For the first time since his death nearly 50 years ago, Walt Disney has graced the cover of LIFE magazine. You can imagine my shock to see a young Uncle Walt and Mickey Mouse smiling at me from the rack in the magazine section of my Barnes and Noble bookstore recently.
This LIFE magazine has little to do with the heritage weekly and monthly publication but has everything to do with the new way of getting archival magazine resources in the hands of new media consumers and those looking for nostalgia. The Walt Disney entry is the latest in a series of limited editions from Topix Media Specials utilizing the LIFE, Newsweek and TV Guide names. In the past, Elvis, John Wayne, Princess Diana, and the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music have had dedicated memorable editions.
As I picked up a copy of LIFE’s “Walt Disney From Mickey to the Magic Kingdom” and paged feverishly through it, I got to thinking about how many times Walt Disney has been featured on the cover of LIFE. Disney World and other Disney related projects have appeared on weekly or monthly news magazine covers or have been included in such publications about a new movie or theme park opening. But the question remained how many have featured Walt on the front cover.
Most Disney enthusiasts are familiar with Mickey Mouse on the cover of LIFE magazine in November 1978 and Walt Disney World on the cover of the October 15th, 1971 LIFE magazine. There is also the LOOK April 6th, 1971 periodical featuring Mickey.
So what better resource to turn to than the staff at the Walt Disney Company Archives? According to Archivist Kevin Martin Kern, the Walt Disney Company has been featured on the cover of LIFE on at least five different occasions including February 22nd, 1964 “How Disney Makes An Underwater Movie.” On June 13th, 1960, “Hayley Mills, A Pert and Perfect Pollyanna” graced the front page of the magazine, October 15th, 1971 “Disney World Opens,” November 1978 “Mickey Mouse’s 50th Birthday’” and April 29th, 2005 “Disneyland 50th Anniversary” special commemorative edition round out the list of Disney appearances on LIFE.
But what about Walt? Inquiring minds wanted to know. Well, Walt has had his share of magazine covers but not a LIFE cover. Kern referenced Walt on the December 27th, 1937 and, 20 years later, the December 27th, 1954 TIME covers, the October 23rd, 1954 and December 14th, 1957 TV Guide covers, and the July 26th, 1955 LOOK magazine, November 17th, 1956 Saturday Evening Post and the December 31st, 1962 Newsweek and of course other publications like TV Guide and Disney company publications.
The new LIFE magazine, which has been available on newsstands since April, covers all the important chapters of Walt’s life from his birth in Chicago to his humble beginnings in Marceline, to how it was all started by a mouse to making his mark on Hollywood. The 96-glossy-page publication revisits both the man, the magic and the legend of Disney and reminds readers that LIFE was there from the dawn of the Disney empire.While there is nothing necessarily new in the publication, it serves as a condensed version of Walt’s story for those who do not have the time to ready the extensive biographies that have been written about him. It is chock-full of black-and-white and color candid, fun and LIFE exclusive photos which have not been seen on the pages of LIFE in decades.
Just like many other magazines, LIFE Walt Disney From Mickey to the Magic Kingdom is destined to be a coveted collectible for Disney fans of all ages. The special edition is available in bookstores and online at amazon.com.