Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As much selling and buying has migrated online, I have bemoaned the loss of the sheer joy of browsing amongst the world of detritus that makes up a good flea market or junk store. The ability to run across things you never knew existed or thought of before but now must possess. One of the few online equivalents is the suggestions made by the algorithm for items you might like or sellers other items on eBay. Recently someone sent me a link (don’t remember what it was for as I was immediately distracted!) and a photo for a listing for this fellow caught my eye.

Sans identifying tag, Pluto was listed with the Dean’s Rag Company as its possible maker – more to come on that. Something about him caught my attention and when I showed the listing to Kim (we were in bed at the time) he gave a brief but definitive declaration of buy him. That is a bit unusual for Kim and so, with some misgivings about his size (he’s large, about 24 inches), I hit the buy it now button and soon Pluto was winging his way to me from Britain.

This example from the Novelty Toy Company, undated, has tag. Hind legs more defined, different nose and eye design. Not in collection.

Since Pluto does not bear the (rather wonderful) Dean’s Rag Toy imprint on his feet, even before he arrived I asked the seller (@bobbyrocksbazaar) why she thought he was a Dean’s. She responded promptly and it turns out that she is largely a seller of bears and not familiar with Disney character toys and was just making an honest guess. Aside from the tag issue it isn’t a bad one. I have a Dean’s Rag Pluto I wrote about in a 2014 post here.

I reshare a photo of mine below. This is the Pluto that is generally accepted as the Dean’s design and Dean’s was deep into producing Disney and characters with their widely sold Mickey Mouse toys but everything from Oswald Rabbit to Eugene the Jeep. Having come from Britain and given some similarities I can see the case for it being made by Dean’s. I suppose it could have born a paper tag rather than the imprint I am so fond of on their toys.

Dean’s Rag Pluto. Collection.

However, having looked at a lot of Plutos since purchasing him, I am betting on a company called Character Novelty Toys. This company was founded in 1932 by Cesar Mangiapani and Jack Levy in Norwalk, Connecticut. Our friend Pluto was introduced into the Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1930 and won immediate popularity so it is possible he was picked up by the nascent company.

Dean’s Rag imprint on Pluto – plus his charming printed paws! collection.

However, it should be noted that said company, despite their name, did not appear to have licenses for a lot of character toys. A quick look shows mostly non-character bears, although I guess I saw a late model Mickey Mouse thrown in there. They definitely had a line of Plutos however and I share some of those kissing cousins which still bear tags, although to be clear, none of the toys I found were this precise Pluto and the more I look at the others of the rough period online the less I think he is made by any of these companies. (Gund toys made one very similar to this Novelty Character Toy version.)

This example is much smaller and also said to be Novelty Character toy. Not in Pictoram collection.
Looking a bit later, this is the Gund toy version. Not in my collection.

My new Pluto is a nicely made toy of somewhat complex design. I would say that his very thin neck seems to have been a design flaw in this (and most) Pluto designs and examples often site a tear there, mine has an old repair. Pluto is made of Velveteen and his eyes are the identifying characteristic I can’t quite match on another version of the toy and careful examination shows the placement of the nose and lack of lines on the nose of mine as different. He may have sported a collar at one time. Aside from Dean’s (a very fine toy maker indeed) I think my Pluto is among the most nicely made. I am even more pleased with him in person than when I saw him online.

A Pluto “headshot” with Kim’s help! Collection.

As anticipated, Pluto is fairly large once we set him up properly. I am still deciding where in the apartment he can best live and be displayed – even taking photos has been a challenge. Right now he is living on a bookshelf next to a very outsized oil cloth doll of Uncle Walt (future post) which is equally difficult to display. For all of that and the mystery of his true origin, he was a great purchase and we are pleased he is a rare dog to have joined the Pictorama family.



Pam’s Pictorama Post: I never understood the importance of Pluto until we got a very nice disk of early Mickey Mouse cartoons issued a few years ago. (In fact I think I had Pluto and Goofy somewhat merged in my mind – what was Goofy all about anyway?) As Kim says, Pluto appears in the series and there is a whole new life to it. Suddenly I became a Pluto fan! Still, that doesn’t mean I meant to go out and start collecting Pluto toys. However, not long after, when I saw this hot Dean’s Rag Company Pluto go on auction (Morphys I think, maybe Hake’s) a few years ago I decided that I would scoop it up if I could get it for the right price – and here we are. Pluto, a lesser Disney character, was a bargain and now mine.

In the second photo I wanted to show his wonderful label on the bottom side – Dean’s Rag Company always does a nice job with that – and you get to see his paw pads and the nice leather collar he wears this way. He is a very well constructed toy and there is something very Pluto about him – the magic of the folks at Deans, in my opinion one of the greatest toy makers ever. Founded in 1903 Dean’s has been in continuous operation ever since, although they make only teddy bears today.  Their first product was cloth books, marketed with a hygienic toy label. I scooped the following quote from talking about Dean’s:

Pollocks Dictionary of English Dolls, The colours were fast, the produce certified as hygienic. The pages could be washed without damage, and sucked with impunity: perfect, in fact, for children who, in the words of the rag book’s originator, “wear their food and eat their clothes”.

The other Pluto came into my collection in an interesting way. I was watching American Pickers and Frank found one on a pick. As I occasionally do when there’s a really cool toy on their show, I looked it up on eBay and that night there was this nice, if slightly battered, example. Bam! On a whim, he was mine. He does rollover – somewhat laboriously in his case, and I do like to return to my wind-up toy roots occasionally.

Last, but not least, I have included an example of a 1931 Pluto and Mickey cartoon.  Enjoy!