For this post, I’m going to showcase some yearbook art produced without permission. Previously, I had shared yearbooks that both Walt Disney and Leon Schlesinger had acknowledged, approved, and credited. While they did grant permission, the characters would likely have been used without their blessing anyways. It was more of a compliment to use their characters than a licensing agreement back then. Schools wouldn’t have had to ask anyways during the 30s-50s. The studios didn’t care and never would’ve asked for money. However, licensing characters for a small high school yearbook would be impossible today. In this case, with Helix High School’s 1955 yearbook, the La Mesa school most likely used the Disney characters without asking. And they’re incredibly off-model too.
These yearbooks are a good way to connect the popularity of characters during certain years. In the early 40s, Bugs Bunny was a frequent temp-theme because of his popularity during World War II. Mickey Mouse was extremely popular during the early 30s, and his stardom can be reflected through all of the yearbooks dedicated to him. In this case, the Disney influence was clearly due to Disneyland, which would open shortly after the end of the 1955 school year. Helix High is also in La Mesa, CA, not far from Anaheim. I imagine that many students and their families had plans to see the park that summer.
In 1932 when Douglas did its Mickey-themed yearbook, a letter from Walt’s desk and a signed photo were given to the school to put in the book. This was before most of Disney’s biggest ventures. All Disney had at that time was the short subjects. In 1955, he had a park in development, feature films, and about a hundred other things on his mind. So it would’ve been very unlikely that Disney would’ve responded to Helix High’s yearbook even if they sent it to him. From what I can see now in the posts I’ve been working on, the Douglas High 1932 yearbook is the only one to have a letter to the school. Many have signed photos, though (which will be showcased in the future). Anyways, here is some of the completely off-model madness produced by the students in this yearbook. A few look-like direct takings from Disney comics (a few are even possible tracings). Characters in the book are: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Grandma Duck, Scrooge McDuck, and Dopey.
“…La Mesa, CA, not far from Anaheim.” Anaheim is about 100 miles from La Mesa. The drive takes at least 90 minutes and would have taken considerably longer in 1955, before I-5 was built. A day trip to Disneyland wouldn’t have been out of the question for La Mesa families that summer, but it would have been a really long day.
Helix High seems to take pride in a Scottish heritage. Not only is the yearbook called the “Tartan”, but the school newspaper that Scrooge McDuck is reading is called the “Fling” (the Highland Fling is a traditional Scottish dance). All of the Disney characters are wearing plaid, and Mickey is wearing a kilt in a couple of drawings.
Personally I think these cartoons aren’t half bad for the work of high school kids. At least all the characters are immediately recognisable. The drawings of Goofy are similar to Art Babbitt’s original design of “Dippy Dawg”.
The way the characters are drawn – particularly Goofy – owes more to the comic books than their appearances on film or TV at the time. Regular production of theatrical shorts would have stopped at this time, with only the occasional one-shot shown with the latest Disney release. New animation of the characters would have been reserved for linking sequences in the Disneyland show alongside the vintage shorts, as well as the opening sequence for The Mickey Mouse Club.
Students probably needed something to look at when drawing too. Comics were easily accessible. This is honestly pretty good compared to next weeks work. The next post make these drawings seem like Fantasia
Looking forward to it!
Next time—more off-model madness!!
That Mickey vs. Donald was pretty funny.