Gonzales emigrated from Spain to the USA in 1918 via Ellis Island, and was employed at the Walt Disney Studios in September 1936, where he initially worked as an "in-betweener" on the motion picture, Snow White.
Later working in the comic strip department, Gonzales took over the illustrating of the Mickey Mouse Sunday page from Floyd Gottfredson in 1938. Only interrupted by his military service for the USA in World War II from 1942 to 1945, Gonzales performed this job until his retirement in 1981. During the war, he worked for the U.S. Army as an artist animating short newsreel clips promoting war bonds and the war effort.
Bill Walsh wrote the scripts for the Sunday pages from 1946 to 1963. These pages told funny stories from Mickey's everyday life (Mickey was portrayed as a "guy next door" - a middle class citizen with a normal life), as well as doing sometimes surrealistic gags featuring Gonzales' specialty, Goofy. Gonzales and Walsh also introduced a new character to the Disney universe, the intelligent and witty bird Ellsworth, in 1950. In general, the Sunday pages have status as better than Gottfredson's daily gags of the time (also written by Walsh).
Beside the Sunday pages, Gonzales did several other works for Disney. He inked Donald Duck and Scamp dailies, illustrated newspaper comic adaptations of different Disney films, like Song Of The South, and illustrated some Disney books.
Gonzales grew up in Westfield, Massachusetts, where he went to school and picked tobacco during summer jobs as a boy. He later lived and went to art school in New York City. His father, walking home from work one late-summer evening in 1936, tore a flyer from a telephone pole and gave it to Manuel after dinner. The flyer invited artists to bring their portfolios to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a job opportunity. Manuel was interviewed and hired on the spot, given $200 and told to report in two weeks to the Hyperion Studios in Los Angeles to work as an animator. His first assignment was as an "in-betweener" on what was to be the first animated full-length major motion picture, Snow White, for a man he'd never heard of before named Walt Disney.
Manuel received two "Mousecars" personally from Walt Disney in his career. The Mousecar was a much coveted award, given to the artists who had most significantly impacted the company's success. Modeled after the Oscar, which is awarded annually for achievement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Mousecar is a bronze statuette of Mickey Mouse in his trademark pose on a black base. Walt, who was very fond of his artists, used to joke that Manuel had signed Walt's name (which Manuel would sign on every comic strip he'd draw) more than Walt himself had in his lifetime.
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JG4D-BPL : accessed 26 Feb 2013), Manuel Gonzales, 31 March 1993; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).