Vintage Children’s Books Helped Inspire Santa and Sleigh Stamps

The first thing artist Paul Rogers did after being asked to design a holiday stamp showing a “traditional” image of Santa Claus was search the Internet. He was looking for storybook images that would spark his childhood memories and give him a starting point for the project.

Several children’s storybooks gave him a feeling for possible ways to approach the subject:

“Donald Duck and Santa Claus,” illustrated by Al Dempster (1952)

“The Golden Book of Little Verses,” illustrated by Mary Blair (1953)

“The Night Before Christmas,” illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren (1951)

“Wonder Book of Christmas,” illustrated by Lou Myers (1951)

“I was worried about how to do it and not be corny,” Rogers said. “I grew up in California, so I’ve never seen a snowy village.”

First, Rogers did a rough sketch of Santa to suggest a basic look.

He then sent sketches for the block of four stamps to art director Howard Paine. They considered presenting Santa’s face as a sort of puzzle.

But in the end they decided on a different strategy. Rogers presented sketches with one stamp more “finished” to give a better sense of what he had in mind.

An early version of the solution they agreed on appears above. The final stamps are slightly different: The reindeer’s legs in the top right square, for example, joined its whole body in the top left in the finished version. Changes were made to the houses as well.

“Howard Paine is such a great art director,” Rogers said. “He always gave really great advice.”

This set includes a booklet of 20 stamps and four envelopes, each with an affixed stamp and a First Day of Issue color postmark (click for more info).

The special challenge posed by this assignment, Rogers said, was to create a composition that would work as four stamps together as well as individually. His original sketches were drawn in pencil on paper, but the final images were computer-generated—making the stamp art simultaneously traditional and new.

The Santa and Sleigh Forever® stamps are now available online and in Post Offices nationwide as double-sided booklets of 20 self-adhesive stamps each. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.  At the time of issuance, the Santa and Sleigh stamps are being sold at a price of 45 cents each, or $9.00 per booklet.

Up Soared Into Theaters Three Years Ago

On this day in 2009, Disney•Pixar’s 10th feature film, Up, opened, and introduced Carl Fredricksen, a curmudgeonly former balloon salesman, to the world. At age 78, Carl finally fulfills his lifelong dream by tying thousands of balloons to his house to fly away to the wilds of South America. But when he finds himself on his great adventure with an overly-enthusiastic eight-year-old named Russell, a talking dog named Dug, and a 13-foot-tall rare flightless bird, Carl discovers that life’s true adventure can be found not in travel or great accomplishments, but in small, everyday moments with family and friends.

The film garnered five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, winning for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Up was only the second animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture in the Academy’s history.

The Up (Forever®) stamp was part of the 2011 Send a Hello issuance, which also featured characters from Disney•Pixar films Cars, Ratatouille, Toy Story, and WALL•E. These fun, lovable stamps are still available for purchase!

Disney/Pixar Materials: © Disney•Pixar

One Week Left Until You Can Mail a Smile

Don’t forget, stamp fans! The new Mail a Smile (Forever®) stamps—the second issuance in a two-part series of fun Disney•Pixar characters—will be issued in one week, on June 1!

The Mail a Smile stamps feature beloved characters from five Disney•Pixar movies: A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), and The Incredibles (2004).

This stamp pane is a follow-up to Send a Hello (which are still available!), a 2011 issuance featuring Disney•Pixar characters that grew out of the Art of Disney series issued from 2004 through 2008.

These fun, lively stamps are a great way to brighten up anyone’s mailbox and put a smile on a loved one’s face!

The First Day of Issue ceremony will be held at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Will you be joining us? In the mean time, you can pre-order your Mail a Smile stamps today!

Disney/Pixar Materials: © Disney•Pixar

Muppets Receive Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame!

Congratulations are in order for the Muppets, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today!

The Muppets were created by Jim Henson (1936-1990). In 1955, while Henson was a student at the University of Maryland, his own five-minute show, Sam and Friends, made its debut on WRC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. The show, which won a local Emmy Award in 1958 and ran until 1961, featured a large cast of characters that Henson dubbed “Muppets,” including a green puppet named Kermit who would later become the world-famous Kermit the Frog.

For several years, the Muppets built a following by appearing in a wide range of television commercials as well as several network programs, including Today and The Ed Sullivan Show. During the late 1960s, Henson was asked to create characters for the groundbreaking educational children’s television show Sesame Street, which debuted on public television in 1969. Many of the show’s Muppets—including Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch—soon became icons of American popular culture.

Believing that the Muppets could entertain an even wider family audience, Henson produced the television comedy hit The Muppet Show. Running for five seasons between 1976 and 1981, The Muppet Show was hosted by Kermit the Frog and featured a new cast of Muppet characters, including Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and The Great Gonzo, as well as an impressive array of celebrity guest stars. The Muppet Show was nominated for 21 Emmys and received four. Its success led to a slew of feature films: The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), all three of which were nominated for Academy Awards, as well as The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets from Space (1999), It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005), and The Muppets (2011).

In 2004, The Walt Disney Company acquired the Muppet characters and the Muppet film and television library from the Jim Henson Company. The Jim Henson stamp pane was issued in 1995.

Muppet Characters © Muppets Holding Company, LLC., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.

The JIM HENSON image, trademark and signature are used with permission from Henson Family Properties LLC