The world of Disney collectibles encompasses millions of products associated with Walt Disney’s film studio and production company. Often called Disneyana, these items are typically related to films made by Disney, the Disneyland and Disney World theme parks, or the company’s international network of Mickey Mouse Clubs.

After Walt Disney’s first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram Films, went bankrupt in 1923, Disney moved to Los Angeles to join his brother Roy. There they launched the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, which was renamed Walt Disney Studios in 1926. Mickey, originally dubbed Mortimer, joined the team in 1928 with the big-screen release of “Steamboat Willie.”

The first Mickey Mouse Club got started in Ocean Park, California, in 1930, ostensibly to teach kids good manners while encouraging a love of Disney films and products. The informal kid’s clubs held meetings in local movie theaters, where leaders emphasized the importance of attending Sunday school, respecting parents, developing good hygiene, and helping others. By 1932, Mickey Mouse Clubs boasted more than a million members worldwide.

From the early '30s onward, familiar characters like Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Peg Leg Pete, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy were made into dolls, puppets, and figurines; painted onto lunchboxes, handkerchiefs, and backpacks; and turned into every kind of children’s toy imaginable.

As for Mickey and Minnie, they were first produced as cloth dolls in 1930 by a seamstress named Charlotte Clark, whose 16-year-old cousin (and future Looney Tunes animator), Bob Clampett, drew the initial design. In Clampett's version of Disney's most recognizable animated icon, Mickey was depicted as a wily, Depression-era kid in short-pants, sometimes called the “pie-eyed” Mickey because his oval eyes looked as though they were missing a single wedge. But Walt liked the look and quality of the dolls so much, he rented a house for Clark and her team, which was dubbed the Mouse House.

With Disney's success came waves of knockoff merchandise across the globe. In an effort to control their brand, Walt and Roy established an arm of their business devoted to licensing and merchandising. Their first contract was in 1930 with the George Borgfeldt company, which primarily imported bisque figurines. The appeal of Disney products was so broad that licensing deals could make or break smaller businesses: In the mid-1930s, the Lionel Toy Company was saved from bankruptcy by its Mickey and Minnie themed handcar sets.

When Kay Kamen joined as the head of character merchandising in 1932, his first project was to spearhead a Mickey Mouse promotional campaign, which included everything from pinbacks and flip books to billboard-sized advertisements. In 1933, Disney signed the Ingersoll-Waterbury Clock Company to make Mickey Mouse watches fixtures on wrists around the world. Other major alliances soon followed, including campaigns for Globetrotter Bread and the National Dairy Company...

Kamen also pushed to improve the quality of products bearing the Disney stamp, inciting bidding wars between top-of-the-line manufacturers of toys, games, apparel, and other related industries. Because of Kamen’s success, brands like Ohio Art, Louis Marx, Crown Toy and Novelty, Knickerbocker, Ideal, Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Fisher Price, and Whitman Publishing all wanted in on the Disney game.

At the end of the 1930s, Disney began modernizing its familiar characters with contemporary outfits and softening their physical features to achieve a more human silhouette. The market for Disneyana really went wild after the 1937 release of Disney’s first full-length animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” with the princess and her little friends appearing on every imaginable household product.

The trend continued in the 1940s as Disney released several successful films, including “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Saludos Amigos,” and “Fantasia.” Disney characters now adorned radios, banks, tea sets, cookie jars, jigsaw puzzles, ice skates, records, clocks, toothbrushes, musical instruments, lamps, and even ashtrays.

As World War II got underway, the sailor-suited Donald Duck became Disney’s most visible character since his fiery temper made him a perfect fit for anti-Axis propaganda and patriotic wartime advertising. But with the premiere of the Mickey Mouse Club television show in 1955, Mickey re-entered the spotlight as his visage was stamped onto plastic china sets, coloring books, and popular “Mousegetars.”

In July of 1955, the Disneyland amusement park opened in Anaheim, California, with its five themed lands—Main Street USA, Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland—providing a plethora of marketable material and miles of souvenir shops selling every imaginable knickknack, including pins.

A new wave of interest in Disney memorabilia peaked during the 1960s, surprisingly driven by the hippie counterculture. As a reaction against mid-century American conservatism, a new generation adopted Mickey as a symbol of their working-class ethos, since the likeable trickster was disdained by the affluent. Beginning with the iconic Mickey Mouse watch, sales of Disneyana (new and vintage) skyrocketed in the late 1960s. Disney’s promotional empire expanded again with the opening of Disney World in 1971, followed by the shops at Walt Disney World Village in 1975. Although the company continued to grow following the death of Walt Disney in 1966, and his brother Roy in 1971, many collectors consider the 1930s to 1960s to be the golden years of Disney memorabilia.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

If you're a Steve McQueen fan, this site can't be beat. Roger Harris has put together a definitive collection of Mc… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

If you're the type who likes watching the titles and credits at the beginning of movies, you'll love this site. Ste… [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Cinema Treasures

Cinema Treasures

This user-contributed database of classic movie theaters currently lists over 17,000 theaters worldwide. Browse by … [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Dave Mackey's filmography and title card gallery for 35 years of Warner Bros. cartoons. Browsable by year or alphab… [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]

