By Jim Fanning
The Yuletide season encompasses many an enchanting tradition, and, as no less an authority than Jiminy Cricket pointed out in the beloved Disney TV episode “From All of Us to All of You,” originally telecast in 1958, “one of the nicest things that can happen this time of the year is to receive Christmas cards from your friends.” In keeping with this custom, specially designed holiday greeting cards were sent out annually from Walt Disney and his staff.
The Disney Studios Christmas card for the 1939 holiday season is a particularly treasured historical and artistic artifact. The “Season’s Greetings” card was issued as Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) still played in theaters. It was the first animated feature created by Walt and his artists, including the animators who he would come to call the Nine Old Men—for each of the Nine contributed to Snow White in some capacity. Now, in December 1939, Walt’s second feature was waiting in the wings. Pinocchio was slated for release in February 1940, and the Studio holiday card served as a preview. The elaborate card bears the signatures of this group of artisans who lovingly crafted this yet-to-be-unveiled masterpiece, including the signatures of all but one (Marc Davis) of the Nine Old Men.
Also found on the beautifully designed greeting are the “signatures” of the new Disney characters created by the Nine Old Men and the rest of the staff, the cast of Pinocchio. Perhaps most significant among them is Jiminy Cricket. Designed and animated by Ward Kimball, Jiminy instantly became a Disney icon when he was introduced as the little woodenhead’s diminutive conscience. One of the many beloved characters created by the Nine Old Men, the winning personality of this cute-as-a-bug little guy is on full display in Ward’s animation drawing of jaunty Jiminy. This expressive drawing is from the merrily memorable “Give a Little Whistle” sequence in Pinocchio.
The endearing personality with which Ward infused the cheerfully conscientious cricket made him a true breakout character. Jiminy hopped beyond his role in Pinocchio to become a solo star in storybooks, comic books, and recordings. The new medium of television made the book-smart, street-smart cricket a star all over again in the 1950s, as he spryly expounded on the Mickey Mouse Club series, most notably the “I’m No Fool” safety segments—directed by one of the Nine, Les Clark. Jiminy often leapt into the spotlight on the Disneyland anthology series. He even stepped in to serve as host (and as producer, director, writer, and “everything”) while Walt was on holiday in 1956’s “On Vacation.”
When Jiminy hosted “From All of Us to All of You,” Christmas cards were at the heart of this unforgettable holiday TV treat, for as the chipper cricket explained, “Our gang would like to present their cards and through them share some memorable moments.” Using specially created cards similar to the official Disney Studio cards, Jiminy then introduces scenes from such evergreens as Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella (1950), and Peter Pan (1953), all created by Walt Disney and his Nine Old Men. Memorable moments, indeed.