Year Inducted: 1997
Gunnar Mansson was not only Disney’s representative in the Nordic countries of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden, but he was also its most eligible bachelor. As his wife, Yvette, later said, “When we married, Gunnar was a 64-year-old bachelor! The company’s co-founder, Roy Disney Sr., used to always ask, ‘Why aren’t you married, yet?’ And Gunnar, who was very good looking and had gorgeous girlfriends, would reply, ‘Why do you want me to be married?’ Roy answered, “Because you’re the only one of our company representatives who isn’t married and we can’t keep tabs on you!’”
Born July 17, 1927, in Stockholm, Sweden, to a merchant and an administrative secretary, Gunnar studied commerce at the University of Stockholm. In 1947, he enlisted with the Swedish Air Force as part of compulsory national service, and served as a pilot outside of Stockholm. He joined the Phillips Company in Stockholm in 1949; during his four years with the Dutch company, he marketed such products as records, radios, and record players.
Then, in 1953, he won a position with Kellogg’s in Copenhagen, marketing its line of breakfast cereals in Sweden and Norway. While there, he became personally acquainted with the Disney company. Kellogg’s was one of Disney’s character licensees, developing free Disney-themed prizes for children, hidden in cereal boxes, as well as character cut-outs featured on the back of boxes.
Ten years later, Gunnar received an unexpected invitation to join Disney from its then-head of merchandising, O.B. Johnston. He became manager of Disney’s Stockholm office, and was promoted to managing director when it moved to Copenhagen a year later.
In that position, Gunnar juggled many areas of responsibility. These included merchandising, promotions, character licensing, music, educational materials, and publishing in all five Nordic countries. Among his contributions, he oversaw publication of a popular 32-page Donald Duck magazine (known as Anders And & Co. in Danish and Kalle Anka in Swedish), which was published by Gutenberghus beginning in the late 1960s. The magazine, which featured Disney comics as well as promotions for the Company’s films, toys, records, and other products, quickly grew to a combined circulation of one million readers per week. Gunnar recalled, “The magazine was directed toward children, but many adults read it, too. I guess you could say, it was really aimed at families and, as a result, was a tremendous success.”
After more than 25 years establishing the image of Disney in the Nordic countries, Gunnar Mansson retired from The Walt Disney Company in 1989.