YORK, Pa. – Geppi’s Entertainment Publishing & Auctions has announced that its Hake’s Americana & Collectibles unit has sold the original Tom Wood artwork for Disney’s “Mickey’s Magic Hat,” which appeared in Good Housekeeping in July 1935, for $35,125.
Geppi’s Entertainment president John Snyder commented on the private sale: “This is by far one of the finest examples of color art from the era and is highly undervalued. Look for more sales of this material in the near future as people discover the historical value and the impact on society. The art’s impact on the Disney corporation is also significant, as original publications art hand-painted in color was practically nonexistent at the time.”
In the spring of 1934, Good Housekeeping magazine introduced a feature that revolutionized Disney art and marketing – and later proved significant in the history of both pop culture and comic character collectibles. That feature was a unique series of Disney story pages, featuring original Disney watercolor illustrations. The series ran in the magazine from April 1934 to September 1944, in 125 installments, with most issues featuring a single page of material.
The success of the Good Housekeeping series – and Disney’s mid-1930s licensing in general – was in part due to the genius of Herman “Kay” Kamen, Disney’s New York merchandising man. While Kamen did not initiate the Good Housekeeping deal, he was actively engaged in correspondence with the magazine’s editorial staff, finessing the interplay between the studio and the publishing team. Kamen had joined the Disney staff in 1932, replacing the earlier George Borgfeldt and proving many times his equal in terms of building brand awareness.
From his initial forays with characters like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney had developed increasingly exacting standards for his studio’s artwork, and the individual component pieces of the Good Housekeeping pages that resulted are widely acknowledged as superior examples of Disney art from the 1930s and 1940s. The art was some of the first to present Disney cartoon characters in a richly painted, finely detailed storybook style. Painter Tom Wood was a prominent artist in Disney’s promotions department, and additional fine Disney artists worked with him in producing the Good Housekeeping pieces. Snyder continued, “The Good Housekeeping pages are a testament to the genius Walt Disney possessed. As some of the absolute best art from the era, they illustrate the way that Walt had a hand in all the successes the Disney corporation enjoyed.”
These Disney pages were used as a mutual promotion for both companies – Good Housekeeping believed that the Disney pages would attract readers, and Disney got the chance to promote their latest cartoons. Each page used comic verse to retell a then-current cartoon plot (or, in a few cases, an intended cartoon plot that never got animated), with Wood’s painted images serving to illustrate the verses. When the series started in 1934, there was already a great deal of Disney merchandising art being created; but much of it lacked a consistent level of quality, with many licensees leaving Disney unsatisfied. The Good Housekeeping pages essentially became the yardstick by which the quality of other Disney art was to be measured. Today, these pages serve as treasured examples of the visions that artists had for Disney films, sometimes months or even years before the corresponding films were completed.
As Disney continued to achieve a number of successes and even received awards for the cartoons, he also continually increased the standards for both animation and still images featuring his characters. Kamen succeeded in featuring those quality images on products all over the world, frequently in advance of the debut of the cartoons featuring them.
While the printed magazine pages remain actively collected today, it is still rare for one of the originals of these important, historical pieces to go on the market.
“Mickey’s Magic Hat” Good Housekeeping page artwork is unique among the GH series because this July 1935 page was based on a cartoon still in development at the time – that would end up being released as two cartoons. “Mickey’s Vaudeville Show” was to have featured Mickey, Donald, Pluto, and a magic hat, but ended up being divided into Mickey’s Grand Opera (1936), with Pluto as the primary victim of the magic; and Magician Mickey (1937), with Donald and without Pluto. Tom Wood’s “Mickey’s Magic Hat” art not only carries a title that neither finished cartoon ever had, but features all the long-billed Donald images that any Donald Duck collector could ever want.