That song was written in 1932 when Mickey was the most popular character in the world. Everybody wanted a piece of him, and his success spread like wildfire. High school mascots were not as common in the 1930s and 40s as they are today. Today, every high school has some kind of mascot. During this era, however, schools without mascots would create themes for their yearbooks. Frequently during the 1930s and 40s, cartoon characters would be used as temp-mascots for their yearbooks. At a time when characters weren’t as protected by their major corporations, Disney and Leon Schlesinger studios would lend their stars for free to high schools as temp-yearbook mascots. In the early 1930s, Walt Disney would even send a letter and signed photo of Mickey to schools that requested for Mickey to be a temp-mascot.
For this series of posts, I’m going to be showcasing some of the art featured in yearbooks with major animated stars. Much of the art was done by the students. Usually, the studios would permit the schools to use the characters. Occasionally, some schools used Mickey or other stars without permission. On rare occasions, the Disney studio artists had supposedly designed some yearbooks themselves (from what I can tell, that was only with universities with the budgets for elaborate yearbooks).
What’s interesting about these yearbooks isn’t just really the signed photo from Walt or the fact that Disney is a yearbook theme. It’s how the characters are used that makes the books stand out. In this post, I’m showcasing some art from the 1932 Arizona Copper Kettle, Douglas High School’s yearbook in which Mickey was the theme. The yearbook went so far even to have Minnie’s Yoo Hoo as the school anthem. Mickey is used to his full advantage. He’s used at least once on almost every page of the yearbook. He’s in most of the page corners, in almost every column header, and is featured somewhere in every school recreation page. A few examples are like the Superintendent’s message, which is framed with Mickey at the top. Another is a description of student Sam Johnson who’s description starts with a drawing of Mickey. Featured here are much the drawings that the students did. While they may be off-model, they’re still great to see!
Click the following to enlarge: