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Floyd Gottfredson

Floyd Gottfredson was the main artist of the newspaper comics with Mickey Mouse.

Floyd Gottfredson's life

[By David Gerstein]

Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1906 in a railroad station in Kaysville, Utah. He took cartooning courses as a youth and won contests early on; his diligence to become a comic artist wasn't hurt even when a hunting accident crippled his drawing arm, an injury that lasted for most of his life. He took jobs first as a projectionist and an animator upon moving to California in 1929, but made it to his lasting position in charge of the Mickey Mouse daily strip with the episode published May 5, 1930. The rest was history: Gottfredson's classic continuities continued through 1955, and he kept on working on the strip itself until 1975.

The new characters added to Mickey's universe by Floyd Gottfredson have become legend: the Phantom Blot, Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse, Eli Squinch, Eega Beeva, Sylvester Shyster, Joe Piper, Captain Doberman and Gloomy are among some of the more famous. He's been an inspiration for European Mickey Mouse artists like Romano Scarpa as well as Americans like Noel Van Horn, but his plots have inspired hundreds to follow (often rather awkwardly) in his wake. To some extent, Gottfredson was the definitive creator of funny-animal adventures for the first ten years of his career, and Carl Barks looked up to his masterful work.

The definitive reference on Gottfredson is:

Bruce HAMILTON, Thomas ANDRAE, Byron ERICKSON,
Mickey Mouse in Color,
Another Rainbow, 1988.
The book contains loads of super 1930s Sunday pages and three daily strip stories as well as Gottfredson interviews, indexes, and critical analyses.
You can get the book from Gladstone.

Gottfredson's Art Periods

[By David Gerstein]

[Note that the links to illustrations in this document are fairly large and may take a long time to transfer.]

This is my personal breakdown of Gottfredson's periods, based loosely on Frank Stajano's excellent Romano Scarpa page of similar design. As Frank said: "Anything involving aesthetic judgement is going to be highly personal." And like Frank, I've made up the names for Gottfredson's different art-periods. The many samples are scanned in from original newspaper strips, so are in black and white.

1930: Primordial.

Gottfredson's first story featured a long-nosed, very beady-eyed Mickey who looked more like a mouse than he would in any story afterwards.

Example:

1930-33: Mesozoic

Starting later in 1930 Gottfredson took on Earl Duvall as an inker and clearly liked his style, for he adopted the puffier Mickey and the crazy embellishments Duvall tended to favor. The art has a slightly sloppy style at times, with details occasionally inconsistent; however, Mickey is drawn with great detail, with eyelid lines emphasized, usually small pupils, and soles on his shoes. An overall cartoony style is maintained.

Sample strips:

1933-36: Classic I

Now the art gets a slightly tighter, more methodical feel to it. Animals formerly drawn entirely of pipe-stems get joints and an increasingly streamlined look (note how the horses are drawn, and even ungainly Tanglefoot has joints in his body). Mickey himself becomes a little less heavy on his feet. The style is still fairly cartoony.

Sample strips:

1937-39: Classic II

The art now gets a beautifully realistic quality; while the characters are still cartoon figures, of course, they have a very detailed, well-proportioned "naturally perfect" look about them. This stage is completed by the addition, in 1938, of elaborate shading techniques. Also, the supporting cast is now drawn with more realistically human proportions.

Sample strips:

1939-1942: Hellenistic

Similar to the Classic II style, right after The Phantom Blot, the art swiftly gets much slicker, with saucier expressions on characters' faces, much bolder poses, and a generally more expressive feel. The shading isn't quite as heavy as just earlier.

Sample strips:

1943-1946: Gothic

When Dick Moores took over inking for Bill Wright, Gottfredson seems to have slowly changed his art style to accomodate Moores' looser line. When Moores turned over the inking chores to Gottfredson himself in 1945, Floyd kept the same style. Now the art continues to look very slick and streamlined, but more cartoony again with more exaggeration.

Sample strips:

1947-1955: Neomezozoic

In the final stage of Gottfredson's career, he gets a slightly more controlled, soft style, maintaining much of the slick sweep to the line, but with the characters tending to look more sedate. Although the basic style is fairly constant, Mickey goes through a bit of a change in 1951, getting a more bulbous snout and hair on his head, which tends to make him look older.

Sample strips:

In my own opinion, the plots of the strip were the best from 1932-1941, but there were classics before and after that; and the art was at its best from 1936-1941. But that's just my own opinion. In Italy, where Romano Scarpa began his career imitating Gottfredson's Gothic period with extreme fidelity, it's no surprise that that period is considered Gottfredson's best, for it was the starting point of their own classic Mickey adventures.

Comic images in this section are The Walt Disney Company Europe. They are provided for purposes of study and reference to allow the reader to personally compare the periods being discussed and/or identify a foreign version of a story. Disney's copyright is acknowledged and respected.

Printed sources

Here are some printed sources on Floyd Gottfredson:
Last updated February 19, 1999.

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