There’s nothing like the combination of the holidays and Disney. If you’ve visited the parks around this time of year, or popped in your copy of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas or The Muppet Christmas Carol, you know what we mean. It’s magic on top of magic. And to celebrate the season, we decided to head into the photo archive and retrieve ten of our favorite Walt Disney Company Christmas cards, dating back to 1930 and continuing through to 1991. (We turned up similar cards last year.) These cards serve as unique time capsules for the company and a prime example of the kind of enchantment that happens when Disney and Christmas collide.
We love the old timey look and the fact that the card is from “Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney.” (that font, too!) Also, Mickey is in classic rubber hose mode; he’s super expressive and oh-so-jolly. It’s important to note when this was in the history of Mickey Mouse: two years after “Steamboat Willie” and two years before he would appear in a color short film. This is Mickey Mouse at the height of his powers.
This card is gorgeous. It’s inspired by a sequence from Fantasia, which was released right before Christmas. We love how simple and elegant this card is and how it’s in keeping with the more elliptical spirit of Fantasia. At the time, Fantasia was a huge risk; a bold, experimental anthology made by a filmmaker primarily associated with formal adaptations of classic fairy tales. 75 years later, we recognize it as the masterpiece it was. And this card is totally in keeping with that spirit.
Aww, they’re caroling! We love the graphic design of this card and the fact that it features Jaq and Gus from Cinderella, which would actually be released in the first quarter of 1950. This is so classically Disney and classically Christmas.
Again, Christmas card looks to the future, with Donald, Pluto, Mickey and Minnie, gathered around their new favorite book (clearly given to them for the holidays): Alice in Wonderland! Alice and the March Hare are there, too, giving whoever received this card a sneak peek at Disney’s next animated marvel, which wouldn’t be released until the summer of 1951.
What’s really interesting about this card is that it doesn’t focus on an animated feature from the time. Peter Pan was released the year before and Lady and the Tramp was released the year after. But instead of either of those films, the card harkens back to Pinocchio, which was released back in 1940. We love the modern style of the card and how Mickey is puppeting Pinocchio in marionette form. (Huey, Dewey and Louie are thrilled.) This is really special and fun.
Disneyland’s first fireworks were set off in 1956, a year after the park opened. And in 1958 the “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks show debuted. So it makes sense that the company’s 1959 holiday card would feature the famous Sleeping Beauty castle and fireworks bursting in the sky overhead. The stylized font choice for “Seasons Greetings” is also really cool.
The 1964-’65 World’s Fair, held in Queens, New York, was where Walt Disney debuted a number of attractions that would ultimately become iconic hallmarks of the company and continues to be an inspiration today (look no further than the first 20 minutes of Tomorrowland). As the card suggests, it’s a small world was one of those attractions. This card is lovely, with its assortment of small world characters from around the globe, combined with a distinctly Mary Blair-inspired art design.
The year’s big movie was the charming animated tale The Fox and the Hound, so it makes sense that two characters from that film (Copper and Tod), would anchor the holiday card. It’s interesting to note that the more nebulous “Seasons Greetings” text has been replaced with a new message, and that there are a ton of classic Disney characters (everybody from Dumbo to Pinocchio to Maleficent) flanking our heroes. This was a fascinating time for the company, when it was both looking to the future (the utopian EPCOT Center would open the following the year) and looking back, appreciating its legacy.
This card is super special for a number of reasons. The first reason is that it was taken at Tokyo Disneyland, which opened the previous year and broke ground by being the first international Disney park. (It snows pretty regularly at the park, although it’s usually a dusting.) The second reason is that it’s an actual photo instead of an illustration. Oh, and we love all of the walk-around characters playing in the snow (Pooh is the best) and the playfulness of the photo. The message is great too.
Completed in 1990, a year before this card was sent out, was the Team Disney Building, the crown jewel of a radical overhaul of the Walt Disney Studios lot that began in 1985. Michael Graves, a favorite architect of the studio (he also designed the Swan and Dolphin hotels at Walt Disney World and Disney’s Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris), designed the building and its belowground parking garage. And the building takes center stage on the holiday card. We love that it’s a photo with an illustrated element (Mickey and Minnie skating) at its center. Plus, the text is terrific, with “From Our Home to Yours” emphasizing the fact that this is really where the magic comes from.