23 Months

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It occurs to me that my purchasing of early Mickey centric toys, which seemed an exception, has now formed a proper sub-genre in my collection – perhaps earning a whole section of their own in the imaginary book of my photo collection I edit in my mind. Recently I have added the tintype I wrote about in Riding the Big Bear and Say Cheese!, but this photo reminds me a lot more of my recent post found here – She Who Has the Most Toys Wins. That one featuring a Felix instead of a Mickey. Still, the same idea – let’s take a photo of the kid with all her toys in the yard. Heck, if I had a kid and a yard I would probably do it too.

I like my Mickeys early and this one is, and he’s also a fine, large and pristine looking example. This lucky child has not only him, but that lovely bunny, a doll she is clutching, a bike (or more likely trike) lurking to one side behind her, a large lamb-y looking toy in the front corner and even a bit of a toy carriage peering out behind that. The yard is also neat although not hugely prosperous looking, aside from the wealth of toys.

The photo here is about the same size as the original, smallish but not tiny. In addition to 23 mos written here on the front, on the back it says, 23 months She was afraid the wind would blow her hair ribbon off – I am a bit sad that for all of this we do not know her name. Clearly she was a precise child, one who cared so specifically about her hair ribbon not be blown off. I love that about her, she herself looking a bit perfectly doll-like here perched on this small table. (I myself was a messier child and my toys hard loved, I must admit.) Somehow it is easy for me to assume it was a trait of hers that didn’t change as she got older. And if she remained as tidy and careful about her toys, perhaps some of those pristine items are being treasured by the likes of me today.

Say Cheese!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo could have been an easy one to accidentally pass by at first, but at closer inspection it really cracked me up! This little gal with her toothy overbite, which coincidentally and perfectly matches this great, somewhat over-sized Dean’s Rag Doll Mickey, has managed to place herself (or be placed) on a sort of platform. She makes a splendid photo and clearly she and the photographer have conspired to create it. Her lace dress provides a great texture against the pattern of the ferns and leaves – a perfect setting. She is placed atop of this small stage to make her look like a delighted, smiling toy herself. Her Mary Janes, slightly imperfect white knee highs and, best of all her period semi-bowl cut hair complete the image.

This photo came from Britain. Although the toys were made there, this surprises me as something about the image and the foliage seems very west coast American to me – California? But no. There is nothing written on this photo and no indication of date, or alas identity. These Dean Mickey’s (and truly, I wouldn’t mind owning this nice large one at all!) were most popular in the 1930’s I believe. I have written about the ones in my collection a few times previously – Big Mickey and Starting Small with Mice. Below is a photo of some of my smaller but similar fellows – note those toothy grins! I am so pleased this little girl and her Mickey have come to reside in my collection where she belongs.

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Mickeys from Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

A Maybe Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Yep, Happy Birthday to me once again – and get a look at this glorious new toy for the Pictorama collection! This fellow, known as a Yes/No Felix made the trip across the ocean from my friend a toy source (my supplier, shall we say?) named Regine who lives in Belgium. She had this fellow up on eBay a few months back, pre-Christmas. I hesitated on him as he no longer has his Yes/No function – you moved something (tail? arms) and he nodded his head yes or shook it no. This one appears to remain mute. I reached out to a friend and collector to ask his opinion about purchasing a toy that had lost this original functionality. His answer made me laugh – he said that to his knowledge he had perhaps used the yes/no on his Felix immediately upon purchase and to his memory never in all the subsequent years. He did however, ask said Felix if I should purchase the toy and his Felix said Yes! Luckily Regine still had him and so I acquired him, for my birthday – or to be more accurate my very generous husband the ever-wonderful Kim Deitch bought him for me and Regine got him here in record time.

Felix turned out to be larger than I anticipated (always a happy discovery) and a great specimen of Felix toy really. I love his comical tummy bulging shape, googly eyes and his large, goofy ears! More than the other toys (all ranging pretty far from the cartoon design to be honest) he is like Felix’s elder statesman uncle – the one who pulls silver dollars from behind your ear. While he is a completely different design from all the toys by other makers, he is similar to another Felix by the same maker, Schuco. That one that originally wound up and walked and was produced later than the Yes/No. (Mine no longer walks either, perhaps there was something about the mechanisms on these Schuco toys? He is a long story of his own which we may or may not get to one of these days here at Pictorama.)

Below is our man as a Christmas gift in his youth. Regular readers will remember this from just a few months ago posted in A Very Felix Christmas – and to think I had no idea at the time that this Yes/No fellow would be coming to live here!

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Let’s turn back the clock a bit. In the beginning of collecting, shortly after my first toy cat purchases – several splendid stuffed cats from the early part of the 20th century which were unearthed at antique stores in Red Bank, New Jersey – I discovered Felix the Cat toys with my first purchase of one at a flea market in London. I was off and running! Yet it was quite a while before I knew anything about them or who made these Felix toys. For some reason I thought that Germany was a likely maker of the European version of these American cartoon toys – or perhaps France?

