Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
In last week’s column I briefly mentioned how Walt Disney lost the rights to a cartoon character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Now I realize that you may be sitting back in your chair, drinking your coffee with your feet propped up on your desk wondering to yourself, “Oswald, the what?” Let’s sit back (even further) and enjoy a brief history lesson on Walt Disney’s and Ub Iwerks’ first big cartoon sensation.
At this time (the time being the late 1920’s) Walt Disney was under contract with Universal Pictures to create cartoons that featured funny animals. With characters like Felix the Cat becoming a huge sensation, Universal had to step its game up if they wanted to compete in the animation field. Disney and Iwerks created their first cartoon featuring their new Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, called Poor Papa in 1927. However, the cartoon’s production quality was rather bad, so Universal rejected it. Back at the drawing board, Disney and Iwerks redesigned their character and created their second Oswald cartoon, Trolley Troubles (also released in 1927). This cartoon became so popular that Universal wanted them to create more.
Let’s keep in mind that the great stock market crash of 1929 is just around the corner, so the effects of what was to come was already being felt by America’s biggest entertainment industry. Disney wanted a bigger cut of the profit, but when he went to speak with his producer Charles Mintz, Mintz could barely offer him anything. Disappointed, Disney left Universal, but by doing so also left Oswald in the hands of their animation department. It’s a bummer to lose one of your own creations, but this just fueled a fire for Disney and Iwerks to create something bold and new. A brand new character that Disney and Iwerks will be able to keep the rights to. This character became known as Mickey Mouse.
Long story short, Universal kept making Oswald cartoons and Disney (the empire) finally reclaimed the rights for this character in 2006. But hey, it’s Saturday morning so let’s stop talking and watch some cartoons!
Trolley Troubles (1927)
Sky Scrappers (1928)