Saturday, 29 November 2008


As noted in the below post from last week, the first Mickey Mouse publication, Bibo & Lang's slim Mickey Mouse Book (1930), was largely (perhaps exclusively) utilized as a promotion give-away. However, Mickey Mouse publications properly for retail would proliferate in 1931 with David McKay Co. getting a license to publish Disney books.
McKay's Mickey Mouse books can be grouped broadly in three categories. On one hand, they published story books with original illustrations, starting with The Adventures of Mickey Mouse. On the other hand, they put out a series of annual comics publications exclusively reprinting samples of daily Mickey Mouse strips. Furthermore, they also published 'movie story books', with story adaptations of Mickey cartoon shorts, with stills fom the cartoons themselves used as illustrations. The first of this kind was the hardcover Mickey Mouse Illustrated Movie Stories which came out at the tail end of 1931. A budget-priced abridged version was also published the same year, titled simply as Mickey Mouse Story Book. In addition to McKay's books, Saalfield Co. published Mickey Mouse Coloring Book and Mickey Mouse Pictures to Paint, both of which came out in the summer of 1931.
This post was intended merely as an introduction, and several of these books will be covered individually in coming posts in this blog, with extensive scans, so stay tuned on...

Saturday, 22 November 2008


The first print appearance of Mickey Mouse (naturally besides posters and other publicity material of cartoons themselves) was with the daily newspaper strips which began in early 193o (An excellent web site covering to the earliest Mickey strips is at The first publication exclusively devoted to Mickey on the other hand was the Mickey Mouse Book published later the same year. Vintage Disneyana collectibles expert David Lesjak's highly recommended blog had already covered this book in a post last year (, but I want to go over it again with a bit of additional detail and this time provide a complete run of scans. According to the collectors' guide Disneyana, this slim booklet was distributed to dimestores and often utilized as a give-away with toys; David says it was distributed to theaters to be used as a promotional item for the newly-founded Mickey Mouse Clubs.
The contents are a 4-page illustrated story, several games and songs, as well as a few full-page illustrations.
The main feature of the book, the four-page story, is credited to Bobette Bibo, the publisher's 11-year old child. It is a simple but very interesting story involving Mickey's debut. It starts in "mouse fairyland" where a mischief-making mouse, named simply as "mouse 13" is expelled because of his "pranks". The mouse falls through the skies and lands in a house in Hollywood. Having found and eaten some cheese, he begins to dance on his own from joy. The resident of the house happens to be Walt Disney and, having observed the little mouse dancing and doing tricks, says, "You give me an idea for a series of comedies. I have an idea that I can make you a picture star." And, as we all know, he does make good of his word. Mickey is still said to live in the same house with WD, in a hole!, even though he has a habit of sneaking into WD's bed at night and sleeping with him...

This story of Walt Disney's encounter with a little mouse in his house might have been an inspiration for Disney when he made up the highly popularized account that his inspiration for Mickey was a real mouse in his studio (see below post).

And below are the scans of the next four pages, all game-related:

Page 10 is a nice full-page illustration:

The remaining pages are devoted to a Mickey song and a Mickey march

except for the last page, which once again features a full-page illustration:

The reverse of the back cover is blank, but the back cover itself features the below illustration, which is nice in the sense it features a bunch of characters but perhaps a bit irratingly pretentious in its effort to be too much merry-looking (at least for my taste):

Disneyana guide claims the illustrations were drawn by Ub Iwerks, but the art doesn't really look like Iwerks' and David notes that artist Albert Barbella had submitted a bill to Disney Studio in September 1930 for his work on this publication. Here is an informative web page on Barbella:
Subsequent editions of Mickey Mouse Book entailed some revisions. While the cover of the first edition had a light green background, later editions had a darker green tone. The age of Bobetto Bibo was added to the title-credits page. Two samples from the Mickey newspaper strips were added to page 8 and to the backcover. Last but not least, the lyrics of the song were re-written to censor the lines "When little Minnie's pursued by a big bad villain - We feel so bad then we're so glad when you up and kill".

Friday, 21 November 2008


The answer to the question "who created Mickey Mouse?" might not be as straightforward what the above illustration (scanned from a 1938 Turkish publication, but almost certainly of non-Turkish origin) suggests. Mickey was created as a replacement character for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney Studio's previous cartoon hero, after Disney was confronted by its distributor that they, and not him, had its exclusive rights. The story goes that on the train back to Hollywod after the traumatic meeting with the distributors, he came up with the idea of a mouse character (initially to be called as Mortimer, a name promptly discarded in favor of Mickey), inspired by "a little mouse which used to crawl over his drawing board while he worked in his garage studio" earlier in his career. The earliest printed version of this account that I came across (via scans of which were recently posted at was in a NYT article from 1938 (if anyone knows earlier publications, please let us know). Over the years, this story has been canonized as the account of Mickey's creation, but recent critical studies (such as M. Elliot's Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince from 1993) also point to the role of Ub Iwerks, Disney's junior partner and leading animator at the time, who is now generally accepted as the hand who must have designed and drawn the first models of Mickey Mouse. The Iwerks version claims Mickey was picked up by Walt Disney from several new cartoon hero options designed by Iwerks, and hence disputes the validity of Disney's train story version. The full truth can probably be never known for certainity and might as well lie somewhere in between the two versions.
Anyway, the real rationale of this post is bringing to light a curious (and probably spurious) variation of the Disney version and all the above was only meant as an introduction to put it in context.
The above scan is once again from a Turkish publication from 1938, no. 96 of kids magazine Yavrutürk (the other scan at the beginning of this post was from a different issue of the same magazine from the same year). It is an interesting news item about an interview the Turkish journalist Hikmet Feridun Es, on a mission from daily newspaper Akşam, reportedly held with W.Disney in his tour of the USA. The interview, as recounted in Yavrutürk, presents such an account for the origin of Mickey Mouse:
On morning, when Walt was a kidand still living with his parents, the household found a small mouse in a big and empty tin can in the kitchen. Walt pleaded with his parents to be allowed to keep the mouse alive in the bucket and was granted his request. He named the mouse Mickey and began to feed him there. Slowly, Mickey got used to Walt and he took him to his own room, giving him free reign. When visitors to their house would be amazed at the idea of keeping a mouse as pet, Walt would say that Mickey was his luck and would bring him happiness and fortune in the future. One day, the mouse was strolling among the flowers in a pot and Walt liked this miseance so much that he drew a picture of it and from then onwards took a growing interest in drawing. Eventually, Mickey would be killed by a cat.
As noted above, the canonic legend about the origin of Mickey Mouse traces his root to a mouse Walt had befriended during his Kansas animation studio era, not during his childhood. I am very eager to know if there have been any other printed accounts in line with the above account involving Walt’s childhood? Hikmet Feridun Es (1910-92) was indeed a globe-trotting Turkish journalist who published a series of articles about Hollywood. But I would not bet if he really interviewed WD in person or just somehow made this up.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Today is regarded as the 80th "birthday" of Mickey Mouse, as it is the 80th anniversary of the release of cartoon short Steamboat Willie featuring Mickey (and Minnie) Mouse. Well, Steamboat Willie was not actually the first-ever Mickey Mouse cartoon in terms of production chronology: there were two others made before it, but they had been shelved after previews. In any case, for convenience sake, I also follow the custom of taking Nov.18th as Mickey's "birthday" and start this blog to commomerate it. Here you shall find nice scans and infos about vintage Disney comics and illustrated story books. Come back soon.