Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was an American cartoonist, best known for his defining work on the Mickey Mouse comic strip. He has probably had the same impact on the Mickey Mouse comics as Carl Barks had on the Donald Duck comics. Two decades after his death, his memory was honored with the Disney Legends citation in 2003 and induction into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
Early life and career
Gottfredson was born into a large Mormon family in Kaysville, Utah. The three brothers and four sisters traced their roots to their great-grandfather who had immigrated to the United States from Denmark in the 1840s. As a child, Floyd severely injured his arm in a hunting accident. Housebound during a long recovery, he became interested in cartooning and took several cartooning correspondence courses. By the late 1920s, he was drawing cartoons for trade magazines and the Salt Lake City Telegram newspaper.
After achieving second place in a 1928 cartoon contest, the 23-year-old Gottfredson moved to Southern California with his wife and family, just before Christmas. At the time, there were seven major newspapers in the area, but he was unable to find work with any. One job he'd held in Utah, however, was as a movie projectionist and he found employment in that field in California. A year later, the movie theater where he'd been working was torn down, resulting in another job search and the profession of a lifetime.
Walt Disney Productions hired Gottfredson as an apprentice animator and in-betweener on December 19, 1929. In April 1930, he started working on the four-month-old Mickey Mouse comic strip. It had originally been scripted by Walt Disney and drawn by Ub Iwerks who was succeeded by Win Smith. In May, Disney had Gottfredson assigned to the daily strip, promising it would be only a temporary arrangement until someone else could be found to take over. As it turned out, Gottfredson continued to produce the Mickey Mouse strips for the next 45 years.
Gottfredson's first daily strip was published in newspapers on his 25th birthday, May 5, 1930. On January 17, 1932, he began work on the newly inaugurated Mickey Mouse color Sunday strip which, in addition to the daily, he continued through mid-1938.
Originally, Gottfredson drew the strips alone, but in 1934 he pulled back to plotting the stories and doing the penciling. Scripts were written by Ted Osborne (1934–49), Merrill De Maris (1934–42), Dick Shaw (1942–43), Bill Walsh (1943–64), Roy Williams (1964), and Del Connell (1968–82). There were a variety of inkers, including Al Taliaferro in the 1930s, until Gottfredson returned to inking the strips himself in 1943.
From the beginning, the strips were parts of long continuing stories. These introduced characters such as Eli Squinch; Mickey's nephews, Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse; Detective Casey, Chief O'Hara, and the Phantom Blot. The stories were always untitled. Titles were usually assigned later when the strips or pages were reprinted in picture-books or comic books, which the artists had no influence on. For the sake of a better overview, these reprint titles are commonly used today. Starting in 1955, Gottfredson and writer Bill Walsh were instructed to drop the storylines and do only daily gags.
Gottfredson continued illustrating the daily strip until he retired on October 1, 1975. His last one was published on November 15 and his last Sunday strip on September 19, 1976. He did the comic strip for forty-five years.
Reprints and compilations
Gottfredson's Mickey strips were often collected in the 1930s and 1940s. Western Publishing's Big Little Book series based most of its Mickey volumes on the strip; Dell Publishing's Walt Disney's Comics and Stories featured the strips through 1948.
Modern-day American reprints began with "The Bat Bandit" (1935), which reappeared in a 1974 one-shot comic book. Abbeville Press' large size Best Comics anthologies in the late-1970s included two all-Gottfredson volumes (though one was a "Goofy" volume), though the stories were sometimes re-lettered and condensed. And in 1980, they did a small-size Best Comics series that included three all-Gottfredson volumes (though one again was a "Goofy" volume). In 1986, Another Rainbow/Gladstone Publishing began a tradition of serializing Gottfredson stories in regular Disney monthly comic books, which has continued on and off to the present day.
In 2007, Gemstone Publishing announced The Floyd Gottfredson Library, a comprehensive Gottfredson edition that didn't end up being published at the time. In 2011, Fantagraphics Books began publication of the series instead.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, before his health deteriorated, Gottfredson gave interviews to many comics-oriented magazines as well as mainstream publications. The deluxe edition of the book Mickey Mouse in Color included a small record containing an audio interview with Gottfredson and Disney Donald Duck-comic book artist Carl Barks. During the 1970s Gottfredson attended the OrlandoCon and also the 1983 San Diego Comic Book convention.
Gottfredson's work had been printed in newspapers, magazines, and comic books worldwide for over 50 years, but as a Disney employee, he was never allowed to sign it. Gottfredson's identity was finally revealed in the mid-1960s by fan Malcolm Willits. Subsequently, reprints of his Mickey Mouse strips in the 1970s gave him credit.
Floyd Gottfredson died at his home in Southern California at the age of 81. In 2006 Gottfredson was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards' Hall of Fame. He also was awarded an Inkpot Award in 1983.
Fellow Disney Legend Floyd Norman notes the drawing desk Gottfredson used today "occupies a corner in a special room at Disney's Publishing department in Burbank."
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