Think of The Walt Disney Company, and you instantly associate it with entertainment, the movies, and comics. Chances are, you will also associate it with the company’s most famous character, the much loved Mickey Mouse. The company defines its mission as “to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”
The Walt Disney company started as the Disney Bros. Studio in 1923. Brothers Walt and Roy Disney provided short animation videos. Through the years, the company’s profile received a boost from stories featuring bold characters such as Donald Duck, Cinderella, Snow White, and Mickey Mouse. Part of the company’s allure stems from Walt Disney, a legendary illustrator whose autograph has morphed into the company’s logo design.
The current Walt Disney Company logo design was released by the company in 2012. It features an autograph of Walt Disney surrounded by a decorative lettering, together comprising the company’s name. The essential elements of the logo have been there in this design since the company restructured as The Walt Disney Company in 1986.
Iterating upon a legendary design is one of the harder design tasks to deal with. In the 2012 design, the company made minor cosmetic changes such as taking away the triumphant pose of Mickey Mouse in the logo. Mickey Mouse himself, however, and the identity of Walt, his creator, remain in the full version of the logo. What emerges, therefore, is the company’s desire to maintain its storied tradition and keep its two greatest proponents at the core of its public identity.
The initial Walt Disney Brothers Studio logo in the 1930s was just an autograph of Walt Disney. Walt Disney was the creative genius behind the company’s animation work. It was he that was responsible for drawing up characters like Mickey Mouse. Fans of the studio naturally clamored for Walt’s autograph, which accompanied the company’s print comics. Unlike Walt, Roy Disney had little artistic say in the company. Rather, as a former banker, his focus was on the financial management of the company’s operations. Walt Disney’s autograph went on everything. As a logo, all in black, it had a handwritten appeal that was accented by the tiny gap at the bottom of the opening “W.”
Through the next decades, the studio’s identity evolved, and so did its logo. While there were numerous iterations and versions of the logo, the basics stayed the same. The company was firmly centered around Walt’s identity as an artist and animator.
The company’s movies division, Walt Disney Pictures, became a prominent brand. It, therefore, stood to reason that it would craft its own identity as it became more important. This was accomplished in this logo portraying a castle in the background. Walt Disney’s autograph, a fixture of the brand, was at the bottom, as part of the name. This logo, with a gorgeous cartoon castle, hints at the fairytale movies the company had become famous for. Its fairytale adaptations for the movies included stories like Cinderella, Peter Pan, and numerous others which added to the fame of the company.
Walt Disney Pictures updated its logo again, this time in 2006. This version has since been updated. However, the essence of it remains in the current logo of the pictures division. This is a logo that competes with the logo of The Walt Disney Company logo since it has been featured on so many of the company’s movies. Movie fans and kids all around the world have identified this logo with The Walt Disney Company as the brand that gives them the movies they enjoy so much.
In this logo, the castle is more defined. The logo uses 3D to show the castle’s features. It has towers and balconies, as well as other details not visible in the previous castle logo. It also uses Walt Disney’s autograph, utilizing a lasting legend for instant brand recognition. The logo sends the message that this is the old Walt Disney, but updated for the digital age.
The Walt Disney Company, meanwhile, in 1986 came out with a new logo that featured its most iconic character. This was Mickey Mouse, who is featured in the logo with arms stretched out in a triumph of showmanship. The logo showcases the character’s craftiness as well as his love for the limelight.
At the same time, Mickey Mouse is known by many fans around the world, therefore he is used here as more than a character. He becomes a symbol of the company, as important as Walt Disney himself and his autograph.
The company felt confident enough about the Mickey Mouse character to let that be an emblem of the brand. Mickey is regarded as not only smart but generally good-natured. He makes people laugh, and is brave, fighting many bad guys in his adventures. As a symbol of the company, he represents the company’s many adventures and journeys to its present-day state.
In 2012, The Walt Disney Company changed its logo once more. This iteration, however, was a minor one. The text-only version of the logo stayed mostly the same, as it featured the trusty old autograph of Walt Disney. The styling is black ink with a thick, elegant font. Visually, it looks hand-drawn to portray vintage authenticity. It resembles Walt’s own autograph and harkens to the company’s namesake.
The alternative version of the logo, however, departs more sharply from the previous logo. It dispenses with Mickey Mouse in the triumphant position of a stage character about to take a bow. Here, Mickey Mouse is shown marching forward very deliberately and very focused. True to character, Mickey Mouse has a broad, happy smile, perhaps a smirk, on his face. This image portrays Mickey Mouse in a familiar light where he is up to some trick or another. It’s a lighthearted, humorous logo that celebrates the company’s ability to make its fans laugh. The purposefulness of Mickey Mouse’s gait, however, suggests he has something important to attend to, nevermind the braggadocio. In other words, The Walt Disney Company is making important moves in this new era.
The logo design for The Walt Disney Company uses a recognizable autograph and the name of the company to forge a one of a kind identity. There is no miscommunication about who this company is or what they represent.
Of course, not every company has a founder as famous as Walt Disney. The design of the logo here capitalizes on the fame of the Walt Disney name to create an imprint that will serve the company well for years into the future. When considering your own logo design, going with an autograph-based logo that signifies a personal history might just get the job done.