How Toys for Tots got their iconic train logo from Walt Disney himself
Once upon a time, Toys for Tots, run by Marine Reserve, got help from the animator and businessman who created some of the most iconic children’s films of the 20th century.
More than seven decades ago, Walt Disney and his studio designed the original logo for Toys for toddlersan initiative who helps santa claus deliver toys to children from low-income families, according to a Wednesday press release from Disney about its annual Toys for Tots campaign.
As Toys for Tots enters its 75th year, the iconic Disney-designed train image is still part of the logo.
Marine Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks came up with the idea for Toys for Tots in 1947 after his wife, Diane, told him she wanted to donate homemade dolls to an agency that would distribute them to children in need. according Toys for Tots website. Such an agency did not exist.
With the help of Marines from his reserve unit in Los Angeles, Hendricks set out to change that. In its first year, the program distributed 5,000 toys to economically disadvantaged children.
Hendricks’ civilian job happened to be as public relations director at Warner Bros. Studios. Because Major regularly dated Hollywood celebrities, Walt Disney was part of Hendrick’s social world.
As a favor to his friend, Disney and its studio artists designed the original Toys for Tots poster.
The poster features a beaming Santa Claus – whose sizable belly is secured by a belt bearing an eagle, globe and anchor – carrying a bag of toys. In front of Claus runs a miniature train with three cars on which is written “Toys for Tots”.
A version of this train still appears today in the program’s logo.
The train logo is reminiscent of both toys – in the middle of the century, toy trains were one of the most popular gifts for boys – and a distribution effort.
And those are the two key parts of what Toys for Tots does: Marines and volunteers across the country collect donated toys, sort and package them, and then distribute them to children in need.
Since its founding seven and a half decades ago, Toys for Tots has distributed nearly 630 million toys to more than 280 million children, according to Disney’s press release.
After designing the logo, Walt Disney continued to support Toys for Tots by participating in public service advertising for the organization, according to Disney spokesperson Cappy Surette, a retired sea captain.
And the Disney-founded company has partnered with Toys for Tots over the decades, holding annual toy drives at its stores, resorts and online.
Irene Loewenson is a reporter for the Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an executive editor in August 2022. She graduated from Williams College, where she was the student newspaper’s editor.