, including picnics, parades, contests and even a national convention.

I'm not sure how many children actually attended the Arrowhead Carnival, but judging by the expression on little Mildred Chanter's face, at least one attendee went away happy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hope you all had an enjoyable day today with friends or family.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa's Workshop

This English book was published by Collins in 1934, and was based on the Silly Symphony of the same title. The book numbers some 128 pages and contains 8 gorgeous color plates.

To see another Silly Symphony Santa Claus related post from two years ago, please click on this link.

Notice in the above illustration that Santa has stamped the bottoms of the dolls on the shelves with "NG" for "No Good." If the dolls followed Santa's prompt and said, "Mamma," they passed. If not, they were rejected. I wonder if these toys eventually found their way to the Isle of Misfit Toys? Oh wait, that was another holiday classic.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Diane Disney Miller - Happy Birthday !

Diane Disney Miller celebrates a birthday today – she was born on December 18, 1933. Walt Disney was a lucky man that Monday, for the stork brought him a beautiful little girl, and he won an award from a prestigious magazine too.

In the December 1933 edition of Good Housekeeping, reporter Dixie Willson asked several celebrities, "What do you want for Christmas?" Walt Disney replied, "Well, this Christmas is different. You see, we’re waiting for the stork."

In the article Disney said if the baby were a girl they would name her Diane, but if the baby were a
boy he’d be known as Walt Jr. "I suppose this year I’ll fix two Christmas trees," Disney said. "One at home and one to take to the hospital. And, when you ask me what I want for Christmas – Christmas is so much fun I hardly care, just so there’s something to open up from thing I don’t want is shirts, but I’m shy on polo ponies. I wouldn’t mind a couple of those."

A December 19, 1933 article in the Jefferson City Post-Tribune reported: "Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the Three Little Pigs shared the spotlight today with a newcomer at the Walt Disney Studios. The newcomer was an 8-pound girl born to Mrs. Walt Disney. Mrs. Disney, who underwent a caesarian operation, was reported doing well. The child will be named Dianne [sic] Marie."

The San Antonio Light reported, "Monday was a big day for Walt a banquet he was presented with a medal for distinguished service to childhood, the award being based upon the enjoyment children have derived from 'Mickey Mouse.' At a hospital his wife presented him with Diana [sic] Marie Disney, weight eight pounds, two ounces."

This photo and illustration accompanied the January 1934 PARENT'S MAGAZINE article. Image courtesy Gunnar Andreassen, via Didier Ghez.

The January 1934 edition of THE PARENT’S MAGAZINE ran the following short article: "THE PARENT’S MAGAZINE is happy to announce that it has awarded its medal for distinguished service to children to Walt Disney, the creator of the 'Silly Symphonies,' notably 'The Three Little Pigs.' The award was decided upon by a committee if its editors who felt that Mr. Disney made an outstanding contribution to childhood when he created an entirely new type of motion picture which not only delights children but us enjoyed by adults. This magazine is glad to command the humor and artistry, which is making the Symphonies beloved the world over. The medal was awarded to Mr. Disney by a representative of the Editorial Department of THE PARENT’S MAGAZINE, at a luncheon at the Disney Studios, Hollywood, California. Among the guests were a number of distinguished leaders in parental education and child welfare work."

Guests at the ceremony were apparently startled by Disney’s sudden departure. The
South Carolina Morning News reported: "They were awarding a medal…and right in the midst of the ceremony, Walt grabbed his coat and hat, mumbled 16 words of thanks, and dashed to a hospital. A group of 75 guests at the banquet were at a loss to understand Disney’s hurried departure. Dr. Rufus von Kleinsmid, president of the University of Southern California, who acted as toastmaster, was as surprised as the rest, but all was forgiven when the whole story developed at the Good Samaritan Hospital."

Good Housekeeping article concluded with reporter Willson asking, "I wonder, would you like a basket for Christmas to carry the baby home in from the hospital?" To which Disney replied, "Well, I guess baskets are all right. I suppose we’ll put it in one after we’ve had it for awhile, but, you know how it is – never had one before – so coming home from the hospital, I think I’ll carry it."

Happy Birthday Diane!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roy Edward Disney - R.I.P.

