7 Exceptionally Rare Film Posters of Disney’s Greatest Star, Mickey Mouse

Society Dog Show Poster, 1939.jpg
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Over nearly nine decades, the iconic Mickey Mouse and his fellow Disney characters have featured in hundreds of animations and cartoons. The Sotheby's Original Mickey Film Posters: Celebrating 90 Years of Mickey Mouse online sale features some of the few surviving posters that document subtle changes to character design and highlight key moments in the history of the famous animation studio.

Click through for highlights.

7 Exceptionally Rare Film Posters of Disney’s Greatest Star, Mickey Mouse

  • Mickey Mouse poster, early 1930s, US.
    Estimate £26,000-35,000.
    Mickey Mouse's eyes have had various styles. Prior to 1933 Mickey had his original "pie eyes". These eyes were black and circular with a small triangular shape cut out of the circle, resembling a piece of pie. This very early stock poster was printed for the distributors and was sold to theatres showing Mickey short animations before the main feature film. These posters were printed for the distributors when there was no studio poster available. To date, only two of these posters are known to have surfaced.
  • Special hand printed silkscreen posters were produced for Walt Disney throughout the mid 1930s. These were used to promote Walt Disney's cartoons and characters, and were created in conjunction with the theatres running a series of cartoons. Special silkscreen posters were normally smaller in size and are themselves extremely rare. This poster for Mickey's 8th birthday in 1936 was the only one to be in this larger format. To date, this is believed to be the only known surviving example.
  • The Silly Symphonies were a series of seventy-five short animations produced by Walt Disney, from 1929 to 1939. They were originally intended as animated accompaniments to music. It was a very popular series, which went on to launch a Disney media franchise, including a newspaper comic strip and a number of children's books. This magical poster was purchased in 1995 and has been in a private collection since that time.

    In the 1930s it was usual for French cinemas to allocate a certain time for their features. This would enable them to choose a number of short films to be shown before the main feature. This is a stock poster, which enabled the individual cinemas to add their own text in the blank box in the middle of the piece, to advertise what would be shown.
  • Society Dog Show (1939) poster, US.
    Estimate £28,000-36,000.
    In 1936, RKO Radio Pictures took over the distribution of Walt Disney animations from United Artists. Society Dog Show was an eight minute Technicolor animation, which was released in America in February 1939. In the film Mickey enters Pluto in an up-market dog show, which all goes wrong when Pluto falls for a posh pooch, and attacks the judge for making fun of him. However, Pluto wins the heart of his love interest after saving her from a fire, and is heralded a hero. The simple colour palette is used with great effect in this charming poster, which depicts a large image of Mickey grooming an unimpressed Pluto in readiness for a high society dog show. No more than three of these posters are known to have survived.
  • Fantasia (1940) poster, Belgium.
    Estimate £2,000-3,000.
    This was Disney's third animated feature film. It has eight segments, which are all set to pieces of classical music. Disney had been working on a complex Silly Symphonies style short animation, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which was to be released to boost Mickey's popularity. However, the cost of producing this animation proved too high, and so he decided to incorporate it in this full length feature. Fantasia was the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound. The film was released in America in 1940, and unfortunately could not been shown in Europe until after World War II. This sweet poster for Fantasia focuses on Mickey in his central role as the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

    Belgium posters pre-World War II were significantly larger than this poster. However during and after World War II, owing to paper shortages, smaller sized posters were produced. Eventually different slightly larger posters were re-introduced, however they never were the same size as those produced pre-war. An extremely rare poster, with only a very few copies known to have survived.
  • Little Whirlwind (1941) poster, US.
    Estimate £7,000-10,000.
    This delightful Walt Disney eight minute short, which has no dialogue, tells the innocent story of how Mickey, who wants some of Minnie's just-baked cake, offers to tidy up her garden, and in doing so gets caught up in a mini tornado. Mickey Mouse posters from the 1930s and 1940s are among the rarest and most collectible animation posters. Little Whirlwind features Mickey wearing his red shorts with buttons, which he would not wear again until his appearance in the 1995 animation Runaway Brain. After this film, several other changes were also made to Mickey's features. An extremely rare poster, with only a very few copies known to have survived.
  • This very sweet seven minute animation stars Pluto in the leading role. He falls in love with Dinah the dachshund, who snubs him, until he bravely rescues her from the dog pound. Although Pluto is the main star in this animation, the designer Boris Grinsson used his artistic license and included Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and his nephew, even though they do not appear in the animation. An extremely rare poster, with only a very few copies known to have survived.

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