Thursday, July 5, 2012

1937 Animator-Signed Snow White Book

Later this month on July 29th, a significant event will occur in the world of animation art. Profiles in History will be conducting a major auction of original drawings and cel set-ups as well as other collectible items created by Walt Disney, Walter Lantz, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros., Charles Schulz and more. Some truly amazing artwork and a whole lot of it!

The number of Disney pieces within the auction catalog is extensive and Snow White is well represented. One of the most prized offerings, however, is a book...this 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs book. It's personally hand-signed by Walt Disney and 51 of the 64 original artists credited in the film.



RKO Radio Pictures [the distribution company for the movie] held it's first international Sales Convention on September 5th and 6th, 1938, at the Hotel George V in Paris. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the featured film at the meeting. There were 24 distributors (dubbed The European Foreign Legion) from across Europe invited to the Convention. These distributors were shown the movie and the promotional materials at a two-day business meeting which featured lunches sponsored by Disney. In the weeks following the Convention, the distributors and RKO worked out individual distribution contracts.

As part of his promotion for the affair, Disney had copies of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs book (published by Harper and Brothers, 1937) brought to the Disney Studios where he and 51 of the principle creators of the film signed copies to be given as gifts to the prospective distributors. Disney signed boldly at the bottom of the title page and instructed the animators to sign on the title page and on the front flyleaf.

Three copies are known to still exist from this group (the other two currently in private collections), and each signature is placed in the same location on each copy, indicating that the signing was carefully orchestrated.

The group of signers is a remarkable collection. It contains 51 of the 64 people officially credited on the movie, and includes six of the nine men later referred to by Disney as the "nine old men". These six are Les Clark, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Woolie Reitherman and Frank Thomas. In addition, it includes character designers Albert Hurter and Joe Grant, art directors Charles Phillippi, Terrell Stapp, McLaren Stewart, Harold Miles, Gustaf Tenggren, Ken Anderson, Kendall O'Conner, and Hazel Sewell. Supervising animators Ham Luske and Vladimir Tytla as well as a continuing who's-who of other Disney animators.

Close-up of the signatures...

A few of the other names include Grim Natwick, Maurice Noble, Art Babbitt, David Hand, Ted Sears, Dick Lundy, Wilfred Jackson, Perce Pearce, Larry Morey and more. The catalog description goes on to tell a little of the history behind this particular copy of the book...

Also included with the book is the original letter written by the European RKO representative welcoming one of the attendees. This man, Otto Sonnenfeld, was the RKO distributor for Czechoslovakia, and he was Jewish. When he returned to Nazi-dominated Czechoslovakia, the distributor contract he secured for Snow White allowed him to leave his homeland and gain entry to British-controlled Palestine with a document known as a capitalist certificate, recognizing him as the RKO Pictures distributor for Palestine. In later years, Mr. Sonnenfeld and his wife credited the RKO convention and the success of Snow White with saving their lives.

It is believed that most of these special copies of the book that went to Paris never left Europe and were destroyed during the war.

The auction also includes the business agenda for the convention and the menu for the Disney-sponsored dinner. In all, the book and the attendant materials make up a fascinating and truly rare piece of Disney history. Because of its provenance and its importance to the Disney story, it is not an exaggeration to say that this is the most significant Disney book available to the collector.

Estimated auction price $30,000-$50,000 (USD).

And here's a look at the menu for the Disney-sponsored dinner...

Menu scans via Cartoon Brew.

See the 50th Anniversary reprint of the Snow White storybook (without the signatures, of course) in an earlier post.


  1. Ah, wow!!! That is amazing! I would love to own that! A diehard Disney/Snow White fan couldn't ask for more! Tell me, that's a storybook, or a book about the production of the film? :D

    1. Vlad-- I agree. It's a real treasure and a super rare find. The book is a Snow White storybook that was published in 1937. A 50th Anniversary reprint of the book can be seen here: