This year marks the 85th anniversary of Walt Disney's classic short cartoon, "The Three Little Pigs." In the many years since its premier in New York City on May 27, 1933, a large amount of souvenirs, premiums, novelties, books and other memorabilia have been made about the pig trio.
The tale of "The Three Little Pigs" and their run-in with the mean, deadly wolf is an old children's tale of English origin. A moralistic adventure, it preaches the value of hard work and the necessity of always being prepared.
Never too popular in this country, it was Walt Disney who brought the tale back to life adding new form and substance. "The Three Little Pigs" with its powerhouse song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" hit American screens as part of Walt Disney's "Silly Symphony" series. According to Wikipedia, the film cost $22,000 and earned $250,000 its first year, a stupendous figure for a cartoon in those days, but not too great when compared to its extra high cost of production.
DISNEY'S "THREE LITTLE PIGS"
But the classic tale of three pigs and their forest enemy became Disney's most famous and profitable "Silly Symphony." Its financial success in years to come helped to save the often money-strapped film studio.
The color and imagery were decades ahead of its time and are still not that far out of date, even today. The short garnered an academy award and gave to the nation, then in the agonizing throes of a "Great Depression," a wonderful song to sing to help boost spirits.
A sequel, "Big Bad Wolf," was released the following year. Unfortunately, this did not fare well at the box office. It has been quietly relegated to the vault of oblivion, though parts of it were used in the early broadcasts of Disney's television show.
By the end of 1935, merchandise and product premiums had become quite plentiful. The rarest are the many toys, dolls, china plates and figurines inspired by the cartoon. But, far and away, it is the ephemera that so dominated the marketplace. These collectibles are now eagerly sought by many enthusiasts.
Many Little Golden Books of the tale, both Disney's version and the traditional story have been published since the 1930s. As he would do several years later with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Disney gave names to the characters - the pigs were called Fiddler, Fifer and Practical - and the wolf, the Big Bad Wolf. These names help us to distinguish a book's origin.
These books, as well as those by other publishers, have been repeatedly reprinted year after year and their huge production runs have resulted in large quantities being available. Condition, though, is often a problem.
Film memorabilia --while very hard to come by, is another category. Posters and black-and-white stills of the 1933 cartoon and its later re-releases are a hot topical.
The sheet music of the famous song from the animated short, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," is also in demand. In fact, illustrated sheet music of all Disney's cartoon films has always attracted collectors.
Other items include bridge score pads, advertising blotters, bookmarks, jigsaw puzzles, a board game, and Halloween face masks.
Similar treasures, such as coloring books and sticker books, have been extensively marketed throughout the same years, but these are a bit scarce - and pricey to purchase when found.
Also to be found by energetic collectors are two different decks of playing cards sold in the late 1940s by Gibson Playing Cards. These depict the three pigs dancing and making music on the front of the cards. One deck was printed in green; the other in black. Both came packaged together in a special orange-and-white box.
Souvenir postcards about the "Three Little Pigs" are numerous. The vast majority were inspired by the 1933 classic cartoon short. These cards portray the story and the special characterizations created by the Disney studio.
First to produce postcards using Fidler, Fifer, and Practical Pig and the Big Bad Wolf was probably Valentine & Sons of Dundee & London, England. These were part of the firm's multi-hundred card Disney series first sold in the late 1930s and reprinted continuously until the 1950s. Many were imported for sale in this country by the company's New York City branch office.
Following closely behind was the Parisian firm of Sepheriades. Sometime in the late 1940s, it released a 24-card set in English, French/ Dutch/ German and other languages blending together the tale of the pigs with that/ strangely/ of "Little Red Riding Hood.
A Belgium firm/ identified only by its initial "B," and trade-name "Colorart" issued a couple dozen color postcards the following decade. Mixed together in the illustrations were many of the Disney cartoon characters along with the pigs.
During the last few, decades, very little "Three Little Pigs" memorabilia, novelties and souvenirs have been produced or issued as premiums. The "Golden Age" for collectibles about the three porkers can be said to run from 1933 to 1950.
But the film remains a classic and the tale endures!