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]

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]

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]

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]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [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]

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]

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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Walt Disney Vintage Disneyland Railroad Engineer Train Donald Duck Outfit Set1930s Mickey Mouse Ingersoll Pocket Watch Original BoxMickey Mouse & Pluto Vintage Wind Up Tin & Celluloid ToyVtg Disney Amimation Cel "art Of Animation" Sheep? Ram" Beatles? 1965Disney Hagen Renaker 1950s Jaq Of Cinderella - Very Rare Miniature FigurineDisney Hagen Renaker 1950s Gus Of Cinderella - Very Rare Miniature Figurine1930s Vintage Mickey Mouse Figurine Walt Disney Antique Wood & String RareRare Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Pocket Watch Original 1933 Version1950 Alice In Wonderland Original Mad Hatter Artist Model Sheet Walt Disney1930s Antique Mickey Mouse Tin Toy Clicker - Lithographed TinOriginal 1949 Walt Disney Productions Cel Of Ichabod From Adventures W/ Mr. ToadMarx Toys Walt Disney Prod Donald Duck Tin Litho Register Bank $10. Savings BankRare 1930 Mickey Mouse Wood Jointed DollToy Stamp & 1940s Walt Disney Courvoisier Bambi And Thumper Multiplane AnimationCast Iron Mickey Mouse Bank Bookends*rare* Side Profile Ears 1930's Celluloid Mickey Mouse Toy Figure, JapanVintage Disneyland Beau Sterling Silver Charm - Walt Disney ProductionsVintage Rare Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Picture Card Album Vol.1 W/ 31 Cards Nr1952 Peter Pan Original Comparative Size Artist Model Sheet Walt Disney1940s! Vintage American Pottery Disney Mickey & Minnie FigurinesVintage Leather Disneyland Wrist Coin Purse 1955 Walt Disney ProductionsHasbro 1965 Munster Rub OnsVtg J Chein Disneyland Tin Litho Wind Up Toy Roller Coaster Metal Carnival Video1930's Mickey Mouse Crossing Bridge Celluloid Toy In Orig Box Disney EnterprisesVintage 1950's Evan K. Shaw Ceramic Pottery Daffy Duck FigureDisney 1930's Rare Donald Duck (2) Bisque, Turquoise And BlueRare Walt Disney Long Billed Donald Duck Walk Away Chad Valley Pull Toy C1930sRare Vintage Blue Duncan Disney's Wonderful World Of Color Return Top Yo-yo1950s Marx Walt Disney Davy Crockett Alamo Play Set Tin Litho Gate With DoorsDisney Official Album Wdw Epcot Center Vintage 1983 Cassette Disneyland RecordsRare 1930 Mickey Mouse Mickey Mouse 16" Deans Rag Book Velvet DollVery Rare Vintage 11 Disney World Magic Kingdom Ticket Book 1971 1950s Marx Walt Disney Davy Crockett Alamo Play Set Tin Litho Chapel BuildingDisneyland Sterling Silver Charm Walt Disney Seven Dwarf W/ Vintage Tag ** K5449Merryweather & King Hubert Art Corner Disney Gold Seal Cel Sleeping Beauty 19591955 1959 Disneyland Fire Hydrant Salt & Pepper Shakers Walt Disney ProductionsVintage Disney Disneyland Charm Bracelet Postcard Locket 1950's?Vintage 1950's Evan K. Shaw Ceramic Pottery Bugs Bunny FigureDisney Vintage 1964 Mary Poppins Golden Press Movie Wdp Illustrated Press BookRare Vintage Disneyland Mickey Mouse Wind Up Watch Works Vintage Rare Walt Disney Character Novelty Co. Daisy Duck Plush Stuffed Toy NrVintage Zuni Mickey Mouse Inlay Silver RingA 9pc. Lot Of Walt Disney 1937 Par-t-mask By Einson Freeman Co. Snow WhiteLot Of 11 Antique Ceramic Alice In Wonderland Figure Queen Frog Pig Mad Hatter++Rare Survivor Disney Mickey Mouse Donald Duck Motor Bike Sand Toy In Box C1940sVintage Disneyland New Orleans Square Linen Tea Towel-walt Disney ProductionsPrewar Lionel O Gauge Mickey Mounse Walt Disney Santa Car No. 1105Rare 1930 Mickey Mouse Lead FigureLot 12 Soaky Bubble Bath Bottles Felix Top Cat Mighty Mickey Mouse & More1950's Mickey Mouse Alarm Clock, Ingersoll, Us TimeAntique Rare Disney Marx Tin Friction 3 Legged Pluto Pulling A Red WagonVintage 1950's Evan K. Shaw Ceramic Pottery Petunia Pig Figure Antique Rubber 1930s Donald Duck & Pluto Toy Car Walt Disney Productions No Rsrv The Whalers Walt Disney Mickey & Donald 1938 Linen Backed Cartoon Photo J5 PhWalt Disney World Vintage 1982 Epcot Center Spaceship Earth Geosphere Poster1950's Walt Disney Productions Whirling Tail Goofy Louis Marx Good Cond One BuckDisney Winnie The Pooh Hand-painted Production Cel & Original Key BackgroundDisneyland 50th 2005 Candy Dish Tray Plate Disney Attractions Retro Vintage LokMickey Mouse July 17 1955 Disneyland Grand Opening Small Brass Plaque CopyRare Vintage Walt Disney Flip Mask Zorro Flashlight Keychain