It was a number of years before I discovered that the majority of my beloved Felix-es were made in Great Britain. I have examined this in different ways in a number of earlier posts including Felix as Cat and most definitely East London Toy Company, one which I myself refer back to periodically. The British were a hotbed of Felix production, companies such as Dean’s Rag Company and others. They far outstrip Felix’s home turf of the USA where he seems to have been somewhat neglected on that front despite his extraordinary film fame.

Anyway, all this to say that I ultimately learned that outside of Britain the production of Felix toys, particularly stuffed ones, was pretty much limited to a few models of Steiff on the US front and Schuco in Germany, and I have sited the two stuffed Schuco Felix toys above. Schuco was founded in Germany in the year 1912 and seems to be primarily a maker of rather indestructible looking metal cars and trucks. Odd that they should make Felix toys with a tendency toward mechanical breakdown. However, I have a lovely little Schuco bird which still functions – for this one see the post Tweet, Tweet, Tweet.

So thank you Kim! Thank you Mel for your advice (Felix’s too) and thank you Regine! You all, along with Felix, have softened the blow of growing one year older.

And What a Party We Had!

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Pam’s Pictorama Post-Valentine Special: I am going to let you in on a secret. One of the really great things about being married to Kim Deitch is that whenever I want, I toss the dull, day-to-day world aside and enter the vastly more entertaining Deitchian world of anthropomorphic animals, demons in cat bodies and slightly sinister cartoon landscapes. This circus is going on right here – all the time! Yep, the front door of Deitch Studio is the portal to an amazing world of delight and fright – the rabbit hole you climb down every time you pick up one of Kim’s stories and that I come home to after a day out in the world. And once a year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Kim pulls back the curtain and reveals a behind-the-scenes glimpse for everyone who has wondered and as a testimonial to the love and joy of our corner of the universe. To that end, I share this year’s Valentine.

While recent prior years focused on King Kitty and his dominion over the toys – especially the mice – starting in 2015, Kim picked up the theme of a glorious cat toy museum run by me, the Queen of Catland, as the nexus. I think it is fair to say that in this third year, the Valentine intersects squarely and gloriously with the final chapter of Reincarnation Stories, his latest book – as some of you who have been following that progress on Facebook know. The phenomenal cat toy museum revealed at last!

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And what will future years bring? You will have to stay tuned each February. Meanwhile, sure stop by Deitch Studio sometime, but remember you could get sucked down the rabbit hole too.

Ho, ho, ho – a Felix Find

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: In my business (if you can call acquiring things and never selling any a business) it is rare to come across an early stuffed Felix that is really different than those I have seen, and in some ways this magnificent Christmas gift from Kim is one of those. Purchased from a British store I stumbled across online called All You Can Bear located some place in Great Britain, I was immediately very enamored of him. After paying a king’s ransom (thank you Santa Kim!) he arrived in a sizable box shortly after Thanksgiving. Christmas Day finally arrived for this Felix fanatic – and there he is in all his glory! This fellow is larger than I fully absorbed from the listing photos and the design of his tail as a sort of third leg makes him take up considerable space. (This will cause some major reshuffling among the stuffed shelves of our apartment!) He is shown here on Christmas morning, atop of a pile of very fine Deitch art work, complete with Christmas lights.

At first I thought he might be related to the Felix below, one that I have always considered the strangest design and of great curiosity, and that I wrote about in the aptly named post Odd Felix. The one below no longer stands, if indeed he was ever designed to, and the face is different, but there is something similar to our new inhabitant about the design of the body and the ears. It is hard to tell from my photo, but as I mention above, the new Felix uses his tail as a sort of third leg. However, looking at them side-by-side I am less inclined to think their origin is the same. The new Felix is an entirely new design for me.

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Very Unusual Felix in Pictorama Collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

One of the reasons I love to collect these toys is that every single one of them ended up with a different expression and this makes them very human for me. After learning that many of those toys, made in London, were hand assembled by women (a blog post of mine I keep going back to myself, East London Toy Factory, Ltd.) it makes sense. It is what has always charmed me most about these guys and this one beguiled me immediately from his listing page. He looks as if he is about to begin a great oration – hand (paw?) held aloft. Or, from another angle, like he has a crazy secret or really off-color joke which is cracking him up and that he can barely keep to himself. Hmm – Felix, what could that be?

