As a special extra to our list of Disney discrepancies, we are happy to show you that the Disney logo is not, in fact, based on Walt Disney’s real signature. In fact, Walt had been dead for nearly twenty years before the familiar script was even used as the logo for the house of mouse.
Anyone with even a cursory acquaintance with The Walt Disney Company has seen what we all take to be Walt Disney’s signature in the logo, right? Well, sorry… no you are not. The Walt Disney logo signature is actually a stylized version of a signature. And you know, it wouldn’t really be so bad if The Disney Company had built the empire with a logo based on Walt’s actual signature… but it was not! The company script logo is actually a lot closer to an employees version of a Walt signature than the real man’s autograph.
So You Think You Know Walt Disney’s Signature
First, just so we are straight on things, here is the official corporate logo signature…
In the 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 circles back toward the “D”. None of these characteristics are present in Walt’s real signature.
Here is an early image of Walt Disney, with what is obviously being shown off as his signature. It does not take a handwriting expert to see this signature- Walt’s or not!- does not look anything like the corporate signature. And while it does not look much like Walt’s real signature either, it really could be his; there are enough similarities to his real style that the differences could be accounted for in the medium in which it is written. Obviously, painting a name on a vertical board with a paint brush is strikingly different and much more awkward than writing on a flat piece of paper with a pen- so perhaps the medium explains the differences here.
And what would you think if you found this piece of paper in an old drawer? You would probably think you hit the mother lode- you would think you had an authentic Walt Disney signature- and I would not blame you. But this is, in fact, the Walt Disney signature of Hank Porter, not Walt Disney… and is completely legal and legit as a Walt Disney signature. Hank Porter, who worked in the promotions department at Disney, was one of a few people authorized to sign Walt’s name at the studio. And sign he did, many thousands of signatures. But this is most definitely not Disney’s handwriting.
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 any the comic strips of the rodent. The signature here is not Walt’s autograph, but is a stylized version created by the many artists that actually drew the Mickey Mouse strips.
This is another of the “secretarial signatures” of Walt Disney; that is, a signature authorized by the studio by one of the employees. If you found this, you would be right in thinking it was real- it looks just like the corporate signature. In fact, this was probably the basis for the corporate look. But it is not Walt Disney’s autograph.
Here is a pair of Walt Disney photos with strikingly similar signatures. Guess what! 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 variations of the secretarial signatures out there, at least five other versions that are commonly seen. There may be as many as 20 different ones from over the years. But the secretarials were at least consistent, and identifying them is fairly easy compared to tracking Walt’s real signatures. He seemed to sign differently every year, making subtle to grand changes here and there that, over time, made his various signatures look more like they were written by different people.
Well here it is, your first real example of a Walt Disney signature. This one is from 1930 or so.
As you can see, the early signatures are a lot more legible than the later ones. Earlier signatures also tend to be more block-type than flowing script. This is a signature from the Chicago World Fair in 1933.
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- more block, or more script.
Contrast this to the corporate signature, and there are many obvious differences to see. But this will be about as close as any real signatures by the man get to the corporate signature.
Here is a signature from the early 1940’s. There is an obvious move to a more script oriented signature.
This fountain pen signature of Walt Disney is more typical of his 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.
This signature is very representative of the majority I have seen. The “W” and the “D” are a far cry from that you might expect.
This was a quick signature Walt did for a fan in a restaurant in the early 60’s.
This is just included to drive home the point that these are real examples of the real Walt Disney signature. This one varies again from the other examples, but it being an official document, it is indisputably authentic. As you can now see, finding the real Walt Disney autographs is not as easy as you might have once thought.
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. 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.
Oh, and then there is this signature:
The theory here being 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.