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 Arthur Floyd Gottfredson  (1905 - 1986)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: cartoonist-Mickey Mouse, penciller

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Ad Code: 3
Arthur Floyd Gottfredson
from Auction House Records.
Race for Riches
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Floyd Gottfredson was one of the great unknowns of comics. For 45 years, nobody drew Mickey Mouse better. From 1930 to 1975, his work was printed and reprinted in newspapers, magazines, and comic books all over the world. However, because he was an employee of the Walt Disney organization, he was never allowed to sign a single strip.

Gottfredson was born in a small town in Utah. A childhood hunting accident left him with an injured arm that kept him house bound. It was during this period that he became interested in cartooning. Although his Mormon family did not encourage him, he was allowed to enroll in several correspondence courses, where he availed himself of what both the Landon School and the Federal Schools had to offer. By the late 1920s, he was drawing cartoons for trade journals and for the Salt Lake City Telegram. His work had a confident, professional look, showing the influence of both his mail-order instructors and one of his favorite strip artists, Walter Hoban of Jerry on the Job. Like all young cartoonists, he had worked out an impressive signature for himself, but, as it happened, he was unable to use it for the next several decades.

After winning a cartoon contest in 1928, Gottfredson moved to Los Angeles with his wife and family before Christmas. "There were seven major newspapers there," he admitted many years later, "but I couldn't get a job with any of them." He had been a movie projectionist for a time in Utah, and was able to get a job in that profession in southern California. A year later, after the movie theatre had been torn down, he heard that the Disney Company might be hiring artists. "I rushed home to get my portfolio, went to the studio, and got a job that afternoon. Walt hired me as an inbetweener and possible backup artist for the Mickey Mouse daily newspaper comic strip that was about to be launched by King Features Syndicate. I went to work the following day, December 19, 1929".

Within a few months he was responsible for Mickey Mouse, and "I continued with the Mickey daily strip for 45 years until my retirement on October 1, 1975". Soon the strip quit offering a joke a day and went in for continuity. That was when Gottfredson began to shine. He had a flair for kidding the conventions of action serials, cowboy epics, horror movies, and detective melodramas and was still able to put plenty of suspense into his stories. Initially, he wrote the strip, but later just sat in on the plotting. He said that The Gumps and Roy Cranes Wash Tubbs, the top continuities of the time, had influenced him. His Mickey had many affinities with the diminutive, go-getting Tubbs, and throughout the 1930s, the two led adventurous lives filled with both danger and fun.

Gottfredson drew very well, combining the abilities of an animator with those of a strip artist. His humanized, animal characters had life and personality. And, like his more serious colleagues in the adventure strip field, he was an expert at depicting the settings and backgrounds from haunted castles to midnight streets to phantom dirigibles. His work matured and developed throughout the 1930s and 1940s. When King Features decreed that the continuities must be replaced by daily jokes in the middle 1950s, Gottfredson seems to have lost quite a bit of his enthusiasm.

In addition to drawing the daily, he penciled the Sunday page from 1932 until the middle of 1938.

Gottfredsons name had appeared a few times in print over the years he was drawing the strip, usually in fanzines here and in Europe, and usually in a list of cartoonists who had possible worked on the Mickey Mouse strip. Then in 1968, two years after Walt Disney's death, writer Malcolm Willets tracked Gottfredson down at the Disney studios and obtained permission to do a lengthy interview with him. Though it appeared only in a fanzine called Vanguard, the piece was the first to credit and identify Gottfredson publicly for what he had been doing for so many years. He never gained celebrity status, but he ceased to be anonymous.

The introduction to a 1974 compilation of his 1934 strips, printed by Western, said "Two men have been closer to Mickey than any others. The first was Walt Disney . . . the second man is Floyd Gottfredson." In his final years, prior to the onset of ill health, Gottfredson was interviewed by a variety of comics-oriented magazines and a few mainstream publications. Gottfredson received credit for Mickey Mouse when its strips were reprinted.

(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, The Encyclopedia of American Comics, edited by Ron Goulart.)

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in Kaysville, UT on May 5, 1905. Gottfredson began a correspondence course in cartooning at age 13. Eight years later his cartoons were in the Salt Lake Telegram. In 1928 he moved to Los Angeles to begin a 45-year employment with Disney Studios. He died in Los Angeles on July 22, 1986.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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