Mickey's Basement, Part Twoby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
Hello all! I hope you and your family and friends continue to be safe and healthy. Like many of you, I continue to spend most of my time at home, waiting for the day it's safe to venture out again. In the meantime, I spend my time at home dreaming of visiting Mickey Mouse in person again one day and enjoying the Disneyana I've collected over the years.
Last time, I gave part one of a tour of what I like to call Mickey's Basement, the basement of my home where I keep my—dare I say—scarily vast, Disney collection. My focus was on my animation wall and my two-dimensional collectibles, including animation cels and vintage park posters and maps. Today, we leave the wall and head for the display cases, filled with items that are more three-dimensional.
So please join me on a continued walk down memory lane as we tour the rest of Mickey's basement.
One of my great materialistic loves—both as a Disney fanatic and in life in general—is timepieces. I love watches and clocks and love collecting them—both Disney and otherwise. For today though, I'll focus on one of my favorites: the Disney watch collection.
I have a number of Mickey Mouse watches that I actually wear. I have a Seiko Mickey Mouse watch, given to me by a close friend more than 20 years ago, that I've worn on every trip to a Disney park. It glows in the dark, so for years, my nieces and nephews called it the "glowing head Mickey watch," since it would light up every time they saw it on a Disney dark ride (it worked best on Peter Pan). There are a hundred memories attached to that watch, and I'll have it forever.
I also have a container filled with watches of the more collectible variety. They range from limited editions produced for a theme park anniversary, cast member watches I bought on eBay, to watches I bought at the old Official Disneyana Conventions. What are those, you might ask? Well, before there was a D23 Expo, the Walt Disney Company every year held what it called the Official Disneyana Convention. From the early 1990s through the early 2000s, about 2,000 hardcore Disney fans would gather at Walt Disney World for four days (it was held at the Disneyland Resort one year).
To give you an idea what they were like, these die-hard fans would be treated to seminars with animators and company executives, in which they talked about classic films and what exciting things Disney had in store for us. There would be parties and banquets with character meet-and-greets. The best party of them all was when we'd meet up at one of the parks after hours, and it would only be open for us. Picture Disneyland only open for 2,000 people, including a special showing of Fantasmic. Yep, that actually happened, and it was awesome!
At these conventions, we also frankly bought a lot of merchandise. In true Disney fashion, there was plenty available for sale, of the antique, limited-edition, and mass-produced variety. I had a blast and bought plenty, but as you can imagine, my favorite collectibles were the watches. Each year, there would be a signature themed watch for the event. In the early years, it was a simple watch with the convention logo on the face (I have these framed on the animation wall). In later years, they got more elaborate, and the watches would have an accompanying sculpture.
Convention themes in the later years included Disney Villains (the watch was present in a large ceramic book with Chernabog's hand reaching over the top), Safari Adventure (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto offroading in a Jeep) and "it's a small world" (the donkey you see on the ride that plays the drum). It took some time to get the older ones, but I managed to get all the Disney watches and they proudly sit in my display cases... great memories of very fun times with my fellow conventionears that play well into my love of watches and clocks.
Again, I love all things Disney, but you've probably gotten the message that I have a special place in my heart for the big cheese, Mickey Mouse. I'm not sure why, but he's always symbolized the Disney experience for me, going back to when I was a little kid. When visiting the parks, people talk about the "I'm here" moment when they know they're really there. For me, it's always when I spot Mickey for the first time.
To that end, it was important to me to have Mickey at home as well. So another sub-collection of mine has been Mickey figurines. I like them from all eras, from the early Disney days of the 1930s to the new ones I pick up from time to time (I actually like Vinylmation figures, though I only have a few).
These are mostly in glass display cases, what I like to call the twin towers, across from the animation wall. There's no real system, though I tend to group them in themes. There's a shelf of crystal figurines, a shelf from the old Walt Disney Classics collection and honestly, a lot of things that just go where they fit.
