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 Walt Disney Productions Mickey Mouse Record Player, Clock & Lamp, Nr1965 Donruss Disneyland Wax Box - 24 Packs - Absolutely Beautiful!1930's Walt Disney Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse Doll All Orginal Rare &toy StampLong Billed Donald Duck Tin Windup 1930's Race Car In Box! Works!M Rare Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room Adventureland 1964 Disney Button Up ShirtMarx Disney Television Playhouse Playset 1950'sDisney Rare Dtd Wdw Vintage 1952 Mickey Mouse Marionette Once Upon A Toy PropAntique Donald Duck 1935 Comic Book Early Walt Disney Rare Linen Large Color A-!5 Early Walt Disney Bakelite Pencil Sharpeners Mickey, Donald, Snow White Zorro Wrist Watch In Original Box - Walt Didney Productions Vintage Mickey Mouse Ingersoll Watch With Original BoxDisney Pins Disneyland Vintage Rides Tiki Room Autopia Fantasyland Mr Toad Magic1955 Brass Mickey Mouse Disneyland Sign Plaque Door Push Plate Opening DayVintage Airtronics Aquila Standard Class R/c Sailplane Kit Thermal Slope FlyingHagen Renaker Disney Wendy From Peter Pan Unpainted Face Dz-60Vintage Airtronics Aquila Standard Class R/c Sailplane Kit Thermal Slope FlyingDisneyland Captain Eo Large Tee Shirt *vintage* (1986 Premier) Michael Jackson Vintage 1970s - Complete - Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Adult 8 Ticket BookWalt Disney Productions Vintage Toy Sand Pail Bucket Chein Usa Mickey Mouse NiceHagen Renaker Disney Merryweather From Sleeping Beauty Chipped Hat Dz-711930s Walt Disney Enterprises Mickey Mouse Recipe Scrapbook Gold Cup BreadDisneyland Silhouette Studio The Story Of Silhouette Paper Brochure Pamphlet Vintage 1970s Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Adult Main Gate Admission TicketHagen Renaker Disney Flora From Sleeping Beauty Chips Around Base Dz-72Disney Mickey Mouse Ingersoll Wrist Watch With Box And Guarantee1930's Mickey Mouse Walt Disney Pinback Western Theatre Premium CompanyVintage Lionel Train Disney Santa Claus Mickey Mouse Part For HandcarVintage 16mm Amateur Film Home Movie Disneyland With Spotting Of Mr. Walt DisneyRare Mickey Mouse Jack In The Box Composite Toy Japan C1930Disney Rare Dtd Wdw Vintage 1952 Minnie Mouse Marionette Once Upon A Toy PropVintage 1936 Walt Disney Enterprises Mickey Mouse & His Friends Linen-like BookVintage 80s Walt Disney World Mickey Mouse T-shirt Sz LS448. Vintage Walt Disney's Donald Duck Hand-painted Bisque Figurine (c. 1930's)Vintage Original 1955 Disneyland Ca Bank Of America Guide Map Brochure1940s Wood Donald Duck & Ducklings Wooden Pull Toy N.h. Hill Disney Fisher Price1940s Disney Fantasia. Vintage 1950s Walt Disney Linemar Tin Wind Up Three Little Pig - Japan - Works!!J Chein Mickey Mouse Ferris Wheel Tin Toy Wind-up LithoVintage Frontier Trading Post Disneyland Wood Toothpick HolderFour Color #248, 352, 371 Mickey Mouse Group Of 3 Disney Dell 1949 Vg+Disney Goebel Dis 044 Bird BlueRare 1954 Disney Annual Report Book Vintage Original 1950s Goebel Snow White And Seven Dwarfs Figurine Set DisneyVintage 1970s Partial - Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Adult 8 Ticket BookVintage Disneyland 1966 Pirates Of The Caribbean Postcard Unused - Lot Of 6Rare 1947 Disney Annual Report Book Melody Time~rare~ 1948 Ingersoll Pluto Character Watch Disney Birthday Series Hard To Find Circa 1956-1959 Disneyland Art Corner Squeaker Postcard - Dumbo & TimothyDisneykins Top Cat Complete Set Of Top Cat CharacterstinykinsVintage 1950's Walt Disney's Davy Crockett Pocket Knife With Hatchet EndMichael Jackson Disneyland "captain Eo" Small Tee Shirt *vintage* (1986)Disney Donald Duck Sterling Silver Ring Vintage1962-1963 Disneyland New Attractions Haunted Mansion Adventureland Brochure BookVintage Disney World Polynesian Hotel Spirit Of Aloha Dinner Show MenuVintage 1967 Disneyland Park Guide Book And D Ride TicketOld Photo 35mm Slide Lot Disneyland California Marineland Knotts Berry Farms CaVintage Disneyland Adult Ticket Book Complete Admission & 15 Adventures Rare#685Vintage Antique Stuffed 1930s 1940s Mickey Mouse Rat 1938 Antique Walt Disney's Own Game Snow White And The 7 Dwarfs Parker BrothersVintage Sterling Silver Disney Charms Donald Duck And Huey, Dewey, And Louie