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”)

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Original 1960 101 Dalmatians Walt Disney Production Art CelVtg Pre War Lionel O Gauge Mickey Mouse Circus Dining Car-walt Disney EnterpriseWalt Disney World 1977 Vintage Pete's Dragon Main St Usa Cinema Wdw Prop BannerVtg Pre War Lionel O Gauge Mickey Mouse Stoker For Circus Set-walt Disney Ent.Vtg Pre War Lionel O Gauge Mickey Mouse Circus Car-walt Disney EnterpriseVintage Marx Mickey Mouse Vespa Scooter Friction ToyVintage Mickey Mouse Jazz DrummerWonderful Small Size Vintage Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Steiff Doll Mint 4" Tall.! 1965 Horsman Mary Poppins Unused In The BoxRare Lionel #1105-mickey Mouse Santa Car-walt Disney-all Orig-train-hand Car-nr!Rare Original 1934 Lionel Mickey Mouse Hand Car Box Only Shabby Chic Cond Nr YqzVintage Disneyland Sign Splash Mountain Critter Country Prop Rare% 1958 Disneyland Map Or The Park 45 Inches Wide1955 Original Disney Lady And The Tramp Scotty Dog "jock" Painted Celluloid Cel 1982 Disney Epcot Center Opening Day Rare 3 Day World Passport Ticket And CaseVintage Ingersoll 1930's Mickey Mouse Wrist Watch W/original Band Nice Condition1930's Vintage Rare Mickey Mouse Ingersoll Wristwatch Vintage 1950's Linemar 3 Little Pigs Wind Up Character Pair With Boxes OrigWalt Disney's Donald Duck DuetOriginal 1950's Witch Hazel Production Art Cel Walt DisneyVintage Disneyland Frontierland Sign Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Prop RareVintage Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Abcde Ticket Book With 8 Unused TicketsVintage Walt Disney Steiff Mickey Mouse Doll 6" Tall Fair Condition. Vintage Mickey & Mickey & Pluto Fun-e-flex Wood FiguresDisneyland May 1976 Admission Ticket Mint Still Valid Today% 1960's Walt Disney 21" Tall Snow White Doll And The Seven Dwarfs SetVintage Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch And Fob Box OnlyVintage Mechanical Metal Wind-up Jiminy Cricket In Original BoxOriginal Handpainted Celluloid Drawing Walt Disney..goofy..niceMickey Mouse Small Felt ? Steiff? VintageM396 Vintage Disney Mickey Mouse Reliance Reverse Art Glass Framed Picture 1930[Lot Of Vintage 1960s 3d Stereo Slides Disneyland Travel Disney CaliforniaVintage Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Wind Up Alarm Clock For Repair Disneyland 50's Disneyrama Postcard Frontierland Walt Disney Artist Concept1940s Disney Marx 4" Tin Wind-up Locomotive From Disney ExpressDisneyland June 1980 Ticket Book Complete With Admission Still Valid TodayDisneyland Vintage 1950's Black & White Photo Postcard Rocket To The MoonLot Of 11 Vintage 1930's Mickey Mouse Walt Disney Cards-kuss's Butter-nut BreadDisneyland May 1980 Admission Ticket Mint Still Valid TodayVintage Pair Of Hagen Renaker Lady And The Tramp Miniature Figurines1950s Yankees Mickey Mantle Hartland Baseball FigureDisneyland Vintage 1950's Black & White Photo Postcard Main Street DepotDisneyland Vintage 1950's Black & White Photo Postcard Jungle BoatVintage Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion Board Game - IncompleteVintage Disneyland Frontierland Sign Golden Horseshoe Review Prop RareHagen Renaker Disney Pekinese Peg Figurine - Lady & The TrampDisneyland Vintage 1950's Black & White Photo Postcard Sleeping Beauty's Castle1930s Walt Disney Enterprises Mickey Mouse Bell Bread Recipe Card~Balancing Mickey Mouse Vintage Nr. Mint Mickey Mouse Sand Pail Bucket Ohio Art Company Free ShippingWalt Disney's • The Enchanted Tiki Room / Vinyl Lp / Disneyland Record 3966 1934 Ultra Rare Mickey Mouse Circus Game In Original BoxVintage Mickey Mouse Wrist Watch Bradley Walt Disney Productions Mechanical WindDisney 1937 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs W.d. Ent. "one Song" Sheet MusicVintage 1950's Childrens Mickey Mouse Wrist Watch - DisneyMickey Mouse Disney Pinback Button Pin Button Emerson Radio Advertising F33Vintage Zippo: Walt Disney World Zippo Lighter Rare% 1960's Walt Disney Big Fig Mickey Mouse Convertiable Car 18 Inches LongVintage Mickey Mouse Walt Disney Productions Watch Lot Swiss Bradley Lorus AlarmVintage Mickey Mouse Watch Watches By Ingersoll ~ Lot Of 2 ~ Disney Collectible