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Disney’s 1924 letter to Ub Iwerks

Mike Van Eaton (disclosure: he advertises on Cartoon Brew) is in the midst of compiling and co-producing a mammoth animation art-and-artifact auction with Profiles in History (run by Joe Maddalena) with over 1,500 lots, set to happen May 14th and 15th at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. Day one will feature 700 lots containing some of the most coveted items in Disney Animation history, including a handwritten letter written in 1924 by Walt to his former colleague and soon-to-be designer of Mickey Mouse, Ub Iwerks (1901-1971). This is the letter – which has been quoted in such books as Mike Barrier’s The Animated Man, Bob Thomas’ Walt Disney: An American Original, and Leslie Iwerks/John Kenworthy’s The Hand Behind The Mouse – in which Walt convinces Ub to come to Hollywood and join the studio… the rest, as you know, is history. Mike has graciously allowed me to post the letter exclusively on Cartoon Brew for all our readers to enjoy.

Note the envelope (above) and letter (thumbnails below, click to enlarge) is on Disney Bros. Studio letterhead, and addressed to his “Dear friend Ubbe,“. Disney pens (transcription in full):

“Dear friend Ubbe,

I’ll say I was surprised to hear from you and also glad to hear from you. Everything is going fine with us and I am glad you have made up your mind to come out. Boy, you will never regret it — this is the place for you — a real country to work and play in — no kidding — don’t change your mind — remember what ol’ Horace Greeley said” ‘Go west young man — go west!’

We have just finished our sixth comedy for M. J. Winkler and are starting tomorrow on the seventh of the first series of twelve. Miss Winkler is well pleased with them and has given us some high praise — she is leaving New York for here June 1st, and I believe we will be able to start a twice a month schedule, instead of our monthly schedule.

I can give you a job as artist-cartoonist and etc. with the Disney Productions, most of the work would be cartooning. Answer at once and let me know what you want to start and I will write more details. At the present time I have one fellow helping me on the animating, three girls that do the inking, etc. while Roy handles the business end. I have a regular cast of kids that I use in the picture and little Virginia is the star.

Write and tell me how soon you want to come out — if you can leave before the first of the month all the better — of course you would sell all of your furniture and also your car? Wouldn’t you? I believe it would be best if you did. Anyways, write and let me know all the details. Give my regards to everyone at the Film Ad and the boys at the Arabian Nights, and also to your mother. As ever your old friend.

Walt ———

Don’t hesitate — Do it now — !

— P. D. Q. —

P.S. I wouldn’t live in K.C. now if you gave me the place — yep — you bet —

Hooray for Hollywood — !!”

Mike says, and I agree, “One could argue that had this letter not been exchanged, the world would never have known Mickey Mouse, and Disney himself might have ended up as little more than a footnote in Hollywood history.” Photos of Iwerks driving the Davis family’s seven-passenger Cadillac across the U.S., as mentioned in the letter, are posted below (click thumbnails to enlarge). The winner of this lot gets these photos and a letter of authenticity from Ub’s son, David Iwerks. More info is at Profiles In History website and also at Van Eaton’s site starting later today.