Sad news for Disney fans this week - Roy E. Disney, son of Roy Oliver and nephew to Walt Disney, passed away on December 16th at the age of 79. Roy succumbed to stomach cancer at a hospital in Newport Beach, California.

The month of December seems to be a bad one for the Disney clan. Walt and his wife Lillian, and Roy O. and his wife Edna all passed away in previous years in the month of December.

Instead of recapping Roy's extensive and impressive career, I will instead share my one personal memory of meeting Roy. I was part of EPCOT's World Showcase Fellowship Program between 1987 and 1988. During my one year tenure, those of us in the Fellowship Program were invited to be part of a press event - I can't remember what the event was promoting.

Castmembers participating in the event were obliged to wear our costumes...being a member of the Canadian contingent I was dressed in the costume of the exhibit's lumberjack. We were stationed around the hall and our instructions were to greet the press and answer any questions they had about the various pavilions in World Showcase.

Roy E. attended the event and eventually made his way to where I was standing. We made eye contact. I nodded at him in acknowledgment and he immediately came over and engaged me in conversation.

I told him I was a collector of 1930s Disney memorabilia, after which he asked me some questions about my collection. We spoke for around 5 - 10 minutes. I recall he seemed to be genuinely interested in what I was saying and appreciated my interest in the early history of the company his uncle and father had built. I must admit too that I was a bit in awe at the time. He looked like the spitting image of his Uncle Walt and I was taken aback by how uncanny that was.

It's sort of sad to know there is no one from either side of the Disney clan actively involved with the running of the company now, and that most of those who profit have no direct relation to either founder.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Santa / Mickey Lionel hand car

Box top for Lionel product #1105, the Santa/Mickey hand car, manufactured in 1935.

In May 1934 the Lionel Corporation went into receivership. In June Disney merchandising rep Herman "Kay" Kamen licensed Lionel to produce a toy train. Based on the contract, Lionel was allowed to borrow $350-thousand from the bank, with the proviso the company repay the loan by January 1935.

The toy train in question turned out to be a tin wind-up hand car featuring Mickey Mouse on one side, and Minnie Mouse on the other pumping the handles. Lionel reported sales of some 250,000 units in the first four months alone.

Lionel brochure showing the company's first Disney product (the Mickey/Minnie hand car), their second (the Donald/Pluto hand car), and their rarest (the Santa/Mickey hand car). Image courtesy

By November 1934 Lionel had repaid their loan and by the end of the year had settled all of their outstanding accounts with creditors. Lionel executives credited their Disney line with having saved the comapny from bankruptcy. Lionel went on to produce a Mickey Mouse circus set, Donald Duck / Pluto hand car and the rarest of all in their Disney line, a Mickey Mouse / Santa hand car.

I will write more about Lionel and their success as a Disney licensee at a later date, but in the meantime, enjoy these images of one of the rarest 1930s Disney toys to exist.

As Santa pumped the hand car around the track, Mickey peeked out from his sack. The Christmas tree and Santa pieces were made of a composition material. Due to the seasonal nature of the toy, production was limited.

While he does appear to be smiling, Mickey looks to be hanging on for dear life...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Walter Elias Disney 1901-1966

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Walt Disney. I was surprised at how little attention this anniversary received on all of the various blogs I visit.

I have in my collection, a small sampling of historic Disney-related newspapers. In tribu
te, I present the front page of the December 15, 1966 Santa Monica Evening Outlook.

Under the banner: DEATH TAKES WALT DISNEY, were several articles. Here are some excerpts:

"Walt Disney, who fashioned a golden entertainment empire from the gossamer threads of fantasy to the delight of commoners and kings alike, died today at the age of 65.

He died about 9:35 a.m. at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank where he returned for a postoperative checkup following recent surgery.

Disney underwent surgery for removal of one lung Nov. 21, after doctors found a tumor which had caused an abscess.

His studio, after at first declining to give the cause of death, later attributed it to 'acute circulatory collapse.' There was no elaboration. However, an informed source said Dis
ney suffered from spreading cancer.

A spokesman said private funeral services would be held. The cartoonist-turned-movie-mogul, amusement park operator and television emcee was one of the world's most beloved and honored figures of the 20th century."

Under the headline: Tributes Pour In For Walt Disney:

"Film stars and directors, political figures and actors-turned-politicians joined in the general mourning this afternoon for the passing of Walt Disney.

