If Mickey Mouse ever had a guardian artist, it would be Floyd Gottfredson, who penciled Mickey’s daily comic strip beginning in 1930. His unflaggingly good cheer made Floyd the perfect keeper of Disney’s ambassador of good will.
“Floyd played a major role in getting Disney’s new character, Mickey Mouse, known throughout the world by producing Mickey’s daily comic strip,” said former Walt Disney Company archivist Dave Smith. “Of the early Disney employees I met, Floyd was probably the greatest gentleman of them all.”
Floyd was born on May 5, 1905, in a railroad station in Kaysville, Utah, where his parents lived. He took correspondence cartooning courses as a boy after a hunting accident left him with a disabled arm and hand, limiting his participation in typical children’s activities. By 1926, he supplied cartoons to Utah journals and newspapers, while working as a film projectionist and advertising artist for a small movie theater chain.
After winning second place in a national cartoon contest, Floyd moved to California in 1928, hoping to break into the newspaper business. Instead, he worked as a theater projectionist until 1929, when on a tip he “bundled up” his art samples and headed to Disney. Floyd later recalled, “When Walt asked me what sort of work I was interested in, I replied, ‘I’m actually more interested in comic strip work than I am in animation.’”
So, Walt hired Floyd as an in-between artist working on the Silly Symphony animated shorts. Four months later, Walt asked Floyd to take over the new Mickey Mouse comic strip for a few weeks after artists Ub Iwerks and Win Smith, who developed the strip with Walt, left the Studio. Forty-five years later, Floyd was still creating the strip.
His first Mickey Mouse comic strip premiered May 5, 1930, only a few months after its January launch via King Features Syndicate. Floyd achieved his dream and happily continued drawing Mickey’s daily strip until he retired from the Studio in 1975.
His contributions included writing the daily comic strip from 1930-32; drawing the Sunday Mickey Mouse comic strip from 1932 to 1938; and serving as head of the Comic Strip Department from 1930 to 1946. Under Floyd, the department grew to cover five features: “Mickey Mouse” daily and Sunday; “Donald Duck” daily and Sunday; and “Silly Symphony” Sunday, which later became “Uncle Remus.”
Over the years, the comic styles changed from a gag-a-day to continuous story lines, which were plotted by Floyd. Mickey’s animated shorts inspired his daily comics, a precedent originally set by Walt, who scripted the first 18 Mickey Mouse comic strips by often borrowing gags from the shorts.
Floyd, whose work has influenced such popular artists as Romano Scarpa, recalled, “I’ve always felt that it was our job to try to capture the spirit of animation… I tried to design the characters as if they were moving in animation.”
The artist also introduced new comic characters to Mickey’s universe, which are legion and legendary, including the Phantom Blot, Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse, Eli Squinch, Eega Beeva, Sylvester Shyster, Joe Pipper, and Captain Doberman, and Gloomy.
Floyd Gottfredson passed away on July 22, 1986, in Montrose, California.