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; or turned into every kind of children’s toy imaginable. At the time, 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.

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]

Plan 59

Plan 59

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

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]

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]

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    

Marx Disney Mickey Mouse Meteor Train Wind Up Tin W/key And TrackVintage 1960s Walt Disney Productions Marx Tin Litho Donald Duck Drummer Toy1956 Disneyland Rare Jungle River Original Silkscreen Attraction Poster1956 Disneyland Rare Swiss Family Robinson Original Silkscreen Attraction PosterBoxed Mickey The Magician * Linemar Japan ****lqqk***1940 Pinocchio Courvoisier Cel & Background Walt Disney Very Rare T2Rare Linemar Japan Donald Duck Climbing Fireman Wind Up Tin Toy WorkingRare Disneyland Mickey Mouse Roller Coaster Made In Usa By J.chein Co. WorkingRare Vintage Ho Train Santa Fe Disneyland Rr By Tyco Collectable Walt Disney SetVintage 1930's Ingersoll Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Wrist Watch Empty Box Only Nr1930s Celluloid Mickey Mouse On Ball Whirligig With Umbrella Rare Toy BorgfeldtAntique Wind-up Toy... Celluloid Disney Mickey Mouse On Horse (no Reserve!!!)2 Vintage Rare 50s Japan Ceramic Disney Tinkerbell Pixie Figurine Moon Stars 1950's Linemar/marx~donald Duck Skier Wind Up~excellent Scarce Working Tin LithoMickey Mouse Linemar Skater Top Condition 1950 S JapanBrass1955 Walt Disney Disneyland Tribute Plaque Sign Mickey Mouse Kansas CityVintage 1940s Disney Brer Rabbit Pottery Planter, Song Of The South, Metlox Rare Vintage 1930's Mickey & Minnie Mouse Toy Tea Set Disney Japan Geo BorgfeldtMarx Disney Mickey Mouse Parade Car1950s Mickey Mouse On The High-wheeler Tin Wind Up Bicycle Toy Vintage LinemarVintage 1930's Marx Linemar Disney Donald Duck Tin Wind-up Toy No ReserveSchuco Clockwork Tumbling Mouse 1920s - 30s. Gc. Gwo. Original Key. Mickey MouseRare 1968 Mattel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Movie Car In Box & All FiguresRare Disneyland Mickey Mouse Roller Coaster Made In Usa By J.chein .co WorkingScarce Snow White Disney Children's Sewing Machine In Original Box C1950sVintage 1950 Marx Mickey Mouse The Musician Wind Up Xylophone ToyAntique 1938 Snow White Sand Pail Walt Disney! Ohio Art Company Collectible!Vintage Disney Marx Ferdinand And Matador Tin Wind Up Toy!!Original Genuine Authentic Walt Disney Autograph Signature Including CoaVintage C.1972 Risque Mickey/minnie Mouse Pocket Watch; Very Rare!!Vintage Hagen Renaker Thumper #5020 Miniature 1956 Disney FigurineWalt Disney’s Comics And Stories #34 Nice Golden Age Carl Barks Dell 1943 Gd-vgLot 1955 Disneyland Newspaper W/disney Advertising Insert, Railroad Pamphlets++K535. Vintage: Mickey Mouse Toy Chest And Children's Seat By Odora Co. (1930's)Walt Disney's Goofy * El Goucho Goofy * 35mm Ib Tech * Vg Cond.* 1942Mickey Mouse Vintage Watch Ingersoll Wdp Wind Up Watch That Runs!!!!Walt Disney's Donald Duck * Clown Of The Jungle * 35mm Ib Tech * Vg Cond.* 1947Scarce Vintage C1930s Baseball Mickey Mouse Walt E. Disney Catcher FigurineVintage J. Chein & Co. Tin Wind-up Donald Duck Pinocchio Donald Mickey Vintage Marx Disney's Driver Friction Car In Box Hong KVintage Mickey Mouse Disneyland Matterhorn Squeaker Postcard Rare Hamilton Vintage Mickey Mouse Disneyland Mechanical Watch - 17 JewelsVintage Ceramic Walt Disney Productions Aristocats Cat Toulouse KittenVintage Aladdin Metal Lunchbox Walt Disney World With Thermos Mickey Mouse Rare And Superb Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Chocolate Cigarettes Tin BoxDisney Vintage Postcard Booklet Book Polynesian Village Walt Disney World ResortVintage 1950's Disneyland Souvenir Childs Plastic SunglassesK494. Vintage: Walt Disney's Donald Duck Bread Paper Puppet (1950's)Mixed Lot Of 22 Disneykins - Alice, Thumper, Hanna Barbera, Donald, Yogi, MickeyWalt Disney 11" Donald Duck Walker / Unrestored / Composite / Works / Key K577. Vintage: Walt Disney Character Child's 3-panel Necklace (c. 1930's)1940 Pinocchio Courvoisier Cel & Background Walt Disney Very Rare T2Zorro Walt Disney Toy Water Pistol Gun Vintage Tv Western Hero C. 1957 No Res!K514. Vintage Walt Disney: Mickey Mouse Silvered Brass Pocketwatch Fob (1933)Vintage Advertising Pinback Button Mickey Mouse Globe Trotters Meyer Milk 1930'sDisney Vintage Postcard Booklet Book Pirates Of The Caribbean Walt Disney WorldDisney Disneyland Vintage 1957 Monsanto Magazine House Of The Future Reprint*rare* 1940's "marx" Walt Disney - Donald Duck Duet Tin/wind-up Toy!Rare Lot Of 9 Disneykins Tinykins By Marx ( Pinocchio-cricket-peterpan& More) Rare Hamilton Vintage Mickey Mouse Disneyland Mechanical Watch - 17 Jewels