By Steven Vagnini
As part of a holiday tradition that began in the early 1930s, Disney studio employees, business partners, and friends could look forward to the yuletide charm of the annual Disney company Christmas card. Originally simple, yet elegant, the holiday cards grew more elaborate over time, thanks to the artistry of such staff illustrators as Bob Moore and Tom Wood. In honor of the memories these treasured keepsakes offered, D23 presents a look back at some of the most memorable and imaginative cards from over the years, courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives.
One of the earliest cards—featuring the words “Yoo Hoo!” on the front, a reference to Mickey Mouse’s theme song—opened to reveal a sentimental illustration of Mickey caroling to Minnie outside her decorated home, with the help of his friends Pluto, Clarabelle Cow, and Horace Horsecollar. Walt and his wife, Lillian, sent the greeting to friends and acquaintances in 1931.
This elaborate, multi-page card sent out during the 1935 holiday season welcomed its recipients inside “The House of Mickey Mouse,” where popular Disney characters from theatrical shorts each took their turn at opening gifts during a Christmas party. With the turn of each page, viewers could see what each character received—whether some wolf-proof grease for the Three Little Pigs or a hat for Minnie from “Monsieur Michel Mousse” (whom we hope was Mickey!).
Feature films became the central theme for most of the cards released in the years to come—especially the 1949 card, whose interior presented a calendar for 1950, surrounded by some of the magic the Fairy Godmother would conjure up in the studio’s upcoming release, Cinderella. The backs of the Disney studio cards often foreshadowed other exciting Disney projects in the pipeline—in this case, Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Disney’s first all-live-action feature, Treasure Island (1950).
With a diversifying business breaking ground in new fields of entertainment, artists at Walt Disney Productions didn’t need to look far when designing the 1955 card. Inspired by the new hit children’s television series, the Mickey Mouse Club, the front featured a spirited group of caroling Mouseketeers and woodland creatures, proudly reflecting the studio’s bold entry into television. Meanwhile, the inside of the card revealed an elaborate map showcasing the many adventures offered at Walt’s whole new concept in family amusement: Disneyland. (Park experts will quickly point out whimsical depictions of some early bygone favorites, including the Indian Village and Stage Coach in Frontierland, the bandstand in Central Plaza, and the TWA Rocket to the Moon and Flight Circle in Tomorrowland.)
If we had to summarize this historic Disney year in just one word, it would have to be “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” With the studio’s unprecedented box office success of Mary Poppins, the card featured Donald, Mickey, and Pluto singing alongside the film’s memorable Pearly Band and opened to reveal a unique depiction of the animated and live-action stars of the much-beloved musical fantasy. Anticipating even more magic on the horizon, the back of the card offered a calendar celebrating Disneyland’s Tencennial Celebration of 1965.
Although the world lost its master showman in December 1966, the tradition of Disney studio Christmas cards continued in the years to follow. A favorite from the next decade, the 1974 card opened to reveal a train of sleds and sleighs carrying popular Disney characters, from early stars like Mickey, the Three Little Pigs, and Dumbo; to newer personalities like Baloo, Scat Cat, and Robin Hood—a testament to both the enduring legacy of Walt Disney and the promise of a bright future for “the finest in family entertainment.”
When D23 Gold Members open their 2016 D23 Member Gift, “From the Office of Walt Disney,” they’ll discover a re-created Disney Christmas card from 1931. The card is one of 23 reproduced treasures from the Walt Disney Archives, celebrating major milestones in the life and career of Walter Elias Disney. To learn more about this first-of-its-kind collection, visit D23.com/OfficeofWaltDisney.