The first successful Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie, was released in 1928. Walt Disney quickly began seeking merchandising opportunities for his cartoon characters, The original Mickey Mouse Club began in 1929 and, in 1930 Disney contracted a leading doll manufacturer, the George Borgfeldt Company, to produce Mickey and Minnie Mouse toys.
Borgfeldt had been distributing a Micky (with no “e”) Mouse toy for the Performo-Toy Company since 1926. The two toys co-existed until 1931 when Disney sued Performo-Toy claiming that they copied their Micky from Disney’s. Despite Performo-Toy having patented its “animal toy” in 1926, Disney won and the small Performo-Toy Company went out of business.
The success of the original Mickey Mouse toy inspired a vast range of toys, dolls, games, figurines and other Mickey Mouse merchandise. Having established a network of licensees, Disney quickly followed the success of the first Donald Duck cartoon in 1934 with a range of toys and other merchandise. Mickey and Donald were followed by the Three Little Pigs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Dumbo before the Second World War curtailed toy production.
After the War, plush Dumbo and Pluto dolls made by Gund and rubber-coated wire Donald Ducks by Bendy Toys were popular. These were followed by toys and other merchandise associated with all of the Disney movies and television shows. By 1954, there were 700 companies making more than 3,000 Disney items.