The very first depiction of Corky the Hornet was crafted in 1933 by then sophomore art major Paul Edwards, whose drawing was selected by the university for the winner in a contest. Edwards, who recently enjoyed his 102nd birthday, reflected on his journey from creating ESU’s mascot to becoming an animator for Disney.

“The night of the contest I had sudden inspiration, and I went to the table and drew the first Corky mascot,” Edwards said. “I’m proud of the guy.”

Edwards was actually not the first pick, with another student’s work having been selected, however that student withdrew, allowing Edwards to claim the victory.

In the 1930s Emporia State was the Kansas State Teachers College and before Corky, they were called “Yaps.”

The university sought a change and at first they wanted to call the new mascots “Yellow Jackets,” but the name was too long and thus Hornets became the chosen mascot.

Edwards eventually found a bulletin from Disney asking for workers to come to California for animation. Edwards answered the call and traveled to California. The second day he was there, he met Don Graham in the studio, who trained him. Graham was known for training some of Disney’s top animators.

“He said, ‘Edwards, you have potential, but you need art school,’ so I enrolled in Chouinard Art Institute, now known as California Institute of the Arts,” Edwards said.

As an animator for Disney, Edwards worked on three different feature animations, including creating Mr. Bluebird for the song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” used in the 1946 film “Song of the South.”

He also worked on “Little Toot” and finally “Mickey and the Beanstalk.” However, Edwards eventually got caught up in a worker strike.

“I didn’t have seniority, so I was let go and invited to come back later, but I had already committed myself to something else,” Edwards said.

This something else was a commission from General Motors in Detroit, where Edwards worked on a cartoon for the organization, as well as for other animators who were new to the profession.

Edwards resides in Santa Barbara, California, and to this day still designs Corkies for special ESU events.

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