Saturday 29 September 2012

The Bread Line With Money In It

Another who thought Walt Disney was in the motion picture business in the mid-‘30s was sadly mistaken. He was in cartoon-character-endorsement business.

In the middle of a Depression, while businesses failed, Disney took in an inconceivable amount of money from Mickey Mouse who, appropriately, became a corporate symbol, thanks to licensing and merchandising.

This story from the Mason City Globe-Gazette of October 13, 1936 gives just one small example. And it also gives you the kind of money being thrown around.

Mickey Mouse to Sell “Diamond Bread” Here
Film Favorite of Many Nations Working for Local Bakery.
Mickey Mouse, the 8 year old wonder from far-off Hollywood, who is responsible already for the sale of more than $35,000,000 worth of merchandise bearing his likeness, is now to be a bakery salesman in Mason City during his spare moments.

“That may be news to hundreds of children in this vicinity," said Charles H. "Chuck" Lennan, manager of the Mason City Baking company, 319 Delaware avenue southeast who employed the tiny moive star, whose capers have been flashed around the world.
“A series of 96 picture cards showing the adventure of this famous movie star, all done in brilliant colors by the Walt Disney art staff, will be wrapped in loaves of Diamond Bread, baked and distributed by his company, said Mr. Lennan.
New Picture Each Day.
“A different adventure card will be wrapped with each loaf of white bread every day. And little Tom, Dick or Harry, or sister Ruth, Ida or Margie can get a scrap book from our bakery in which to stick these adventure picture cards.
There is probably not a child in this community who has not heard of Mickey Mouse. The romantic rise of this star in the world of motion pictures and merchandising has been phenomenal. From his beginning back in 1928 up until the present time he has been an outstanding success. Today Mickey Mouse entertains an audience of more than 500,000,000 people every year in more than 10,000 American theaters.
Readers, Readers Everywhere.
More than 300 newspapers publish Mickey Mouse comic strips for the amusement of 35,000,000 readers every day in the year.
When Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse, arrived in London not long ago, every English paper in Great Britain broke out with stories concerning the pair on their front page. Such papers as the New York Times, the World-Telegram, the Herald-Tribune, the Daily Mirror and other papers have recognized Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse as front page news.
And Honors Too.
“But what chance has a mouse of gelling bread?” asked the reporter.
“What chance would you say a mouse had of becoming the most famous star in movies?”
So—thereby hangs the story.

The man behind the marketing wasn’t Walt, nor his businessman brother Roy. It was a fellow Kansas Citian named Kay Kamen. You can’t find a better summary of Kamen’s selling power than at the Filmic Light Website.

People save the darndest things, and some of the cards being talked about in the story have survived in collections, ready to sold to the highest bidder on-line, something even Kay Kamen might not have imagined. Look at some of them below.


  1. R. F. Outcault licensed the Yellow Kid and Buster Brown to all sorts of products, including (if I remember right) cigars and booze! Disney needed money in the 30s to grow the business, and he took what he could get.

  2. And with great success, Stephen.

    Yellow Kid Cigars were "as real as 10 cent cigars" for five cents.