In 2005 Gemstone Publishing released a gorgeous collection of rarely seen Disney art from the pages of Good Housekeeping magazine in a collection entitled Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories in Verse. This over-sized volume featured 360 pages of bright, color, one-page Disney cartoons with accompanying verse that were featured in the magazine from the 1930’s and 40’s as the Walt Disney company was just starting to get its feet. The presentation of this collection blew me away with its slick cover, heft, and in-depth scholarship which accompanies the pieces. At a cover price of $29.99 it was one of the best values of the year and obtainable at retailers for ~ $20 it really is a “must own” for Disney and animation enthusiasts.
A sample of the history, and what you can expect in the volume, from The Scoop:
Back, back decades ago, long before there was TV or anything like the modern advertising world, there was Good Housekeeping: a magazine still famous and widely read today, of course. But in 1934, it was an unsurpassed source of life tips and homemaking minutiae for women and their families. Those families included husbands and kids, and Good Housekeeping wanted a new feature that could attract all parts of the family in to reading.
Coincidentally, the Walt Disney Company was just then looking for a new advertising outlet. It liked the idea of a ‘permanent advance publicity ‘break’ for its latest cartoon shorts, and that’s just what Good Housekeeping proposed. Before you could say ‘match made in heaven,’ the magazine and the studio had teamed up. From April 1934 to September 1944, new Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony films were transformed into rollicking one-page comic poems with masterful painted art.
From 1934 to 1940, Tom Wood, a staff artist in the Disney promotions department, handled the painting of these pages. Also credited for various highly valued Mickey children’s books and posters, Wood mimicked the best of 1930s Disney animation in his work, with its rounded shapes, bouncy action, and sparkling color. Good thing, too, because Wood’s Good Housekeeping pages played an important role outside of the magazine as well.
By 1934, there was already a burgeoning school of Disney print and advertising artwork, but this artwork was not of consistent quality. Some children’s books and products adapted elegant character drawings from studio model sheets. But other licensed items, most notably the famous 1933 Mickey Mouse wristwatch, featured the off-model artwork of licensees’ hired hacks. Disney and licensing manager Kay Kamen wished to establish a universal standard for better promotional art. That standard ended up deriving largely from Wood’s Good Housekeeping pages!
Due to the long lead time that color magazine features required, the Good Housekeeping page for a given Disney cartoon was often the earliest piece of finished artwork created for it. When, a couple of months later, it came time to create other cartoon specific publicity or merchandising art, GH page vignettes were typically drafted into service as templates.
If a lobby card drawing for Three Little Wolves (1936) was not reinked directly from Wood’s earlier Good Housekeeping vignette, it might still copy the staging from one. A storybook cover for Toby Tortoise and the Hare (1937) could do the opposite: come up with its own staging, but insert characters essentially traced from a Good Housekeeping page…
…In case you’d like to see more, Geppi’s Entertainment’s Gemstone Publishing has published “On Ice” and all the other Good Housekeeping pages in the seminal 2005 Disney collection book, Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories in Verse. Hey, Wood’s “On Ice” vignette gets the cover there, too!
Do yourself a favor and check it out next time you’re at the bookstore, or at an online book retailer. I think you’ll be downright impressed, and that in the rare case the collection will exceed your expectations.