 

Snowy

 

 

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My Snowy at home

 

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I am, frankly, a bit weak on the Tintin comics in general. I believe Tintin in Tibet might be the only one I have read – and as a traveler to Tibet I enjoyed it greatly. It hit as many of the highlights of Tibet travel as I could have hoped from a comic book and then some. (The Dalai Lama even liked it enough to present it with the Light of Truth award.) In addition, I almost never buy new toys, so it is a bit surprising that while traveling at a mad pace through the South of France on business recently I stopped dead in my tracks over a stuffed Snowy in the window of a store. However, my responsibilities of the moment did not allow for me to break off long enough to go in and investigate, but this is where living in the internet age is a great benefit. I tucked this image into my mind and upon my return home I found him online and Kim, being the very best husband in the world, purchased him for me as an anniversary gift. Snowy took his own good time getting here however and I present him to you now. Don’t you agree that he was worth the trouble?

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Seems that Snowy was on the scene from the first, appearing in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets in January 1921. He was a wry, wise-cracking sidekick with his own balloons of chatter for many years, evidently he gets demoted later in the strip and then only Tintin can read his thoughts. I read that he was inspired by a Fox Terrier at a cafe Hergé frequented, and named (Milou in the French) for his first girlfriend – despite the fact that Snowy is a boy dog and the translation – if that – is a bit mystical. Snowy, although an utterly dependable companion was, like most dogs has an extreme weakness for bones. (Who doesn’t have their Achilles heel?) In addition, I understand that he suffers from arachnophobia – I would prefer my dog (and cat) defend me against multi-legged intruders, but again, no one is perfect and if a dog constantly rescued me from all sorts of peril, saved my life and defended us against enemies many times his size, I could be forgiving on these points. I read that Snowy was known to frequently have a good snort and really tie one on too.

Somehow this toy seems to have the unusual characteristic of really embodying the drawing it is from. I find that is rarely the case – when it comes to Felix I enjoy the wildly off-model nature of the early British ones – but with many toys derived from comics I find it just annoying, especially in contemporary toys. Things are called Krazy Kat that bear no resemblance to even the film version of the character. There is a general disregard for the design of characters – so to find one that has the right spirit and appears to be well made alerted my radar.

Westerns have brought Tintin to Tibet in a big way and his image graces everything from bars to t-shirts, existing in high contrast to things like the Potala. (Until recently Kim was wearing one of these machine embroidered t-shirts with Tintin and Snowy, drawn somewhat free hand, that I brought back years ago.) It goes almost without saying that your average Tibetan has absolutely no idea who or what Tintin is (let alone Snowy), and I have wondered what they make of this persistent symbol of the West, lurking from far beyond their mountain home.

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Potala Palace, Lhasa

Humpty Dumpty

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Humpty’s tiny tag

 

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I purchased this fellow at an antique store in Seattle years ago while we were paying a visit to Fantagraphics. I guess I assumed he was a Humpty Dumpty even before finding the three quarters of an old tag at the back of him identifying him as such and also what appears to be Ross and Ross. I think it is safe to say that he is, by all measures, a bit creepy. I was only able to find one other image for a Ross and Ross Humpty Dumpty doll online and I show him below. (I could not find much on the company although it may have ultimately become a contemporary company just called Ross Toys.) The one below is equally (if not more) terrifying and I think fair to assume they are kissin’ cousins. Yikes!

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Another Ross and Ross Humpty Dumpty, not in my collection

 

It is clear mine is a nicely made toy – a wooly sort of felt. His arms and legs are fully articulated for movement, although fragile now. I always vaguely wondered if he didn’t have some sort of Princeton association – black and orange and all, like a reunion gift. I may have even bought him thinking I might give him to my sister. My fellow is a bit more primitive than the fellow in red I would say and his wool picks up all sorts of dirt and bits. His feet and hands were already well nibbled by moth when I bought him. I have done my best to clean him up for a photo – short of taking out the vacuum with attachment, he seemed too fragile even with the attachment. The nursery rhyme sort of bugged me as a kid and really I am not sure what made me buy him except he was so odd, early and well made. I know I didn’t pay much for him, a bit of an impulse purchase of the kind I am most likely to make while traveling. (I hate to regret not buying something in a city far away.)

I also found this Humpty Dumpty below on Pinterest for further comparison – I do not think he is the same maker, the definition of the hands and feet isn’t the same, but definitely more of the genre at the least. What is the SC for I wonder?

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Humpty Dumpty, probably a different maker, from Pinterest

 

So one has to wonder why people were buying these sort of terrifying toys. I mean, who gives this to your kid unless you want to give him or her nightmares? I checked out Humpty Dumpty’s history and discovered two main points – it was never made clear that he was an egg (there is some speculation that perhaps it was a sort of a riddle originally) and also that there were a lot of earlier versions of the rhyme. It was first printed in 1810 and much to my surprise became famous through Alice Through the Looking Glass where he is shown as a creepy egg man – not unlike these here. My favorite variation on the nursery rhyme we grew up with is:

Humpty Dumpty sate [sic] on a wall,
Humpti Dumpti [sic] had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before.

Below I am including this sort of great sheet music I pulled off of Wikipedia. Otherwise, our Humpty will go back on his shelf where he will continue to keep an eye on us, as he has over the last decade or so.

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