Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Marx Disneykins But Didn't Know Who to Ask by Abby Weissman
1961 was the best of times. JFK and Jackie were in the White House, NASA was in space, Elvis was back from the Army, and Marx Disneykins were introduced on toyshop shelves throughout the Western world.
Made of injection molded hard plastic and hand-painted by artists in British Hong Kong, each Disneykin figure was a perfectly packaged "miniature masterpiece" of postwar technology. Playfully packaged in bright candy-like boxes and intriguing shadow box scenes, Disneykins were a perfect cartoon fantasy universe unto themselves. Carried in pockets and schoolbook bags they could spring to life at a moment’s notice, providing hours of imaginative fun and make-believe.
Disneykins embodied both the self-assured innocence of the times and the Disney Company's cartoon mythology. The figures included representations of almost the entire 1960's Disney pantheon of toon stars, from everyday favorites like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Dumbo and Peter Pan (from the first series) – to more exotic personalities like Bongo the bear, Professor Ludwig Von Drake, Uncle Scrooge, Toby Tortoise, the Mad Hatter and Willie the Whale (from the second series) – to name a few. Figures from later animated features were added, such as The Jungle Book and Robin Hood
The Louis Marx Toy Company manufactured Disneykins from 1961 right up to the company’s demise in 1972-3. By the end of the line, the Marx Company had produced a large number of completely different Disneykins and Disneykin lines, with a total of over 160 figures at last count. Basically, Marx made a Disneykin representation of nearly every major character in a Disney animated film that was released (or re-released) during that twelve-year period.
When combined, the original 1961 "First Series" of 34 figures (the most common Disneykins) and the rarer 36 "Second Series" figures (called "New" Disneykins) feature the major cartoon stars of PINOCCHIO, BAMBI, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, PETER PAN, SLEEPING BEAUTY and DUMBO. Other more film-specific Disneykin lines that followed were: the 1961 101 DALMATIANS series (sold primarily in Europe and Great Britian), 1962’s BABES IN TOYLAND series (soldiers and flats, in two sizes), LADY AND THE TRAMP (1962), SWORD IN THE STONE (released in 1963 and only available as a large playset), 1967’s THE JUNGLE BOOK, and closing with the scarce ROBIN HOOD cartoon line in 1972. In addition, a special PINOCCHIO series was briefly marketed during the film’s 1962 re-release, as well as a separate Ludwig Von Drake series of figures and playsets which tied-in with both NBC & RCA and his Wonderful World of Color (NBC-TV) appearances.
Featured products from the Disneykin era included many finely detailed, way-out miniaturized toys such as:
- The LADY AND THE TRAMP Kennel Box set -- with the entire film’s cast of 12 dogs and cats in kennel windows.
- The SWORD IN THE STONE Playset -- a larger HO scale boxed playset, which included a castle, playmat, knights, Madame Mim and Merlin’s houses and the entire cast of character figures.
- The "See and Play" Disneykin Dreamhouse Playset (Marx/Montgomery Wards, 1968) -- an intricate see-through 2 story suburban house, complete with landscaping, two cars, Disneykins, and all modern conveniences, including a 60s-era kitchen, gaudy dining room set, TV, carpeting, pool and even a bathroom).
- The 101 DALMATIANS Disneykin line -- which featured the film’s complete story, uniquely illustrated in six boxed playset scenes, with figures, props and furniture -- which came in two different sizes.
A Brief History
Like many Marx toys from the 1960s, Disneykins were basically a recycled product, having their roots in the previous decade. Most of the Disneykin figures are essentially the "grandchildren" of the 38 soft-plastic, 60mm unpainted Disney character figures from the large scale Marx "Walt Disney Television Playhouse" (1953) along with the 13 additional character figures. The "kin" evolutionary path went through a few more essential steps --- such as the metal hand-painted Linemar line, and the German, Holland and Japanese figures – before being miniaturized, hand-painted and rechristened "Disneykins." They are essentially the same figures with the same poses – only the scale and materials differ.
Disneykins were usually packaged and sold in four basic formats:
- Single figures -- in little candy-colored individual boxes, with or without a window.
- TV-Scenes – one or two figures and props in a small 3" x 3" television-like window display box.
- Playsets – larger, more elaborate window display boxes which housed five to eight figures in a stage-set scene, with furniture, props and a themed background.
