Paul Winkler was the first to establish Disney’s presence in France through publishing. In 1930, he was so determined to bring Mickey Mouse to the French public that he traveled all the way to Hollywood by ship and railroad to personally negotiate publishing rights with Company founders Walt and Roy O. Disney.
As former vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company, Roy E. Disney, said, “Talk about foresight! Paul was a great friend to Mickey Mouse. When it comes to comic books published in France, Paul started it all.”
Born July 7, 1898, in Budapest, Hungary, Paul graduated from Protestant Lycee and then moved to Holland, where he studied at the University of Amsterdam.
In the mid-1920s, he moved to Paris and founded Opera Mundi (“The Works of the World”), a press agency that sold articles to newspapers throughout Western Europe. Paul contacted the then-largest American syndicate, King Features, and Opera Mundi became its European representative. In turn, Paul sold King Features comic strips, which included Mickey Mouse, to the French press. In 1930, the Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in the newspaper Le Petit Parisien. Four years later, Paul developed the first French Mickey Mouse comic magazine, Le Journal de Mickey, which was an immediate success. It eventually boasted a weekly circulation of about 400,000.
In June 1940, when the Germans invaded Paris, Paul and his family emigrated to the United States. While living in New York, he founded a second news agency, Press Alliance, which offered articles and columns by popular writers of the day, including American columnist Elsa Maxwell. He also served as foreign political columnist for the Washington Post and published the anti-Nazi books The Thousand Year Conspiracy: Secret Germany Behind the Mask and the U.S. best-seller Paris Underground, which he ghostwrote with his wife, Betty, in 1943. The latter was made into a 1945 United Artists’ movie, by the same name, starring Constance Bennett.
After the war, Paul returned to France and resumed directing Opera Mundi. Along the way, he hired talented young news reporters such as Armand Bigle, who would one day join him as a Disney Legend. Among Paul’s post-war Disney publishing ventures was the 1947 eight-page Donald Duck comic book Hardi, Presente Donald.
In 1952, Paul re-issued Le Journal de Mickey, again published by Hachette. The updated comic magazine sold between 650,000 and 700,000 issues per week.
In addition to his successful Disney publications, Paul founded numerous other periodicals, including Confidences, a woman’s magazine, in 1945. He also fathered Editions de Trevise book publishing, which specialized in French political biographies, and served as director-general and editor of the newspaper France-Soir.
Paul Winkler passed away on September 23, 1982, in Melun, France.