Steves Disney Collection

Steves Disney Collection

Steve Lee’s large collection of original Disney art: pencil drawings from animated features produced during W… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1950's Vtg Fantasyland Walt Disney Productions Bark Cloth 2 Curtain Panel SkirtNos 1950’s Japan Linemar Disney Mickey Roller Skating With Original Box. Works!Marx Pinocchio The Acrobat Disney Wind Up Tin Toy Vintage Works!2 Vintage 1950's Miniature Hagen Renaker Disney Fairies From Sleeping Beauty S257. Vintage Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Celluloid Place Card Holder (c. 1930) [Rare Dysneyland Biscuit Tin 1930's Snow White Mickey & Co Blechdosen Walt DisneyVintage 50s Disney Bambi And Thumper 10-panel Circle Skirt Pink Novelty BorderEarly 1930's Original Steiff Veveteen 7" Minnie Mouse Doll Toy With Tag & ButtonVintage 8 1/2 In. Marx Wind Up Tin Litho Pinocchio Dated 1939 Walt Disney Ent.Vintage Walt Disney World Florida Xl Thin Poly Cotton 50/50 Mickey Mouse ShirtVintage Authentic Disneyland Fire Department Badge La Stamp & Staty Original Rare Wood Borgfeldt Mickey Mouse Doll Toy 1930 Early OldRare Borgfeldt Wood Large Fun-e-flex Minnie Mickey Mouse Antique Old Early 1930Rare Mint C1930 Three Little Pigs W/ Box Key Tin/faux Leather Book Bank Nr $550Sutcliffe Nautilus Submarine Walt Disney 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea 1950'sPluto And Goofy Linemar Vintage Tin Wind-up ToyVintage Disneyland Haunted Mansion Secret Panel Chest Disney Parade Roadster Tin Litho Marx 1950's Mickey Mouse Donald Duck GoofyAntique Vintage 1930's Mickey & Minnie Mouse Walt Disney Inkograph Fountain PenWalt Disney Donald Duck Original Celluloid Drawing W Mailing Package & PaperworkDisneyland Ride Prop Rare Vintage Red Rattlesnake From Mine Train AttractionOriginal 1958 Disneyland Map Poster, 30" X 44", Rolled Up1940`s Walt Disney Bakelite Children Pencil SharpenersVintage Walt Disney World Productions, Made In England Burled Nut Pipe Tobacco Vintage 1966 Walt Disney Guide To Disneyland Magic Kingdom MapS213. Vintage: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Figure By Seiberling Latex (1930's) [T198. Vintage: Walt Disney Enterprise Tin Litho Spinning Top (c. 1939) Mickey [Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Wrist Watch With BoxVintage Walt Disney World Epcot Center Figment The Purple Dragon Mug 1982 Rare!Edwin K Shaw American Pottery 1940's "mickey Mouse" Ceramic Figurine 6.5"Walt Disney Donald Duck 1940's Ceramic Figurine American Pottery Evan K. ShawSnow White 1940s Us Time Watch Vintage Tin Litho Walt Disney Mickey Mouse & Friends Wind-up Marx Train Nr Wind Up Donald Duck Handcar With Box By Lionel Trains Ca 1930'sS211. Walt Disney's Donald Duck Bisque Figurine By Borgfeldt & Co. (1930's) [1934/35 Ingersoll Micky Mouse WatchRare Disney Evan K. Shaw Bull Dog Figurine From Lady & Tramp American PotteryWwii Booklet 1944 Donald Duck Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Ww2 Walt Disney BookRare Disney Evan K. Shaw Jock The Dog From Lady & Tramp American PotteryMint Unused 1963 Cartoon Zoo Thermos Must See Stunning UniversalDisney Vintage Cast Iron Pinocchio Rare Handpainted 10" Coin Change BankVtg 50's 60's Disneyland Hard Hat Cap Adventure Land Frontier Tomorrow Fantasy"snow White And The Seven Drawfs" Production Animation Drawing, Walt Disney 1937Original 1937 Disney Mickey's Amateurs Production Drawing + Rare Note, Les ClarkVintage Disneyland Haunted Mansion Secret Panel Chest 1960s Puzzle Box Vintage Walt Disney World Cast Member 5 Year Service Pin Ruby With MickeyMint Unused 1957 Disney Castle Thermos Aladdin Nice !!!Royal Paragon China "mickey Mouse Series" Plate-walter E. Disney Signature 1930Original Art 1937 Disney Hawaiian Holiday ~ Production ~ 2 DrawingsVintage Lars 1940's Felt Mickey Mouse Doll. 15" Tall.T175. Vintage Walt Disney Pluto Tin Litho Wind Up Roll Over Marx Toy (1939) [Lot Vintage Disney Walking Toys Hong Kong% 1960's Marx Disneykins Jungle Book Collection Lot 3S281. Vintage: Walt Disney's Donald Duck Jointed Celluloid Figure (1930's) [Strombecker Walt Disney's Disneyland Rocket To The Moon Kit D27-100 54-56 As IsHuge Vintage Mickey Mouse Disney Gemstone Inlay Ring Veronica Nastacio Zuni '79 1950's Daito Japan Tin Wind Up Donald Duck And Nephews Toy (rare)Vintage Mickey Mouse Club Pinback ~ Copyright 1928-1930 ~ NrAuburn Disney Playset Characters, Donald Duck, Goofy, & Pluto.Royal Paragon China "mickey Mouse Series" Bowl-walter E. Disney Signature 1930