Disney and the Magazine
Modern Millwheel of General Mills August 1955
by Paul F. Anderson

Regular guests here at the Institute know that there is an ongoing celebration of Walt Disney’s use the magazine for promotional purposes (see November 2009 DHI Essay: Disney and the Magazine). The Modern Millwheel of General Mills was not a periodical one could run down to the drug store and pick up “off the rack.” It was instead a publication intended for “the men and women of General Mills.” In Disney parlance, it was a “cast member” publication that kept the employees of the consumer foods company up to date with the exciting world of packaged foods; this would also include from time to time information on the television shows the company was sponsoring. Enter Walt Disney. This particular issue announced three new television shows General Mills was adding to their line-up for the upcoming new TV season. Obviously, based on the cover, the emphasis was being placed on the Disney show (the other two were westerns), which was The Mickey Mouse Club. In fact, the cereal giant was so enthused about this show over the shoot ’em ups, it gave the mouse the cover and also offered the following statement to its employees: “The one likely to receive the noisiest welcome is Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club.” The cover gives a great picture of what was happening in the summer of 1955, and it is apparent that General Mills was hoping for some shirt-tail riding! When this issue came out, America was at the zenith of the Davy Crockett craze (isn’t there a book by that name?) and as such, Mickey is sporting his Coonskin Cap (although I have trouble recalling the Alamo being made out of cereal boxes…although that might have made a great slogan, “REMEMBER THE CHEERIOS!”).

So what was the product to advertise to the wee ones? What else, sugar … in the form of cake and (with all apologies to Bill Watterson) cereal! “General Mills’ ready-to-eat cereal products–Wheaties, Cheerios, Sugar Jets, Trix, and Pick-A-Pack, jointly with Betty Crocker cake mixes–will sponsor two 15-minute periods each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” proclaimed the magazine! For the sponsorship, Walt told the good folks at General Mills that the Club was tailored for 12- or 13-year-old children and “will bring all the younger ones along. ” The article also goes out of it way to report that Walt’s co-workers state he “makes a point … of talking ‘straight out’ at youngsters instead of down at them.” ABC network executives also put in their two cents worth: “Children are the audience that Disney loves and understands best.” One guesses that Walt did not approve that comment, as he distinctly stated on several occasions that his films were for the entire family; but that is another story, and another magazine, for another day here at the Institute.

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