Floyd Gottfredson: Mormon Cartoonist

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Floyd Gottfredson Latter-day Saint Cartoonist

Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was a longtime Disney cartoonist known best for his work on the Mickey Mouse comic strip. He began working on the strip when it was only four months old. Disney himself scripted the strip in the beginning, but when he asked Gottfredson to take over, Gottfredson took the story line from Mickey as a slapstick troublemaker into the now iconic emblem of heroism and kindness. One writer said, “Gottfredson’s Mormon upbringing and his unflaggingly positive outlook made him the perfect keeper for this icon. . . . Gottfredson’s mouse combines the virtues of good citizen and good soldier.”[1] Gottfredson was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gottfredson was born on May 5, 1905, in Kaysville, Utah, and had taken up drawing after a hunting accident that left his arm severely injured kept him housebound. He took several cartooning correspondence courses and by the late 1920s he was drawing cartoons for the local newspaper and for trade magazines. Encouraged by his second-place award in a cartoon contest, he moved his wife and children to southern California to seek work. For a time, he worked as a projectionist for a movie theater until he was hired a year later as an apprentice animator and in-betweener for Disney productions. Gottfredson had preferred cartooning, but had settled nicely into animation when Disney asked to take the strip and promised te assignment would be only temporary. But Gottfredson never was replaced and continued to draw the strip for the next forty-five years. He retired on October 1, 1975. His last daily strip appeared November 15, 1975. His last color Sunday strip appeared on September 19, 1976.

Gottfredson originally drew the strip himself but later cut back to plotting the stories and penciling the artwork. Others helped write the scripts and ink the strips. In 1943, he went back to inking the strips himself. The strips were one continuously long storyline until 1955 when Gottfredson and his writer were instructed to do daily gags.

Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic strip was highly collectible during the 1930s and 1940s. The strip found its way into compilations, such as Western Publishing’s Big Little Book series and Dell Publishing’s Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. His work is published in the 2011-2016 Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse series published by Fantagraphics Books. While a Disney employee, Gottfredson was not permitted to sign his work, but in the mid-1960s collector Malcolm Willits revealed his identity. Willits commissioned Gottfredson to create twenty-four paintings depicting classic storylines from the Mickey strip.

Gottfredson gave interviews to comics-oriented magazines and appeared at comic conventions while his health was good. He died on July 22, 1986, at the age of 81. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards’ Hall of Fame in 2006.