Classic Roo Fashion Show Plays Up UMKC’s Walt Disney Connection

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

 Frequenters of more traditional fashion shows might have been disappointed. After all, when the models at the Classic Roo Fashion Show hit the runway, they did so without cold scowls and quick, rehearsed struts.

Instead, the University of Missouri-Kansas City models showed off the Alumni Association’s new Classic Roo line of apparel with smiles, laughter, and a touch of dramatic flair.

Basketball player Kim Nezianya, modeling a black zip up jacket, topped off each of her poses with a hair flip. Student TeeJay Hughes, modeling a polo, embraced his inner too-cool model by jokingly taking a phone call on the runway. Russell Melchert, School of Pharmacy dean, modeled a scrub top. When he reached the end of the catwalk, he took his pulse with the stethoscope that had been dangling around his neck.

From button downs to fleeces, lab coats to hoodies, the models were wearing apparel marked by a very early version of Kasey the Kangaroo, and they were having fun doing it. That attitude makes sense, given that Walt Disney, the man who drew one of the first versions of Kasey, had a pretty good sense of humor, too.

Disney sketched a kangaroo shortly after the University of Kansas City chose the Kangaroo as its mascot. At the time, the Swope Park Zoo had just acquired two new baby red kangaroos. But naysayers – specifically the editors of the university’s yearbook – began to object to the mascot.

Ultimately, Disney put the issue to rest when the Missouri-native drew his own version of the kangaroo for the cover of the university’s humor magazine. Disney’s take on a friendly, smiling kangaroo – with some very Mickey Mouse-esque features – helped solidify the kangaroo’s position as UKC’s mascot.

That story inspired the Alumni Association’s Classic Roo line of apparel. A version of Kasey – based on Disney’s original drawing – marks every piece of the Classic Roo line.

Damon Bryant, immediate past president of the alumni association, said that before he joined the Alumni Association, he wasn’t aware of UMKC’s Walt Disney connection. When he discovered it, his reaction was pretty standard. He became proud, and then pushed for more awareness.

“This sets us apart,” Bryant said. “Using the classic roo this way is just amazing. We’re embracing our heritage.”

Bryant’s sentiments were echoed by an enthusiastic audience, who hooted and cheered as the models – including Chancellor Leo Morton and former CEO of H&R Bloch, Tom Bloch – made their way down the runway.

“We wanted to get the word out, so that we could celebrate the Walt Disney connection,” Annie Presley, vice president of marketing and communications on the Alumni Association Board, said. “Now we have Kasey the classic Kangaroo on just about every piece of clothing you could imagine.”

Classic Roo clothing and accessories can be purchased online.

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