The Secret History of Walt Disney’s Signature

walt_disneys-signatureWalt Disney’s signature may not be exactly look like what you have thought it does for all these years. So, as a special, free bonus to our list of mis-truths we have all come to believe from Disney, we are happy to present the virtually unknown secret of Walt Disney’s signature. Anyone with even a cursory acquaintance with The Walt Disney Company has seen Walt Disney’s autograph in the logo, right? Well, actually, no. Sorry, the writing of Walt Disney’s name in the logo is actually a stylized version of a signature. And you know, we could live with that, if it were Walt’s original handwriting that was stylized…. but it was not! It was based on an employees impression and embellishment of Walt’s authentic signature.

What You Think You Know About The Disney Logo

First, just so we are straight on things, here is the official corporate logo, in what we assume to be Mr. Disney’s writing…

Walt Disney Pictures logo

In this signature, probably the most recognizable and distinct letters are the “W” and the “D” that begin each word. Note the roundness of both, and the sharp, single line down the center of the “D”. And the circle over the “i”- note how the circle ends back toward the “D”. None of this is apparent in Walt’s real signature.

walt_disney_presents

An earlier logo from the Disneyland TV show, which was renamed Walt Disney Presents after the park opened in 1955, gives us the best version of his signature in a corporate logo, albeit only ever used in black and white. When the show moved to color in 1961, the show name also changed… to Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

disney signature One Hundred And One DalmatiansAbout the same time (1961), Walt’s approximate signature did grace the opening credits of one feature film, One Hundred And One Dalmatians. We are also treated to a hidden Mickey behind the signature, which is very easy to spot in the above picture.

Various Early Walt Disney Signatures

Walt Disney Drawing Mickey with Signature

Here is an early image of Walt Disney, with what is obviously being passed off as his signature. It does not take a handwriting expert to see this signing has no bearing on the corporate imprint (note the copyright in the lower left for comparison). And while it does not look much like Walt’s real signature either, it might actually be his; there are enough similarities to his real style that the differences could be accounted for in the medium and method in which it is written. Obviously, painting a name is strikingly different-and harder!- than writing one with a pen on paper.
Hank Porter Secretarial signature for Walt Disney

And what would you think if you found this piece of paper in an old drawer? You would think you hit the mother lode- you would think you had an authentic Walt Disney inscription- and I would not blame you. This is, in fact, the Walt Disney stroke of Hank Porter… and is completely legit. Hank Porter, who worked in the promotions department at Disney, was one of a few people authorized to sign his boss’s name at the studio. And sign he did, many thousands of signatures. But it is not Walt’s.

Disney Purportedly Signed Mickey Mouse Comic Strip

OK, so this one has got to be real, right? It is on an original comic strip featuring Mickey Mouse… it must be worth a ton! Sorry to disappoint you, but Walt Disney did not not draw Mickey Mouse much, and certainly not the comic strips of him. The signature here is not Walt’s autograph.

Floyd Gottfresdon Mickey Mouse Comic Strip

Here is a treat- an authentic Mickey Mouse comic strip from 1963, with a whole different Walt Disney branding. This one is by Floyd Gottfresdon… which goes to show even multiple artists who could draw the same character the same way would do their bosses sig in strikingly different interpretations.

Floyd Gottfresdon Disney Signature

Here is a close up of the Gottfresdon version.

Walt Disney Secretarial Autograph

This is another of the secretarial signatures of Walt Disney. If you found this, you would be right in thinking it was real- it looks just like the corporate signature. But it is not Walt Disney’s autograph.

bob moore version of walt-disney signature

Here is a pair of Walt Disney photos with strikingly similar signatures. Neither signature is Walt Disneys’, although this signature looks closer to Walt’s real signature than any you have seen so far. These were both signed by Bob Moore, who did many of Walt’s autograph requests in the 1950’s.

There are many other secretarial marks out there, at least five I have seen. I have heard stories of up to 20 different ones. But the secretarials were at least consistent, and identifying them is easy compared to tracking Walt’s real signatures. He seemed to sign different every year, making subtle changes here and there that, over time, made his various signatures look more like they were written by different people.

How Disney Really Signed His Name

Authentic walt disney 1930 signing
Well here it is, your first example of a real Walt Disney signature. This one is from 1930 or so. (Maybe he was in a rush)

Walt Disney authentic 1933 signature

The early signatures are a lot more legible than the later ones. Earlier signatures also tend to be more block-type than flowing. This is a signature from the Chicago World Fair in 1933.

"Authentic Walt Disney 1938 Autograph

This is a transitional signature from the late 1930’s. It is almost as if Walt was trying to decide which way his autograph would go.

Disney Sig With Mickey Drawing

Here is another mid-thirties real signature, this one with Walt’s own drawing of Mickey Mouse. Makes you sort of glad he hired a lot of artists to animate his films, doesn’t it? You cab see the flourishes of the “W” and “D” that mark his later autographs, but the rest of the letters are distinctly 30’s-40’s.

Real Walt Disney 1942 Signature.

Contrast this to the corporate signature, and there are many obvious differences. But this will be as close as any real signatures get to the corporate signature.

Walter Elias Disney Signature from 1941

Here is a signature from the early 1940’s. There is an obvious move to a more script oriented signature

Walt Disney Authentic Signature

This fountain pen signature of Walt Disney is more typical of the later signatures. It is hard to read, and not at all recognizable as a Walt Disney autograph. It is certainly very far removed from the corporate logo signature. I daresay that anyone that found this in a drawer might sooner throw it out than think that it might be worth a few thousand dollars. Many of the secretarial signatures look closer to what you would imagine the real thing to be than the real thing!

Walt_Disney_Sig2This signature is very representative of the majority I have seen. The “W” and the “D” are a far cry from that you expect.

Walt-Disney-1962This was a quick signature he did for a fan in a restaurant.

Walt Disney Passport Signature

This is just included to drive home the point that this is the real Walt Disney autograph. This one varies again from the other examples, but it being an official document, this one is indisputably authentic. As you can now see, finding the real Walt Disney autographs is not as easy as you might have once thought.

The Problems With Various Purported Disney Autographs

One of the problems in identifying authentic Walt Disney signatures is how much they changed at various stages of his life. His signature in the 1920s is strikingly different than how he signed things in the 1960s. It is as if he redesigned his own signature over the years, in very much the same way he redesigned the appearance of Mickey Mouse.

Another problem is there are many signatures out there purported to be Walt’s- in fact, presented by the studio as Walt’s!- but are actually secretarial signatures. That is not even counting the outright forgeries- when a signature sells for as much as Walt’s, there are going to be those who try to profit from illegal copies.

If you have something you think to be an authentic Walt Disney signature, we have but one recommendation- get it authenticated by a licensed appraiser. And in the world of Disney autographs, there really is only one place to turn to- Phil Sears.  Not your Uncle Bob who went to Disneyland in 1955, not by comparing it to the Disney logo, and not by asking us. Have it looked at professionally. Its worth it.


One Final Look At A Walt Disney Signature Myth

Oh, and then there is this version of the signature:

Disney2The theory some put forth here is that the company (intentionally) snuck “666” into the corporate logo. Because Disney is known as a devil worshiping company, I guess. </sarcasm> But REALLY???? First, why would Disney want to do something like that…. and even if they did, how would such a convoluted message every be read or convert people to the Satanic cause?  All I can say is Dude… get a life.

3 thoughts on “The Secret History of Walt Disney’s Signature

  1. Thanks for any other informative article. The place else could I am getting that type of info written in such a perfect means? I’ve a undertaking that I am just now running on, and I have been at the glance out for such info.

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