The Spies Report
January 17, 2022 posted by Kamden Spies

Yearbooks #5 – USC (El Rodeo) 1942

This will be the first posting of a yearbook with art directly from the Disney studio. I’d like to share a couple of these, which I’m searching to find copies of. This is the only one I’ve seen so far from a college, though (and the only one after the early 30s). This art in this yearbook was provided directly by the Disney studio. Unlike Douglas High School, Disney may have been compensated for using the drawings. However, USC probably would’ve only had to pay for the art directly from the studio. Back then, studios didn’t care if their characters were used.

A couple of the drawings look to be made for this book. Others come from war insignias, posters, etc. Some are from the Donald Duck comic strip, such as the school supplies one and the one where Donald Duck in bandages. Many characters were used here, notably Donald Duck. The characters are used sporadically in the yearbook, over five hundred pages long. The Disney characters are just an added bonus to this well-produced reflection on their 1942 class year. While most come from elsewhere, it’s still fun to look at.

The drawing of Donald holding a degree seems made for this (or a different for a war training camp or another university). The victory march drawing looks like a cover of the Mickey Mouse magazine, which was originally not war themed. The drawing of Donald on the phone has been used endlessly and adapted from a 1938 strip featured below. The origins of the freshman varsity drawing comes from another Disney publicity drawing featuring Donald ranking celebrities which is also displayed below.

That famous Donald on the phone pose may have come from here – says David Gerstein.

Thanks to Dave Gerstein for helping identify all of these image origins.


  • Walt Disney was awarded an honorary Master of Science degree by the University of Southern California in 1938. (He also received an honorary Master of Arts from both Harvard and Yale that year.) Therefore I think it unlikely that the university would have been expected to pay Disney for the use of images that, for the most part, had already been used elsewhere.

    Years later Walt and Lillian’s daughter Diane attended USC, where she met her husband, Trojans football star and future Disney CEO Ron Miller.

    I was intrigued by the mention of the Coliseum in the paragraph about the 1942 graduation ceremony. Last year, commencement exercises for USC’s combined graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 were held at the Los Angeles Coliseum — for the first time in 70 years.

  • I wonder if Mickey in the cap-and-gown illustration is holding a Phi Beta Kappa (or some other Greek-letter organisation) key rather than a diploma. If you Google “Phi Beta Kappa key” you’ll see that the size and shape seem right.

    • That is indeed a Phi Beta Kappa key.

  • The Spirit of ’76 illustration actually originated as the cover of the July 1939 issue of “Mickey Mouse Magazine” (a precursor to “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories” which will debut the following year) which was drawn by the studio’s publicity artist, Hank Porter. Years later, the illustration was used as the logo for the Disney Park’s America on Parade event during the U.S. Bicentennial. Here’s an old D23 article by Fanning about the parade:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *