Those that took some time on New Year’s Day to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade or the Rose Bowl Game may have gotten a glimpse of one of Disney’s most iconic characters in an unexpected role.
For decades now, the University of Oregon’s mascot has been none other than Donald Duck. But what is more interesting is the story behind the (eventually) legal use of Disney’s #2 cartoon character.
Owing to Oregon’s wet weather, the athletes from the University of Oregon have been known as ‘webfoots’ for more than a century. But, unhappy with that nickname, sports reporters of the 1930’s started calling them ‘ducks” and that is about when a mascot named ‘Puddles’ first started to appear.
But, once again, a change was coming, and with the wild popularity of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck cartoons during the 1940’s, student publications began to use Donald’s likeness when referring to their own ducks. Evidently, Walt Disney himself was aware of ‘infringement’ but did nothing formal, that is until 1947.
Wanting to bring things out into the open, Oregon athletic director Leo Harris arranged a meeting with Walt Disney himself and with a handshake agreement, Disney is said to have allowed Donald to be used by the University. Unfortunately, no formal records were kept and by the 1970’s after Walt’s passing, the arrangement was called into question by the Disney Company.
Without legal papers to prove their position, the University produced a photograph of Walt wearing a lettermans jacket with the the Donald-like mascot logo on the front. Assuming this was confirmation of the wishes of the late founder of their company, a formal agreement was reached allowing the continued use of Donald.
Quite an interesting story….Oh, and by the way, the University of Oregon unfortunately lost their Rose Bowl game to Ohio State, 26 to 17. I wonder of Donald had one of his tantrums we know so well??