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    

Vintage Linemar Jiminy Cricket Tin Wind Up Toy Marx Japan Litho Walt Disney BoxOriginal 1950's Disneyland Artifact Bench From Sleeping Beautys Castle!Original Vintage Walt Disney Production Cel Donald Duck & Humphrey Bear W LabelOriginal Vintage C1957 Walt Disney Production Cel 'chip & Dale' Chipmunk W LabelVintage 40's Marx Tin Litho Wind Up Walt Disney Donald Duck DuetVintage Disney-silly Symphony/mickey Mouse Noma Christmas Lights-1930s-boxed-bbxVery Rare Walt Disney Donald Duck Handpainted Celluloid Cel Cell Drawing 1959Vintage Hagen Renaker Disney Peter Pan Mermaid With Red Hair Lionel Disney Donald Duck & Pluto Handcar Wind Up Toy No.1107 In Box Attic FindVintage Antique Disneyland 6 Sided Bowl/dish Colorful # I424 From Walt Disney PrHagen Renaker Disney Siamese Cats Si & Am From Lady & Tramp Dz-124Vintage Disney-3 Pencil Sharpeners-dopey-snow White-donald-1930s-no Chips-swdwOriginal Walt Disney Production Cel 'j Audubon Woodlore Park Ranger' W LabelVintage Disney-mickey Mouse Litho Snow Shovel-pluto/snowman-ohio Art-1930s-bbxRare Large Disney Evan Shaw Walrus Figurine Alice In Wonderland Nr!!!Vintage Disneyland Map Metal Tv Tray Original Mid To Late 50sVintage 1967 Disneyland Adult Admission A-e Ticket Book 3 E-tickets Free ShipRare Collectible 1950 Disney Regal China Alice In Wonderland Cookie Jar Original Box For 1930's Ingersoll Mickey Mouse WristwatchVintage Reliance Picture & Walt Disney Three Little Pigs - Colored Enamel Glass!1957 Disneyland, Red Wagon Inn Menu $2.35 Sirloin Steak Dinner; French Fries 35c3 Vintage 1959 Disneyland Admission A-e Partial Ticket Books E-tickets Free ShipVintage Disney Evan K Shaw Metlox American Pottery Angry Donald Duck Ceramic Disney World Land Vintage Monorail Train Set Tracks Monrail Cars Track Play SetVintage Disney-3 Little Pigs Enamel Match Safe-1930s-swdwVintage Japan Bisque Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Toothbrush Holder Movable ArmVintage 1950's Marx Disney Zorro Servant Bernardo FigureUltra Rare 1930 Mickey Mouse German Tin Litho Still BankVintage Disney-donald Duck Lithographed Snow Shovel-ohio Art-1930sbbxAntique Mickey Mouse Wrist Watch Ingersoll W/ Mickey Band1950's Walt Disney's Mattel Disneyland Panorama Map & Record SetVintage Disney-snow White & Seven Dwarfs Tin Lithograph Serving Tray-1930s-bbxVintage Original 1955 Disneyland Press Pass Card~november 20, 1955~exc CondVintage Disney-coming Home Board Game-marks Bros-1930s-bbxVery Rare Vintage 1958 Disneyland Main Street Hills Brothers Coffee House MenuVintage Disney-mickey Mouse Reverse On Glass-joys Camping-reliance-d-120-30s-bbxVintage Disney-mickey/minnie Canadian Biscuit Tin-concessonnaire-1930s-bbx1957 Guide To Disneyland With From The Park Tom Sawyer Wonderland 1957- 4 ItemsMickey Mouse Bracelet 1930sVtg 60s Disneyland Monsanto Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln / Inner Space Tickets1934 Disney Ingersoll Three Little Pigs Big Bad Wolf Alarm ClockVintage 80's Bobby Lee Camera Strap Lanyard Epcot Center Walt Disney WorldHuge Hand Made Vintage Old Antique Folk Art Mickey Minnie Mouse Cloth Doll (s)Disney Vintage 1940s Dumbo Pencil Sharpener Catalin Or Bakelite YellowVtg Antique Donald Duck Doll Toy 1930s Linen And Felt 12" OriginalEarly Rat Face Mickey Mouse Disney Chalk-ware Figure C1930sVintage Disneyland Adult Ticket Book With A B C D E Tickets Price $8.50 On BackRare Large Disney Hagen Renaker Walrus Figurine Alice In Wonderland Nr!!!Rare! Bambi (1942) Original, Authentic Production Drawing!! Disney Animation ArtAd Disneyland Peter Pan Pirate Galleon Postcard Old Vintage Card View StandardDisneyland Vintage "special Complimentary Main Gate Admission" -2Vintage Disneyland Special Main Gate Admission Ticket Free ShipVintage Disneyland Hotel's Vacationland PostcardThe Story Of Disneyland 1955 Guide1937 Walt Disney / Mickey Mouse-letter & Envelope,correspondenceVintage Disney Lady ( And The Tramp ) Bank 1955 Original ? Disneyana Ceramic DogRarest Disney Windup Tin Toy,mickey Mouse Ltd., Snow White Dwarf, "happy"no Res!Orig. 1953 Walt Disney Production Drawing! Goofy, “for Whom The Bells Toil”! VtgVintage Disney Dakin Mickey Minnie Donald Duck Watches Figures Button LotDisneyland Vintage "special Complimentary Main Gate Admission" -1