Disney Keepsakes

by Richard Kaufman, contributing writer

The front cover of The Disney Keepsakes. © Disney Editions.

Two years ago this month Disney Editions released a remarkable book by Robert Tieman, manager of the Disney Archives. The Disney Treasures (click here to see my original review on MousePlanet) was expensive at $60 when it was first published, but for a Disney fan it's a mandatory purchase and provides hours of enjoyment (and since it's no longer new you can buy it on Amazon.com for only $37). It must have sold well because a sequel has just been published: The Disney Keepsakes.

The new book is a sister to its predecessor—physically it's almost identical. Here's the first part of my review of The Disney Treasures and it applies equally to The Disney Keepsakes:.

“Can you remember ever paying $60 for a new book that's only 64 pages? Probably not, but The Disney Treasures is truly something special. A big (12 x 10.5 inches) hardcover in a heavy slipcase, it falls into that recent genre of books where there are pockets in the pages filled with die-cut objects. The kind of objects that are so rare you never thought you'd see them, let alone hold them in your hands. … The book consists entirely of 28 two-page spreads (right and left facing pages), each devoted to a different aspect of Walt Disney's life, history of the Walt Disney Company, film and TV productions, the theme parks, and more. And all but a few of these two-page spreads have at least one facsimile reproduction of some piece of Disney memorabilia tucked into a pocket.”

The tricky part in doing a sequel to a successful project is repeating your success without seeming to just be doing the same thing again. Fortunately, the Disney archive is so expansive that The Disney Keepsakes has almost as much to commend it as its predecessor. The new volume focuses on a chronological history of Walt Disney Studios and the films it produced, skipping over films like Snow White, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, which were covered earlier in The Disney Treasures. Technically The Disney Keepsakes is different from Treasures in that there are fewer facsimile items tucked into pockets on the page. Some of these items now appear as “Hinged Art”—their spines are hinged to the page. There appear to be more facsimiles carried in vellum envelopes (which now have tabs on top to prevent the items from slipping out). Overall the differences are negligible and both books provide an almost equal amount of tactile fun.

The back cover of The Disney Keepsakes. © Disney Editions.

The Disney Keepsakes begins with a focus on the main characters in their earliest films—of course it all starts with a mouse. Mickey is featured on the first two pages with a brief history of the animated cartoon and how Walt eventually began producing Mickey Mouse cartoons. Mickey's popularity is then explored, leading into a discussion of the original Mickey Mouse Club in 1929 (not the TV show, but the club originated to coordinate with the showing of Mickey's cartoons in movie theaters). This brings you to the first enclosures: a reproduction of an issue of the original Official Bulletin of the Mickey Mouse Club from 1932. This little four-page newspaper puts the “you-are-there” feeling right into your hands, as does the facsimile membership card in the vellum envelope. Numerous rare collectibles, photographs, concept sketches, posters, and final art are printed throughout the book to accompany the text.

The next spread introduces Minnie and traces her evolution from Plane Crazy in 1928 through her various incarnations and designs. The Hinged Art is a Minnie greeting card made by Hall Brothers (later Hallmark).

Next up is “Mickey Minutiae—the 1930s.” Special and historical events relating to Mickey Mouse from 1930 through 1939 are listed year by year. A vellum envelope contains a facsimile 1931 Mickey newspaper comic strip and a cardboard standee from a promotion of “Mickey Mouse Hankies.”

The cardboard Mickey Standee is visible inside its vellum envelope.

A brief history of Donald Duck leads off the next spread, which then focuses mainly on the creation of a series of parodies of paintings of the great masters which substitute Donald for the main character in the original painting. Done during down time by three of Disney's animators, these paintings have become famous over the years and three of them are reproduced as die-cut 3-D objects. The other enclosure is a facsimile of the 1934 Sunday color newspaper cartoon strip “Silly Symphony,” which introduced Donald to print. Also included in the same strip is a “Mickey Mouse Movies” wheel to be cut out for use with the optical toy known as a phenakistoscope.

Other two-page spreads include:

• “Mickey Coast-to-Coast,” focusing on the 1938 radio series “Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air.”

