Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Davis and Disney – The Kaysville local who worked with Walt

Feb 01, 2024 11:18AM ● By Braden Nelsen

KAYSVILLE—It’s no secret that Utahns love Disney. The family-friendly company which celebrated its 100th year is extremely popular amongst the local population, with many purchasing films, and streaming subscriptions, and many even making the arduous trek across the desert to visit Disneyland.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that locals from the Beehive State actually played a large part in getting Walt Disney’s company off the ground. Animators like Eric Larson, from Cleveland, Utah, who worked on the first fully animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” earned his spot in the now famous “Nine Old Men” at Disney, those who were with the company from that first film, and revolutionized the industry.

Then there’s Moroni Olsen, from Ogden, who lent his deep baritone to be the voice of the magic mirror in “Snow White” as well. Olsen also did the voice work for the senior angel in the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” by director Frank Capra. These two would be joined by dozens of others across the years, including a local Kaysville man who would help shape the character and future of none other than Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney and his brother Roy had a rough go in starting an animation business. Despite the talent that each possessed, Walt for imagination and Roy for administration, they couldn’t seem to get a break. They met with occasional success with various film distributors, but there always seemed to be one issue after another.

This unlucky streak seemed to be solved with the introduction of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: a plucky young trickster who was always getting into trouble, and causing laughs with audiences the world over. Sadly, the rights for Oswald as a character had belonged to Charles Mintz, the Disney brother’s distributor, and Walt soon lost creative control. That, however, is when he had the idea to create a new character, in secret.

Together with animator Ub Iwerks, Disney would create the iconic Mickey Mouse, whose popularity swept the globe in 1928 and only continued to grow since then. An immense contributing factor to this popularity was keeping the mouse in the public eye, especially between films that took time to produce.

Enter Arthur Floyd Gottfredson, born in Kaysville, and, at the time, an “inbetweener” working at Disney, animating in-between sequences for more experienced animators. Due to a falling out between Walt and Iwerks, a new Mickey Mouse comic strip, published regularly in dozens of newspapers, needed someone to take charge while Walt ran the studio. Walt assigned Gottfredson to take the helm on a temporary basis until someone else could be found to head the project. That temporary basis, however, turned into nearly 50 years, over which time, Gottfredson excelled in helping Disney flesh out the character.

When he was born, Mickey Mouse was kind of all over the place – sometimes he was gallant and virtuous, others he was a scamp, and downright nasty. Walt had envisioned Mickey as being the epitome of all that was good and right in the world, and Floyd Gottfredson helped cement that image in the minds of the public.

Over the years, Gottfredson would lay out stories, which, taking place over the course of several editions, would show Mickey as the brave hero he was always destined to be. He was adventurous, he was ingenious, but over the 45 years of Gottfredson’s career, he was kind, he was stalwart, and was the classic mouse that the world, and Utahns in particular have come to know and love.

That wasn’t the only contribution either. During his career, Kaysville’s own Gottfredson would introduce many characters into the Disney canon, including Morty and Ferdie, Mickey’s nephews, and others still seen occasionally today. Gottfredson also is credited with giving Minnie Mouse her full, unabbreviated name – Minerva Mouse. 

Colleagues of Gottfredson even cited his upbringing in Utah, as being one of the many reasons why Mickey turned out the way he did. One thing is for sure: the modern mouse owes quite a bit of his reputation to the boy born in Kaysville, who, at 25 years old ran his first Mickey Mouse comic back in 1930.