Q: I’ve been researching the history of bell toys, most made in East Hampton, Connecticut. I understand that in the 1930s, Gong Bell produced several Mickey Mouse toys. Later N. N. Hill Brass was producing bell toys with the Mickey Mouse image, as well as Donald Duck and Snow White characters. Can you tell me anything about the start dates for the merchandising of the Mickey Mouse or other Disney toys by these companies? How were these toys designed? Did a manufacturer make a suggestion and then a Disney artist made the image for the toys? I can’t imagine these toys being designed by artists at the toy manufacturers.
Robert, Milford, New Jersey
A: N. N. Hill Brass Co. was a Disney licensee from 1933 to 1942; the Gong Bell Manufacturing Co. from 1956 to 1960. We have no specific information on how their toys were designed, but normally an artist from Disney’s New York office would be assigned to ensure that the character design was “on model,” but the manufacturer would handle the design of the toy itself.