• “A Trip through the Disney Studios,” which explains how the 1941 film The Reluctant Dragon came about. The Hinged Art is a reproduction of The Bulletin, “an in-house studio newsletter for employees.”

• “Dumbo—When I See an Elephant Fly” recounts the production history of Dumbo beginning in January 1940. Artwork of Dumbo that was to have appeared on the cover of Time in December 1941, but shelved when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, is published for the first time.

• “Good Mousekeeping” gives background regarding the series of Disney art that appeared in 125 issues of Good Housekeeping from 1934 to 1944. Enclosed in a vellum envelope are two of the pages, reproduced in full color. (Originals can be found on eBay for $5 to $10 each.).

• “Bambi—Prince of the Forest” highlights the production history of Bambi beginning in 1937 when Walt Disney purchased the rights to the story. The spread features a Hinged Portfolio with a few of the photographs by Maurice Day which were used as inspiration for the forested settings of the film. A rear pocket holds concept art—four watercolors painted by Tyrus Wong which were inspired by the photographs.

• “A Chip (and a Dale) off the Old Block,” tells the story of those rascal chipmunks who've been popular cartoon characters for over 50 years. The Hinged Art is a facsimile of a Chip an' Dale Model Sheet from 1948—a tool animators use to achieve consistency in their drawings of featured characters.

• “Music and Melody” explains how Walt came to make the films Make Mine Music and Melody Time after World War II in order to try and financially stabilize the studio. Interestingly, a segment in Make Mine Music, “The Martins and the Coys,” is prominently mentioned by the author even though it has been censored by Disney and doesn't appear on Make Mine Music's DVD release. The enclosure here is “A Peek at Walt Disney's Make Mine Music” flipbook from 1946 featuring a sequence from “Casey at the Bat” where The Mighty Casey whiffs it.

• “Fun and Fancy Free,” while discussing the background of the film, focuses on the fact that it was the final film in which Walt voiced Mickey Mouse himself—portions of Mickey's voice in the film are also voiced by Jimmy MacDonald.

• “So Dear to Walt's Heart” neatly skips over the masterpiece Song of the South (the author repeats a statement that denigrates it) and goes straight to So Dear to My Heart, the 1949 film that was Disney's first full-length live action feature (except for about 15 animated minutes, according to the author). I have heard that this was Walt's own favorite of all the films he produced, but unfortunately it has fallen out of print on VHS tape and has not been released in the United States on DVD (it is available on DVD overseas). While there are no enclosures on this page, three rare pieces of concept art for the film by Mary Blair are pictured.

• “Adventures with Mr. Toad” sets the reader off on the long and bumpy story of that madcap Thaddeus J. Toad's 1949 cinematic debut, only six years before appearing in the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attraction at the newly opened Disneyland. The large vellum envelope on this page contains a full-color reproduction of what is known as a “fan card.” These were sent out by the studio to fans who wrote letters to Walt Disney.

• “Alice in Wonderland—Curiouser and Curiouser.” Curious, indeed (I'll get to why in a moment). The author explains some of the problems in translating the Lewis Carroll stories to the screen and some of Mary Blair's concept art is shown. The covers for two Alice-related books are reproduced on an enormous flap: a 1951 punch-out book published by Whitman and a later comic book. The enclosure is a promotional booklet, Alice's Magic Wonderbook, published in Great Britain for the 1969 re-release of the film. Now we get to the curious part. The enclosed Wonderbook is a self-performing gimmicked booklet that has eight pages, however only pages 1 to 4 are easily found. There is a trick to finding pages 5 and 6, and another trick to finding 7 and 8. While the publisher has reproduced the printed item exactly, and also die cut it, it has not been assembled! If you look at it now it makes no sense, with pieces of pages printed on other pages. At the end of this article I'll explain exactly how to assemble and use this fun artifact.

• “Off to Never Land” reflects on the failure of Alice in Wonderland and Walt's attempts to get back on track with Peter Pan in 1953. The enclosures in the vellum envelope on these pages are among the true treasures of the book: four different pre-production character sketches for Tinker Bell (possibly Marc Davis artwork, but he's not credited) and a facsimile of five pages of Walt's own handwritten notes on the film.

