Back in the fifties I worked in Phyllis Hurrell’s Television Commercial Unit at the Walt Disney Studios. Wait a minute! Did you say, Phyllis Hurrell? Do you mean that a woman was in charge of one of Walt Disney’s film production units? Believe it, boys and girls. I’m speaking of that old “gender bigot,” Walt Disney. The tyrant who forbade women from ever leaving the Ink & Paint “sweatshop” had promoted a WOMAN to be in charge of one of his important production units. And, all this took place decades ago. The Television Commercial Unit at Walt Disney Studios was a very important production unit and garnered a good deal of income for the studio when Walt needed the money. Already financially pressed by the cost of the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, the commercial unit was a godsend.
I worked in that special unit back in the fifties and we did commercials for many of the sponsors of the Walt Disney television shows. The shows, if you remember included, Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. Our clients included, Ipana Toothpaste, Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Nash Motor Cars, among others. There was one series of commercials that only a true Disney geek would remember. We did a series of commercials featuring Alice from Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Featured in the television ads were characters from the film. However, some of these ads featured an extra added attraction. We animated characters never seen in the Walt Disney feature film. I’m speaking of characters you never saw on the big screen. The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle were characters created by the author, Lewis Carroll but never used in the Disney motion picture. For some strange reason, Walt Disney decided to bring these obscure characters to life in the series of television commercials and that’s how I ended up working on characters you never saw in Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.
It’s been over fifty years since I’ve drawn these odd and quirky Disney characters, but as you can see they’ve got the Disney DNA and they’re very much characters that look like they came from the Walt Disney Studio. We even produced the fanciful commercials in full color even though the television viewing audience back in the fifties only saw the ads in glorious black and white. Isn’t all this amazing? Color commercials in the nineteen fifties when the world watch television in black & white. That was Walt Disney, of course. Always ahead of his time. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn these fanciful Disney characters. But, you know what? It seems like yesterday.