- Gift Box – a large window display package which included all or most of the figures from an entire series, each in its own individual cubby hole with name tag. This format is frequently misidentified as a store display.
In addition, some Disneykin series included larger combo gift boxes of multiple playsets and TV-Scenes. The playset combo is called a Triple Playset and featured three separate playset scenes in one box, and the TV-Scene Gift Box included six separate TV-Scenes in one box. Again, these packaging formats are frequently misidentified as store displays.
The ingenious, and confusing aspect of the Disneykin packaging was not only the large variety of interesting box formats and packaging used to sell (and re-sell) the same items, but the fact that a child would have to purchase nearly every playset in a line just to assemble one film’s cartoon cast. For example, in the First Series: The "Mickey Mouse & Friends" playset includes Peter Pan, the "Donald Duck Pier" playset has Captain Hook, and Tinkerbelle appears in the "Dumbo’s Circus" playset alongside Alice. In the Second Series it became even weirder: the "Lost Boys" playset features Flower the Skunk from Bambi, the "Lady & The Tramp" playset scene has the two clowns from Dumbo, the "Three Little Pigs" playset included Brer Fox standing in for the Big Bad Wolf, and the "Cinderella" scene box has Peter Pan’s Wendy masquerading as Cinderella alongside the Owl from Bambi. (Note: a Big Bad Wolfe figure was eventually produced in the early 1970s lineup, and Marx never made a specific Cinderella figure.)
Although many of the Disneykin figures were available for over ten years (mostly the original 34 "First Series" figures), they, like many of the Marx products, went through various stages of de-evolution – eventually succumbing to inferior casting, sloppy paint jobs and inconsistent coloring due to waning interest from both the buying public and the Marx Company itself. For the Disneykin connisseur, the earlier "Hong Kong" editions are usually the best – with clean casting, detailed painting and strict color consistency -- and are likewise more valued. Fueled by the initial success of the Disneykin line, the Louis Marx Toy Company quickly produced two other similarly-marketed miniature universes:
- TV-Tinykins -- a 1962 line of cartoon figures based on the ever-popular cavalcade of Hanna-Barbera TV toon stars, like Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, Quick Draw McGraw, and The Flintstones.
- Fairykins – a line of cute but generic figures based on well-known European fairy tales and nursery rhymes, such as Jack & Jill, Old Mother Hubbard, Humpty Dumpty and Jack & the Beanstalk, to name a few. (Also from 1962)
The most compelling and sought-after items in the Disneykin collectible market today are the colorful store displays. The most well-known of these is the Marx Disneykin Castle store display (1961 and 1962), which consists of a large die-cut cardboard Disneyland Castle with all 34 original series figures glued onto stair-cased rows, each with their name. The scarcity of actual store displays is magnified by the fact that only one store display was shipped per case of figures, and, many were actually used as store displays and were thrown out or ruined by the close of a given promotion. Other impressive large store displays were made for the six playsets and the 12 TV-Scenes of a given Disneykin series. These consisted of a free-standing colorful cardboard frame and holder for the packaged products – with the Disneykin logo and castle motif and price usually on top . Marx also made smaller, easel-type cardboard display cards, some with two and three dimensional die-cut printed graphics. These easel stands usually featured actual individual Disneykin boxes glued to them. These were mainly used for the sale of individual figures.
The intriguing design and variety of all Marx Disneykin store displays make them some of the finest (and less common) collectibles form the 1960s.
Because Disneykins seem to cut across many pre-designated collectors markets – such as those who collect cartoon memorabilia, die-hard Marx Toy collectors, and Disney fans in general – serious collector interest in the miniatures has greatly escalated over the past few years. This is probably due to a number of reasons: the aging and financial status of the baby boom generation, basic nostalgia for the 1960s, the World Wide Web, and money.
Most hardcore Disneykin collectors had and loved the miniature figures as children in 1960s and fondly remember them (whose ranks include this author). These afficianados pursue the hobby with the ultimate goal of acquiring every single Disneykin figure and packaging format. This task seems to grow more difficult with each passing year due to today’s escalating prices (especially on rare items), global competition and the fact that the comprehensive list of all Disneykin figures and packaging variations – which includes Marx prototypes – has not yet been written. My goal in publishing this web site guide is to accomplish just that, and any additional information or comments to this site are greatly appreciated.
Text copyright 2009 by Abby Weissman & the Flubber Gallery. All rights reserved, cannot be reproduced without permission. Visit Abby's site disneykins.com.