Walt's handwritten notes and Tinker Bell concept sketches are included in this spread.

• “A New Dimension in Animation” investigates Walt Disney's early forays into 3-D in 1953 with the cartoons Adventures in Music: Melody and Working for Peanuts. While Walt abandoned the 3-D process for theatrical releases, he brought it to Disneyland only a few years later when the Mickey Mouse Club Theater 3-D Jamboree opened in Fantasyland (and recycled both 3-D cartoons with new footage added). A large flap on this page reproduces the original Disneyland poster for 3-D Jamboree on one side; the other side is an ad for the first cartoon produced in Cinemascope, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (a “flat” cartoon which had originally been planned as 3-D). The enclosures are the covers of two 3-D comic books and a pair of red/blue 3-D glasses.

Two 3-D comic book covers and a pair of 3-D glasses bring this spread to life.

• “A Whale of a Tale” touches on the production of what many perceive as Walt Disney's greatest live action film alongside Mary Poppins, 1954's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The author explains the trouble Disney had in coming up with a workable design for the submarine Nautilus until Harper Goff created the classic design that satisfied Walt (all this while churning out concept sketches for the soon-to-open Disneyland). The vellum envelope on this page holds two enclosures that will please Nautilus lovers: a blueprint and a concept sketch showing the location of the interior rooms.

• “A Disney Menagerie” focuses on the feline star of Disney's That Darn Cat in 1965, the Siamese cat Syn. The Hinged Art on this page does not appear to be a reproduction of anything previously produced—it's a multiple-panel foldout of Disney's nine “PATSY” award-winning animal actors (chosen by the American Humane Association).

• “From All of Us, to All of You” is a brief history of the Walt Disney Studio in-house Christmas cards. The tradition started in 1931 with scenes of Disney characters in winter/Christmas settings. The Hinged Art is a full-size reproduction of a 1949 studio Christmas card with a lovely John Hench illustration of Cinderella's coach and her Fairy Godmother inside.

The John Hench artwork inside the studio's Christmas 1949 card.

• “Disneyland – 1955-1959” gives a year-by-year synopsis of the expansion of the park. Greatly sought-after early ephemera is pictured. The pocketed enclosure is a facsimile of the page containing the text for the plaque (which resides above the entrance to the tunnel that runs under the train station) that was to be dedicated on opening day. Walt's handwritten corrections show how he changed the text and indicated exactly where the plaque was to be placed.

• “People and Places” is the title of a series of 17 films Disney made beginning in 1953 and running over the next eight years. Each film deals with a specific location, such as Alaska or Switzerland, and the people in it. Although several won Oscars, as the author notes, the films have been “unseen in decades.” It doesn't appear that there's much chance of anyone seeing them now or in the near future, so they are an odd choice for inclusion in the book. I suspect they're here because of the enclosure in the vellum envelope: a reproduction of the poster for Disneyland U.S.A., one of the films in the series.

And so the book continues, with additional pages on Noah's Ark, 101 Dalmatians, “Disneyland–1960-1965” (which has Walt's hand-drawn map for “Nature's Wonderland” as the Hinged Art), Sword in the Stone, and The Jungle Book. The book concludes with “After Walt,” detailing some of the projects which were started by Walt and completed after his death. One of these is Walt Disney World, and the final facsimile in the book is a removable snapshot, held in place by old-fashioned photo corners, of Walt Disney standing in a swampy area of Orlando, map in hand.

Assembling Alice

Back to Alice's Magic Wonderbook… let's assemble it. You'll need the copy of the book that comes in The Disney Keepsakes and a small piece of Scotch tape. Please read these instructions very slowly as you go through the steps and actually follow along with the paper. (You might consider making a color photocopy of the paper before starting the folding so you have something to practice with. It's perfectly permissible to make a photocopy for your own use.).

Step #1 – Lay the paper out in front of you in the same position as shown in photo 1. Page 7 is on the extreme left; page 1 is on the extreme right.