One, actually two, of my favorites go back to the early days of Disney merchandising. Back in the 1930s, Disney bisque figurines were made in Japan and sold in the United States. Bisque is a kind of porcelain that is fired only once and is unglazed. These were common early in the 20th century and are an early example of Walt Disney merchandising his classic characters.
I have two of them that are essentially the same. They are three-inch-high figurines that feature a smiling Mickey Mouse playing a drum. I've always liked the history behind these and their ties to early Disney. I've seen versions of these featuring Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck and the Three Little Pigs. If you're interested in checking some out, they're actually not that rare, nor are they terribly expensive (eBay has a large selection of them available right now).
I'm going to stick with ceramics as we continue our tour. I've got a love for the Disney theme parks, and seeing representations of park icons in my home helps give me that Disney feeling. I even wrote an article about building a Disney park at home a few years ago so you could replicate that feeling, too.
Department 56 is a terrific company that produces mainly holiday-themed merchandise, though they have a lot of other cool gift items, too. They have a wide array of things for sale, ranging from modern to traditional, and they've partnered with other companies to produce content, including Disney. A recent visit to their website showed a ton of Nightmare Before Christmas goods, a Cheshire Cat cookie jar from Alice in Wonderland, tons of holiday-themed Mickey Mouse figurines, and Aladdin and Jasmine salt-and-pepper shakers.
What I've always liked best from Department 56 is their holiday villages. They are currently advertising "Mickey's Merry Christmas Village," a collection of ceramic buildings and figurines to celebrate the mouse. The main building has a Mickey Mouse clock face on the front, which means I may be in trouble.
But moving on, many years ago, I bought several pieces from one of their holiday collections. It featured stylized versions of several buildings from Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. The buildings in the set include the Disneyland fire station, Mickey's Christmas Carol, which is sort of the "castle" from the set, and the Ye Old Antique Shop, which along with a gate and another building, were meant to be reminiscent of Liberty Square in Florida.
The set also includes small Mickey and Minnie figurines decked out in caroling garb, and other park visitors, several wearing Mickey ear hats. It's a great representation of the parks and fun to bring out during the holidays.
Typically, Department 56 comes out with a set for a limited period of time and then retires it. If you see something you like, I'd suggest you grab it!
Last item from the basement to highlight is a one-of-a-kind tribute to my favorite mouse. The Brimfield Antique Show and Flea Market is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Stretching out over nearly two miles of highway in Brimfield, Massachusetts, literally hundreds of vendors come together three times per year, in May (sadly cancelled this year due to COVID), July, and September.
This is a great place to find pretty much anything you might be interested in. I generally visit once a year and look for—you guessed it—Disney memorabilia (believe it or not amongst other things). In the past, I've found Coca-Cola bottles from the Disney theme parks, Disney watches, and old plush.
It's all great stuff, but my favorite item from there was a large wooden hand-carved Mickey Mouse. It wasn't made by Disney or one of its corporate partners. Some crafter who loves the mouse or just had some spare time made this awesome three-foot-high representation of Mickey. He's wearing a blue shirt, red shorts, black shoes and a big smile on his face. It makes me smile every time I look at it, and I love knowing there's only one of him in the world.
The lesson here is to always be on the alert. You never know where the next great get is going to come from.
That brings us to the end of our tour. Thanks for joining me for a visit to my home and a look at one of my favorite places, a place that's helped keep me sane during this strange time. Hope I gave you a little smile and made you think of your own trips to Disney destinations. I'd love to hear about any items that you have that you enjoy or spark memories of your visits.
One final note. Make sure you check out the weekly Mouseplanet Fun at Home show, which goes live every Wednesday night and is hosted by Mouseplanet's own Alan Dalinka. If you'd like to see yours truly blab about shopping and collecting, I was a guest on show #4. I got to talk with a few of my Mouseplanet colleagues about Mickey's basement, Disney shopping from home and buying on eBay. Please go ahead and check it out!
Keep well everyone and see you next time.