Vintage Disneyana in Eastern Europe – Part 1



For close to 50 years they were hidden behind a curtain. An iron curtain. In 1989 the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell and a treasure trove was revealed.


Eastern European Disney items had been produced, as in the rest of Europe, since the ‘30s. Although production of those items dwindled when the Cold War started in 1947, some still appeared after World War II in unlikely places.


One will need many more years to write a comprehensive history of vintage Disneyana in Eastern Europe. This article simply intends to be the fist foray into this fascinating new field.


 The Czech Republic


Were there Mickey items released in the ‘30s in the Czech Republic – which before 1993 was still part of Czechoslovakia? Very likely. However, the first piece of Disneyana from that country that we know of is a 1935 translation of the Blue Ribbon book telling the story of The Three Little Pigs.


It was probably around 1938 that RKO, to promote the release of Snow White, issued a beautiful series of postcards based on a design it had already used on the French and the UK markets. Snow White was certainly perceived as needed relief by the Czech population at the time Hitler was eyeing Czechoslovakia as a prey to be soon devoured by his army, a process that started in 1938.


On February 15, 1940, a little dog called Punta was also to welcome Snow White in Czechoslovakia. From its issue 76 and probably until sometime during the year 1942 the children magazine Punta published Disney comics distributed by King Features Syndicate, starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Three Little Pigs and carrying on with Pinocchio.


It certainly looks as if the soothing power of Disney’s Snow White had not lost its magic, even after the war, since at least two books about the beautiful princess were released in 1945 in Czechoslovakia.




One doesn’t know if any Disney items were released before World War II in Poland. In 1939 and till 1945 the country was drawn into World War II. Due to its particular history and its location between Germany and Russia, violence of all natures hit its territory with particular harshness. In 1947, after the end of the war, communists took over.


1946, therefore, was the only relatively peaceful year the Polish people experienced since 1939. It was during that year that the Publishing Cooperative Wiedza released its version of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.




 The Hungarian artist Bisztriczky may have interpreted Mickey in his own personal way for a strange postcard printed in Budapest in the ‘30s, it remains, nonetheless that Hungarian Disney books published at the time were quite faithful to copyright laws and Disney quality standards.  


Hungary is very likely to be the Eastern European country that published the largest number of Disney books before World War II. The publisher Palladis Kiadása was at the origin of this very rich catalogue. In 1934 it released Mickey in Giant Land, in 1935 The Three Little Pigs. Both books were translations of the Blue Ribbon versions. It is assumed that quite a few other translations were released at the time.


Later (in 1938 and 1941), Palladis Kiadása issued books telling the story of Snow White and Pinocchio. Those were not based on an earlier Blue Ribbon version. Unfortunately, World War II - that Hungary fought on the Axis side – seems to have put a stop to Palladis Kiadása’s activities.


In next issue we will travel to Yugoslavia and Russia where quite a few additional surprises await us.

Vintage Disneyana in Eastern Europe – Part 2




In a previous article published in TDU 44 (?) we told the story of Disney magazines in Yugoslavia before WWII : Mika Mis, Mikijeve Novine, Paja Patak, Mikijevo Carstvo, Strip and Truba. Before the first one of those magazines – Mika Mis – appeared in Serbia, however, Mickey had been featured in quite a few other Yugoslavian publications.


In 1932, Mickey Mouse comics had be seen, for the first time in the country, in the pages of the children magazine Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday), the first children magazine to be published in Yugoslavia. The first Mickey story to appear was “Dozivljaji Mike Misa” (“The Life of Mika the Mouse”) which had been redrawn by Serbian artist Ivan Sensin and re-written by Bozidar Kovacevic. Veseli Cetvrtak would cease publication in 1933.


A short time later, Mickey was also seen in the children section of the daily newspaper Vreme, in a story called “Dozivljaji Misa Mike i Majmuna Djoke” (“The Life of the Mouse Mika and the Monkey Djoka”), created by the Russian Sergij Mironovic Golovcenko.


The daily newspaper Politika had been the first one in Yugoslavia to create a children section, in 1930. From October 21, 1934 till the end of 1935, Politika published in that section Mickey and Donald strips, as well as Silly Symphonies translated into Serbian by newsmen Duda Timotijevic, Bata Vukadinovic and even by the owner and director of Politika : Vladislav Ribnikar.


On April 25, 1935 and till September 30, 1936, Mickey travelled to Zagreb, capital of Croatia. The magazine Crtani Film that would last little more than a year, had been created by Ivan Zrnic, distributed in both Serbia and Croatia and carried Mickey Mouse Sunday pages on its cover – recreated by little known Serbian artists.


Mickey also appeared shortly in strange Serbian stories on the cover of an other magazine released around the same time: Crveni Vrabac (The Red Sparrow) created by Jovan Grdanicki and published in Belgrade from October 3, 1936 till December 5, 1936 for a total of 10 issues.


After having created Mika Mis in March 1936, entrepreneur A.J. Ivkovic decided it was time to expand and started Zabavnik, a sort of strip-cartoon album reprinting the old Gottfredson comics from Mika Mis. Zabavnik would live from October 31, 1936 till 1941.


Finally, as if all of this was not enough, Gottfredson dailies were also featured in Politikin Zabavnik, the special edition of the newspaper Politika, whose pre-WWII life started on February 28, 1939 and would stop with issue 220 on April 4, 1941, two days before Hitler’s attack of Yugoslavia.




Moscow 1935. Disney may have been known before that date or in other Russian cities, but it is there and then that Disney characters shone the brightest in the newly formed USSR.


During the 1935 Moscow Film Festival Disney not only presented three shorts: The Three Little Pigs, Peculiar Penguins and The Band Concert, he also won a well-deserved award. The small orange program of that Festival, featuring one of the peculiar penguins on its cover has become, needless to say, one of the most coveted Russian Disney collectibles.


The Russian poster of The Three Little Pigs that appears in a photograph reproduced in the book The Art of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch was probably released around that same year.


The Three Little Pigs actually seem to have reached an amazing level of fame in Russia at the time. At least two books telling their story were issued before WWII by the publisher Izdatelstva Detskoď Literaturi controlled by none other than the youth organisation (Komsomol) of the communist party! One of those two books - released in 1937 in Moscow and Leningrad and then in 1938 by Caucasian publisher Ordzo – is based on the Blue Ribbon version of the tale. The other one, smaller, saw the light of day earlier, in 1936 in Moscow and Leningrad. An interesting tidbit: the names of the pugs in the Russian translation of the story are the same as the French ones. French influence was still strong in Russia in those years.


Walt Disney’s works were surprisingly well received in the USSR before WWII, even under Stalin. The Cold War changed things radically. And it is therefore absolutely amazing to realise that an original biography of Walt titled “Jučn i Shački Iolta Disneya” by Č.M. Arnoldi was released in the USSR in 1967 when Brejnev was in power!


What other strange surprises does this new Disneyana field hold in store ? Now that the curtain is lifted the grasping Eastern show can begin!


Acknowledgments: My sincere thanks to comic book historian Zdravko Zupan for the invaluable information and illustrations he provided for the Yugoslavian part of this article, which completed those already included in “Disney Comics” by Alberto Becattini (Editrice Comic Art, 1995).