Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mel Birnkrant's Cartoon Toy Collection

One of the world's greatest toy collections is now viewable as a free downloadable ebook as well as a rich and deep website that will pull you in for hours.

Mel Birnkrant has spent a lifetime collecting cartoon character toys, starting with a Mickey Mouse that he discovered in a Paris flea market.

Mel Birnkrant's Betty Boops
Before there was eBay, he was hounding flea markets and antique auctions, gathering prime examples of Betty Boop, Yellow Kid, Mutt and Jeff, Gasoline Alley, Foxy Grandpa, Krazy Kat, Andy Gump, and other character collectibles.

His collection also includes Victorian paper theaters, marionettes, and vintage board games.

Mel Birnkrant's geometric celluloid toys
Each of the pages is curated by Mel himself. Drawing on his knowledge and experience as an inventor, artist, and collector, he tells the backstory of many of the toys.

What makes the website really compelling is that he brings an artist's eye to the presentation. He assembles the figures into groupings, beautifully lit and photographed, as if they're gathered to look out from their world into ours. Some of the toys with action elements are presented on the website with slide-show animations.

Mel Birnkrant's Little Nemo toys
Most of the groupings are based on newspaper comics or early film animation from the golden age of cartoons, about 1900-1940.

Mel Birnkrant's Bonzo
If you are a character designer, animator, art toy maker, or comic artist, you owe it to yourself to check out the website or download the "Mouse Heaven" eBook. The eBook was a collaboration between Mel and Massive Fantastic author Eric Millen. Thanks to both of them for sharing this amazing virtual art museum with the world.
Mouse Heaven The Mel Birnkrant collection website free downloadable book of the collection (in 4 volumes): Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3, and Volume 4


Bruce Jensen said...

I'm a big fan of his own work too~ the Outer Space Men ;-)

patrick mate said...

Thank you James for this post.What a wonderful time I had looking at Mel's work.

patrick mate said...

...and of course admiring his amazing toy collection!!!

Janet Oliver said...

Little Nemo! My Fave!

Super Villain said...

Mel's cousin Janet wanted me to pass along a note:

My precious,brilliant, wonderful MEL:

What you now share so generously with thousands around the globe, has been a part of my life with you for over 70 years. I have lived and loved the magical world you've created, collected, and bound into the most amazing tantalizing world under your own roof, beginning in that house of our childhood on Seven Mile Rd.

But most of all, when you added Elsie The Cow and her baby to your collection, I was over the MOOn.

Remember those trips to the The Detroit State Fair, where Elsie cavorted??? I was simply captivated when I saw her in your living room, hanging there as big as life.

I am reliving a lifetime with you right at my own desk.

I am so PROUD OF YOU!! I am SO VERY HAPPY to be a part of your eternal collection.

Your Younger cousin, Janet

Dana Lindner said...

I stumbled across this amazing collection while trying to identify a Mickey found in a historic family house- I see the stuffed mouse in a photograph Mel has in his collection- the black and white photograph under Aesop fable movie dolls- does anyone know how I can email Mel? It looks like he holds the answers to the identity of this mouse....

James Gurney said...

Dana, if you would email me at, I can forward your question on to Mel. Best, JG

Unknown said...

As a fellow toy and doll enthusiast, l am always going through his collection to see what was available back in the day and try to find it. I am amazed at the mint condition most of his collection is. I personally have a collection of more then 3000 dolls, both antique to vintage, as well as a huge vintage toy collection inspired by Mr. Birnkrant. I view his incredible collection frequently. Thanks so much for sharing it for all to enjoy.