Animation History
September 30, 2013 posted by

Vintage Cartoon Flip Books


felix_flipbookIn an age of DVDs and You Tube videos – serving up moving pictures and animation at a tap of a finger – I’m still a nut for classic cartoon flip books. There is a magic about them that doesn’t get old.

Flipbooks began appearing long before motion picture film, becoming a popular optical plaything in the mid-to-late 19th Century. I’m no expert on the form’s history, but I do know that flipbooks of popular animated characters began appearing from the 1920s – and are still being produced today (I recently got an Adventure Time promotional flip book – that seems to be their primary use today, as promotional swag).

mickey-flip_moviescopeSometimes, flip books starring classic cartoon stars get their images and animation directly from a cartoon itself, serving as an invaluable tool for students wishing to study the art frame-by-frame (this was particularly useful back in the pre-home video days). Most times, animation for flip books was wholly original. Usually done by top animators at the studios – an extra, exclusive cartoon for those lucky enough to obtain them.

I loved the original ones done by Disney – sold at Disneyland in the 50s and 60s (still there, for all I know). I recall the one for Mickey Mouse being a cleaned up version of Mickey spinning a rope, as he did on “Round-Up Day” on The Mickey Mouse Club.

Not enough of the Hollywood studio flipbook material has been posted online – as of yet. Below are some sample vintage flip books posted by “Flipbook Collector”. More information on the history of flipbooks can be found at Let us know in the comments below of your favorite flip book – or fondest flipbook memories.





  • Thanks, Jerry! I heard from the late Tim Onosko that the flip books at Disneyland remained on sale long after they ceased being good sellers because Walt loved them. Last time I was at that park, I looked for them, but couldn’t find them. Luckily, I still have my set. 😉

    Thanks for this post, I have loved flip books since I was a little kid and have a modest, but still nice collection myself.

  • I love these things. I have a bunch of them including the ones from Disneyland, but I have not seen them for sale there in decades. Pixar’s Pete Docter put together a set of flipbooks by Disney’s nine old men and animator Ruth Hayes has made a career of her personal flip books

    • Thanks! This is a great article on a lost art!

  • From 1995 to 2004, I was the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” of Disney Flipbooks at Disney Publishing Worldwide…I even wrote an internal white paper called, “The Art and Science of Disney Flipbooks – A perfect science for the imperfect thumb”, which was a guide for selecting good animation scenes that would work well as flipbooks, as well as discussing things like frame rates, alternating animation frames to get longer action in the flipbook, doubling up animation frames to smooth out animation, etc….I worked on flipbooks for many, many classic Disney animated properties, and we also pushed the envelope with things like animated lenticular flipbooks, assemble-your-own flipbooks, digital flipbooks, etc…This is wonderful to see those who came before me, because in the 80 years of storybook art that I got to curate while I was at Disney Publishing Worldwide, very little of it was archival flipbook materials, much less printed book samples.

    Working on flipbooks at Disney Publishing Worldwide was probably the closest that I ever got in my 14 years at Disney, to playing and operating as Walt Disney, especially knowing Walt’s fondness for flipbooks at Disneyland…I used what was then really new digital technology on the Macintosh and with Adobe and Apple software, in the 90’s and 2000’s, to advance the color calibration and overall print quality from digital original animation frames that had been exported from the Disney Feature Animation CAPS System, as well as using Quicktime and early video editing tools, to mock-up and preview potential flipbook scenes digitally after choosing the frames.

  • Speaking of flip books, industrial grade: I have fond memories of the Mutoscopes in Disneyland’s old-school Penny Arcade. The only cartoon among them was a clip of a silent Felix the Cat: He sings outside a window; the irate resident stuffs him in a bag and launches him with an arrow. The end. I know I have the complete cartoon on a DVD somewhere.

    No Mickeys on the Mutoscopes. My assumption was that they weren’t making new reels by the time the mouse arrived — I’ve never encountered a machine that featured anything newer than early silent era clips — but Wikipedia says new machines and new reels were being manufactured as late as 1949. Mostly “What the Butler Saw” naughtiness, evidently. So maybe they had no need to license films from anyone.

  • …let’s not forget the built-in flip books in Chuck Amuck… someone gif’d it here…

    • Too bad he didn’t get it entirely though, I remember it having Wile E. falling to the bottom of the book and he had to crawl out of frame or such.

  • Remember the Boris Karloff movie BEDLAM? There’s a scene where one of the inmates of the famed mental institution of the title shows someone else a flip book he has made in a blank book. It turns out that this is why he’s there. He was sent to the insane asylum for inventing animated cartoons!

    Oh, sure, the filmmaker’s joke was that he was there for inventing movies — but what kind of movies, eh?

    The proto-animator in the movie RAGTIME fares much better, becoming a director of movies. That’s a minor spoiler. I won’t go any further.

  • I used to buy all the Big Little Books that had the included flip-book animation when I was younger. I still have them to this day, but they’re falling apart from overuse.

    I also had this Dennis the Menace paperback collection that became worn out as well-

    Great post as usual, Jerry. Brings back some pleasant memories.

  • I recently finished putting together some gifs of old disney animations that were thrown into the Silly Symphony comic strips during the mid-1930’s as a sort of space-filling item, a fun activity for readers to cut out and view for themselves. Seeing this post prompted me to put them up for others to see the results. Not exactly flipbooks, but a similar concept.

    check ’em out here:

    • Those brightened my day considerably.

  • Found a flipbook in an unusual place.Columbia Records had an introduction to stereo LP titled Listening in Depth(SP-1).This shows up with some regularity in used shops(not as plentiful as a Steisand or Tjuana Brass LP,but…)and in pretty good shape,as most owners seemed to have played this once or twice.I found a minty copy for fifty cents a while back.Even the original plastic bag that holds the LP was there…and a flipbook:How the Stereophonic Groove Moves the Needle.As simple as Chuck Jones’ Dot and the Line and quite effective to visually showing the needle riding in the grrove.

  • Hello. I have a flipbook from 1932 but I can’t find anything about it online. It’s called The Adventures of Pete. By R. C. Russell. Do you know where I can find more information about it?

  • I still remember from the early 60’s bought at Disneyland flip book that had Donald hitting a Gong ,my Mom threw ouit everything .Ung.

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