Gov-elect Ronald Reagan, himself a former star, led the tributes: 'There just aren't enough words to express my personal grief,' Reagan said. 'The entire world is a poorer place now.'

U.S. Sen. George Murphy, R-Calif., also a former actor, called Disney 'one of the greatest human beings in all of history. This is a great loss not only to the entertainment industry, but to the nation and the entire world. I know of no individual who has contributed more to the general welfare of mankind or in telling the true and exciting story of our great country, which
he loved so dearly,' Murphy said. 'Walt Disney was a beloved friend and in my estimation one of the great human beings in all of history'."

The coverage included this image, which ran with the following caption: "Walt Disney, with life-sized creation of the cartoon character that first made him famous, Mickey Mouse, rode proudly as grand marshal of the Rose Parade, Jan. 1, 1966."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Uncle Robert's house for sale

Walt Disney's Uncle Robert's house at 4406 Kingswell in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles is up for sale. The asking price? A cool $769,000.

Walt Disney lived in this house for a short time when he moved to L.A. in the summer of 1923. Disney bought a used camera, constructed a camera stand from scratch, and began producing Alice Comedies in his Uncle's garage, which at that time was located behind the house. The garage has since been relocated to the Stanley Ranch Museum in Garden Grove.

The above image shows what Uncle Robert's house looks like today.

Thanks to Cartoon Brew for the heads-up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy 108th Birthday Walter Elias Disney

On the occasion of Walt Disney's birthday, I thought I would reproduce a newspaper article, which appeared in the December 15, 1935 edition of the San Antonio Express, two weeks after Walt turned 34:

Creator of Mickey Mouse Grateful to the Kiddies And World at Large

Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and author of the Silly Symphonies, who now is thirty-four, sets his birthday aside to answer some questions which have accumulated in the past seven years during which he has risen from complete obscurity to a position where he yields worldwide influence.

For seven years Disney has let his characters do all the talking. He now comes from behind to express his own views.

Asked what he would do if the popularity of Mickey Mouse began to wane, Disney replies that he would continue to produce motion pictures: "The future of our industry," he says, "seems so unlimited to us that it is difficult to predict how we would replace Mickey Mouse; possibly we would confine ourselves to feature-length productions and Silly Symphonies, or, again, we might attempt to popularize a new character to take Mickey's place; or build up one of our present personalities such as Donald Duck."

Disney hopes that his first feature-length picture "Snow White" will be completed and ready for presentation in 1937. He frankly admits he does not know how much it will cost. "The final cost," he states, "will depend to a considerable extent on footage and the amount of trouble we run into, two factors which are unpredictable at this stage of the game."

To the question as to which country takes a greater interest in Mickey Mouse Disney replied: "I don't know if there is any particular country which takes a greater interest in Mickey than any other country. The little fellow seems to make friends regardless of race, color, or national boundaries."

Asked for a birthday "message" the youthful prodcer states no reason to make one.

"I have always been short on words that 'echo around the world,' so let's consider this an opportunity again to thank our friends the world over, especially the children, for standing by us like good friends through good pictures and bad, and for all that priceless encouragement, which helps so much in a business where there are so many discouragements."

There has been one question asked of Disney more frequently than any other single question: How does it feel to be a celebrity? To this he answers:

"It feels fine when being a celebrity helps get choice reservations for a football game. It doesn't feel so good when an autograph enthusiast picks you out in a crowd. Most of the time, I imagine, people just don't go around feeling that they are celebrities. It is safe to say that ninety-nine per cent of the time I go around feeling exactly as I would if nobody knew I was alive. As far as I can remember, being a celebrity has never helped me make a good picture, or a good shot at polo, or command the obedience of my daughter, or impress my wife. It doesn't even seem to help me keep fleas off our dogs, and if being a celebrity won't even give one the advantage over a couple of fleas, then I guess there can't be much in being a celebrity at all."

Here are images of celebrities Walt Disney either met or associated with in the 1930s: 1933, at a Writer's Club dinner, with actor and social commentator Will Rogers. 1935, in France, with famed French filmmaker Louis Lumiere. 1935, with the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Italian writer Luigi Pirandello. 1938, at the polo field, with actor Spencer Tracy. 1939, at the Santa Anita racetrack, with friend and fellow producer Charles Chaplin.