With the recent Epic Mickey video games, many Disney fanatics were thrilled to see the return of one of Disney’s first cartoon characters. Other Disney fans were introduced to this classic character for the first time with these video games. So, who is this lovable but forgotten Disney character? None other than Oswald The Lucky Rabbit!
After completing work on the Alice Comedies, Disney began looking for new opportunities. It just so happened that at the same time Universal was contemplating entering the world of cartoons with a new cartoon character. Disney’s distributor at the time, Charles Mintz, suggested Walt Disney and his chief animator Ub Iwerks for the task of creating a new character for Universal. After signing a contract with Universal, Walt and Ub created Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in 1927.
The first Oswald short created was entitled Poor Papa. This short was met with criticism from Mintz who claimed Oswald looked too old. So, Disney created another Oswald short, Trolley Troubles, which would go on to be the first Oswald short released on September 5, 1927. This cartoon was met with much more positive feedback and was followed by 25 more Oswald shorts. Poor Papa was later released on August 6, 1928.
In the spring of 1928, Walt Disney met with Mintz in New York to negotiate a better contract for his work on the Oswald cartoons; However, due to the tough economy, Mintz offered Walt a 20% pay cut. Rather than agree to this pay cut, Walt decided to leave his job with Mintz. This allowed Mintz to retain full rights to the Oswald character. Universal later terminated their contract with Charles Mintz, opting to create the Oswald cartoons themselves. It would be nearly 80 years before Oswald was able to return to Disney.
In 2006, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger proposed a trade with NBC Universal. Among the assets Disney would gain in this trade was Oswald The Lucky Rabbit. In exchange for these rights, Disney sent ESPN sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC Sports. While you might think being traded for a cartoon character would be a little disheartening, Michaels was actually thrilled to be traded to NBC. His broadcasting partner, John Madden, had already made the move to NBC, and Michaels was hoping to join him.
When Bob Iger took the position of CEO for The Walt Disney Company, he told Walt’s daughter Diane that he intended to bring Oswald back to the company. After the completion of the NBC trade, Diane Disney Miller expressed her appreciation that Iger had made good on his promise. She, as well as many Disney fans, looked forward to having the lucky rabbit as a part of the company.
With Oswald once again a Disney character, Disney was able to move forward with creating the Epic Mickey video games. Have you enjoyed watching an Oswald short or seeing Oswald in the Epic Mickey video games? Let us know in the comments below!