When Walter E. Disney first created his little mouse character in 1928,
the world could not have known what would ultimately happen. He hoped
the character would last for a few more black and white cartoons. No one
could have foreseen that this rodent would grow into a cultural
phenomenon of worldwide proportions, and that the name of Disney
would become a household world for children of all ages.
The original Mickey Mouse (aka Steamboat Willie), born in 1928, wasn't a very nice
guy. He amused himself by torturing other animals. At one point he squished
a goose to make it honk! The American people responded to this behavior
with condemnation. Disney was no fool. He altered the character to make
him good, adventurous and smart -- what everyone thought of as "human".
After that it was a straight ride to the top for Mickey.
Right from the beginning Disney could see that there was gold in merchandising
his character, and the others that soon followed. Mickey's and his friends' images
appeared on everything from toys to clothing to watches. Indeed, even today the
Mickey Mouse watch is one of the most sought after and pricey of the vintage
Once Mickey was established, he needed a mate, and Minnie was born. She was little more than Mickey with a skirt and high heels, a two dimensional character. Accordingly, she never achieved the intense popularity Mickey enjoys even today--with the possible exception of feminist Disneyphiles.
In the 1930s, considered the golden age of Disney collectibles, our
mouse went through several metamorphoses designed to make him less
ratlike and more likable. This was because many of the early Mickey collectibles,
especially those manufactured in Europe, were frightening to children (A little aside here.
Why is it that the same people who are frightened to death of live mice think
Mickey is adorable? I don't know. It might be for the same reason that people
who are afraid of rats think squirrels are cute. After all, a squirrel is just a
rat with a bushy tail). Since the Disney organization maintained strict control of
the design of products manufactured by their licensees, these European versions
of Mickey were declared too realistic and not benign enough. As a result, these
early foreign items are rare, highly desirable and enormously costly
in today's market.
Early items can be identified by the characters' features. Mickey and Minnie were "pie-eyed"; their eyes were white ovals with black pupils. Each pupil had a 'slice of pie' removed. Donald Duck also had a different appearance in those days. His bill was much longer and pointier than it is today. And Goofy wasn't even named Goofy. He was called "Dippy The Goof".
As more characters were added, the business of Disneyana mushroomed into
an empire. Walt Disney moved along on the path to the major economic force his
dream has become today
Next, we'll talk about Disney feature films, and their effect on the collecting market. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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