Throughout the 1960s and early 70s, Marx Disneykins were used as promotional giveaways for various advertising campaigns -- from the launch of Color TV to the opening of Walt Disney World. Following is Part One of the full story by Abby Weissman.

Part One:

Walt Disney certainly knew a thing or two about public relations and promotion. After all, he built a billion dollar merchandising empire around a cartoon rodent.

Close up of the original Disneykins brochure with mention of Disneykins marketing plan.
Click photo for larger version.

In 1961, the Disneyland organization was about to embark on its most ambitious building project to date: the creation of New Orleans Square -- which included both The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Walt wanted to insure that Disneyland remained in both the news and the imaginations of the world's youth, as well as insure that the cash flow would continue.
To accomplish this, Walt did a number of things: first he launched a new television show -- "Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color"-- with a new network (NBC); then he introduced a new line of toys -- Marx Disneykins. One of the main reasons the Marx Disneykin line was created was to spread the allure of the Disneyland theme park. It is no coincidence that the tag line for Marx Disneykins was "Put Disneyland in Your Pocket."

Worldwide, the Disneykin figures were seen as traveling ambassadors for the Disneyland theme park and all things Disney. In England, Marx even considered marketing the figures simply under the "Disneyland" moniker. (See the feature on a British "Disneyland" prototype store display on The early Marx Disneykin television commercials showed a child placing a Mickey figure in a miniature Main Street USA setting, and ended with the "Put Disneyland in Your Pocket" tag line.

One of the 12 TV-Scenes from the LUDWIG VON DRAKE series in 1961. Click picture for larger photo.

The basic 1961 lineup of Disneykins included the main characters from most of the Studio’s major cartoons to date, as well as the first Disney character created specifically for television, Professor Ludwig Von Drake. A bumbling know-it-all, Ludwig Von Drake was the cartoon spokesman for not only the newly launched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color , but RCA Color TV itself. Launched on NBC in September 1961, "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" was itself a continuation of "The Wonderful World of Disney," and ruled the 7pm Sunday night timeslot for many years. Professor Von Drake even had his own Disneykin series, along with numerous other Ludwig-themed, Marx toys.

The show, "Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color," was a cross-marketing promotional bonanza -- combining the highly-touted launch of Color Television itself (which was pioneered and manufactured by NBC’s parent company, RCA Victor), with the Walt Disney Studios' film releases and its Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.

To help promote both the launch of color television and the new television series, viewers were invited to go to an RCA TV dealership to experience Color TV for themselves. When there, they received a free promotional Disneykins set packaged in a red cardboard box with a cellophane TV screen–shaped window, showing five Disneykins. The RCA giveaway promotion was the first use of Disneykin figures in a marketing giveaway. The box
The RCA Victor Color Television Promotional Giveaway with Marx Disneykins from 1961. Click photo for larger version.
featured Professor Ludwig Von Drake in the center, surrounded by Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto Disneykins. The brand name "Disneykins" and the tagline "Courtesy of your RCA VICTOR dealer" and were prominently displayed on the outside of the 4" x 3" box. Inside, on the yellow cardboard insert was a graphic of Nipper, the famous RCA Victor dog, as well as the RCA logo and the tagline: "RCA: The most trusted name in electronics.

The cultural impact of this highly publicized launch of Color TV in 1961 was massive. One could compare it to today’s introduction of DVD (digital video discs) or HDTV (high definition television) -- with a newly created cartoon character, Ludwig Von Drake -- created to help publicize that launch. "The Wonderful World of Color" even had a special episode to commerate the momentous changeover from black & white to color, featuring Walt Disney and Ludwig Von Drake hawking the introduction of what they called "RCA COLOR TV.

A rarer second version of the RCA Disneykin Giveaway was also produced, featuring the Pinocchio characters. It is identical to the Ludwig Von Drake version with the substitution of Pinocchio Disneykin at the center, and included Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket, the Blue Fairy and Figaro. It was possibly created as another joint marketing venture between RCA and Walt Disney to promote the big 1962 re-release of the Disney animated 1941 classic, PINOCCHIO.

An original early 60's Disneykin Postcard from the Disneyland theme park.
Click photo for larger version.

Disneykin figures were also directly used as a promotional tool for the Disneyland theme park itself. In 1961, postcards with a Disneykin attached in a plastic blister bubble were sold at the park for mailing purposes. Although there were quite a few variations of these produced in the early sixties, these are considerably difficult to find nowadays. These postcards follow the exact same style as the more common Marx TV-Tinykins postcard series from 1962. Each TV-Tinykin postcard features a Hanna-Barbera character and an appropriately themed postcard graphic.


For more on the use of Disneykins as a promotional tool, go to the feature on the "Professor Ludwig Von Drake" Disneykins series >>.

Copyright 2009, Abby Weissman and the Flubber Gallery, All rights reserved.

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Website created by FlubberGraphics, NYC, USA. All photographs by Abby Weissman unless noted. All original content copyright The Flubber Gallery. Contact for information.

Last updated 04.03.09

© 2009, All rights reserved.
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