By Floyd Gottfredson, Bill Walsh & Dick Moores (Gladstone)
Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1905 in Kaysville, Utah, one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. Injured in a youthful hunting accident he whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses, and by the 1920s had turned professional, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and Big City newspaper the Salt Lake City Telegram.
In 1928 he and his wife moved to California, and in April 1929 after a shaky start wherein he had to resume his boyhood job as a movie projectionist, found work as an animation in-betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios. As the Great Depression began, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the fledgling and ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, draw and occasionally script the strip for the next forty-five-and-a-half years.
Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the daily gag sequences but was swiftly replaced by Win Smith. The strip was plagued with problems and young Gottfredson was only stepping in until a regular creator could be found. His first effort saw print on his 25th birthday: May 5th 1930, and he worked on the strip for the next five decades. On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he contiguously handled until 1938.
At first he did everything, but in 1934 relinquished the scripting role, preferring plotting and illustrating the adventures to playing with dialogue. Collaborating scripters included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. He often used inkers such as Dick Moores and the great Al Taliaferro, but occasionally assumed full art chores.
His influence on graphic narrative is inestimable: he was one of the very first to move from daily gags to continuity and extend adventures, created Mickey’s nephews, pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first “super-villains” in the business. In 1955 Disney killed the continuities; dictating that henceforth strips would only contain one-off gag strips. Gottfredson adapted easily, working on until retirement in 1975. His last daily appeared on November 15th and the final Sunday on September 19th 1976.
After D-Day and the Allied push into Occupied Europe the home-front morale machine soon started pumping out conceptions of what the glorious happy future would be like. A strip as popular as Mickey Mouse couldn’t help but join the melee and new scripter Bill Walsh produced a delightfully surreal, tongue-in-cheek parable in ‘The World of Tomorrow’ full of brilliant, incisive sight gags and startling whimsy whilst pitting the Mouse against arch-enemy Peg Leg Pete, who was in extreme danger of conquering the entire planet, using the double-edged advances in modern science! This superbly funny thriller originally ran from July 31st to November 11th 1944.
Walsh, Gottfredson and inker Dick Moores also produced the remainder of this delightful book for kids of all ages, which comprise a dozen one-off gag dailies from 1944 and 1945, and a cracking sea yarn ‘The Pirate Ghost Ship’ (April 17th to July 15th 1944) that found Mickey and Pluto searching for treasure, defying black magic and battling sinister buccaneers in a rollicking rollercoaster of fun and frights.
Walsh (September 30th 1913 – January 27th 1975) loved working on the strip and scripted it until 1964 when his increasingly successful film career forced him to give it up. Like all Disney comics creators they worked in utter anonymity, but thanks to the efforts of devout fans efforts were eventually revealed and due acclaim accorded. Gottfredson died in July 1986 and Walsh did achieve a modicum of fame in his lifetime as producer of Disney’s Davy Crockett movies, and writer/producer of The (original) Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, That Darn Cat!, The Love Bug, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and many others. He was Oscar™ nominated for his Mary Poppins Screenplay.
Nowadays anthropomorphic comics are often derided as kids stuff – and indeed there’s nothing here a child wouldn’t adore – but these magical works were produced for consumers of ALL AGES and the sheer quality of Gottfredson and Walsh’s work is astounding to behold. That so much of it has remained unseen and unsung is a genuine scandal. Mercifully most of the Gladstone Mickey Mouse albums are still readily available, but surely such stories should be preserved in deluxe collections, and remain permanently in print?
© 1989, 1945, 1944 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.