Step #2 – Locate the rectangular shaped “tongue” in the center—it's cut out of the center of pages 8 and 6. The drawing of the Mad Hatter is at its left end. Note the point where this tongue meets page 7: if you look closely you can see the traces of Scotchtape that were on the original when it was photographed for reproduction (photo 2). The next time those traces meet, you're going to put your tape on them—but not yet.


Step #3 – With your left hand, lift the left end of the tongue where the Mad Hatter's picture is.


Step #4 – Fold it all the way over to the right until the portion of the tongue with the large question mark is over the center of page 1.


Step #5 – Fold page 7 over so it covers page 8. This leaves pages 5 and 6 in view.


Step #6 – This is going to get tricky so please follow closely. Press down on the lower portion of page 5 with your left fingers. Your right hand grasps the right end of the tongue and folds it underneath page 1 while continuing to hold it—if you peek under page 1 you can see the Mad Hatter's head.


Step #7 – Feed the end of the tongue with the Mad Hatter's head right though the large slot in the middle of page 6.


Step #8 – Your left hand grasps the left end of the tongue where the Mad Hatter's head is. Your right hand lets go.


Step #9 – Your left hand pulls the end of the tongue with the Mad Hatter's head to the left until the box with the all the numbers (just to the right of the Mad Hatter's head) lines up with the boxes above and below it on page 5. As you do this, you'll find (because your right hand has let go) that page 6 will fall open flat on the table.


Step #10 – Take that little piece of Scotchtape you've been saving, and place one end on the stain to the left of the Mad Hatter's head.


Step #11 – Fold the left end around to the other side and press it on the second stain to the right of the Queen of Hearts.


Congratulations—you've reconstructed Alice's Magic Wonderbook. If you've had trouble following the instructions, please reread them slowly. It's complicated to reassemble this, so don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time.

Handling the Alice booklet

First, to get to the starting position, close page 6 over to the left until it's covering page 5. Page 1 should now be upward. This is the position in which you would have received this booklet in 1968 if you were a young boy or girl in Great Britain. The center panel of page 1 lays down the rules: it's a puzzle. The object is to try and find Alice.


Open the booklet normally and you'll see pages 2 and 3. A large maze is waiting for you to solve, and to the right is Sam Lloyd's Horse and Rider puzzle.


Close page 3 and you'll be looking at page 4.


On the top is a form of secret writing. To read it, raise the inner edge of the booklet until you are viewing the lines at an extreme angle: “She Has Big News For You.”


Rotate the booklet clockwise 90 degrees and read the text again: “Alice is on Page Seven.” After you've read the message, rotate the booklet back to its original position so page 4 is rightside up.


Look at the bottom of page 4—“What's this all about? Turn to page 5 and you'll find out.” Here's where things get intriguing for the kid: there doesn't appear to be a page 5. In order to open up the booklet to reveal pages 5 and 6, you must clear your mind. Now pretend that page 4 is really page one of a book and that you are going to open it normally. Do this by opening the right edge.


Pages 5 and 6 will be revealed (photo 18). They contain a magic trick—a really good one. But now what? Where the heck are pages 7 and 8? If you look at the other side of the open booklet you'll see pages 1 and 4. Pages 2 and 3 seem to have vanished!


Here's the best part. You have to do something completely counter-intuitive to find pages 7 and 8. Follow closely. Holding the open booklet between your hands, fold the outer edges (that's the left edge of page 5 and the right edge of page 6) backward—really toward each other. Continue this until they are flatly against one another, back to back.


Look directly at the spine facing you and you'll see it starting to split open.


Using your thumbs, peel it open to reveal pages 7 and 8, which has the British Quad poster for the re-release of Alice in Wonderland.


Fortunately, getting back to starting position is easy. Close page 7 over to the right, onto page 8. Page 5 will now be uppermost. Split the booklet open at its left edge so you can open it, bringing pages 1 and 4 into view. Fold page 4 under page 1. You're back at the beginning: if you split open the right edge of the booklet you'll see pages 2 and 3.

The only thing I haven't explained is how to solve Sam Lloyd's Horse and Rider Puzzle on page 3. It's been driving people crazy for almost 100 years. Join the club!.