Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

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Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Epic Mickey render.png
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as he appears in the Epic Mickey games
First appearance Trolley Troubles
September 5, 1927
Created by Walt Disney
Ub Iwerks
Voiced by Bill Nolan (1929)
Pinto Colvig (1930–1931)
Mickey Rooney (1931–1932)
Various (1932–1943)
June Foray (1943-2010)
Frank Welker (2010–)
Relatives Floyd and Lloyd (original sons until Disney brought him back), Mickey Mouse (younger brother), Ortensia the cat/Sadie the Cat (girlfriend), Fanny (ex-girlfriend), The Bunny Children (children)

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (also known as Oswald the Rabbit or Oswald Rabbit) is an anthropomorphic rabbit and animated cartoon character created by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney for funny animal films distributed by Universal Pictures in the 1920s and 1930s. Walt Disney was eventually separated from the project and went on to create Mickey Mouse. Charles Mintz, and later Walter Lantz, took over production, creating new Oswald cartoons until 1943.

In 2003 Buena Vista Games pitched a concept for an Oswald-themed video game to Disney President and COO Bob Iger, who then became committed to bringing Oswald back to Disney. In 2006, nearly 80 years after Disney left Universal, The Walt Disney Company managed to acquire the intellectual property of Oswald and the catalog of Disney-produced Oswald films (with NBC/Universal effectively trading Oswald for the services of Al Michaels as play by play announcer on NBC Sunday Night Football).

Oswald returned to prominence in Disney's 2010 video game, Epic Mickey. The game's metafictional plot parallels Oswald's real-world history, dealing with the character's feelings of abandonment by Disney, and jealousy towards Mickey Mouse. He has since appeared in Disney theme parks and comic books, as well as two follow-up games, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion. Most recently, Oswald made a cameo appearance in the 2013 animated short Get a Horse!.

Characteristics[edit]

During his days under Disney, Oswald was one of the first cartoon characters that had personality. Not only were gags used, but his humor differed in terms of what he used to make people laugh. He presented physical humor, used situations to his advantage, and frustration comedy best shown in the cartoon The Mechanical Cow. He would make use of animal limbs to solve problems and even use his own limbs as props and gags. He could be squished as if he was made of rubber and could turn anything into tools. His distinct personality was inspired by Douglas Fairbanks for his courageous and adventurous attitude as seen in the cartoon short Oh, What a Knight.[1]

History[edit]

Creation under Disney[edit]

Poster of Trolley Troubles

In 1927, because of cost and technical restrictions, Disney and his chief animator Ub Iwerks decided to end their work on the Alice Comedies series in search of new creative opportunities. Coincidentally, Universal Studios wanted to get into the cartoon business and needed a cartoon character of its own. So Disney's distributor Charles Mintz told Disney and Iwerks to create a new character they could sell to Universal. Wanting to make cartoons with an all-animated look, Disney signed a contract with Universal Studios leading to the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Universal's first cartoon series.[1][2]

Disney chose to make the character a rabbit since there were so many animated cats (Felix the Cat, Krazy Kat) at the time. Universal was given the right to name the rabbit and it selected a name out of a hat.[2]

The first Oswald cartoon, Poor Papa, was rejected by the Universal studio heads for its poor production quality and the sloppiness and age of Oswald.[3] Disney, together with Iwerks, decided to create a second cartoon titled Trolley Troubles featuring a much younger, neater Oswald. The short, released on September 5, 1927,[4] officially launched the series and proved to be Disney's greatest success to date. Poor Papa was finally released a year later renamed Mickey's Nightmare.[3] Oswald the Lucky Rabbit became Disney's first major hit in 1927, rivaling other popular cartoon characters, such as Felix the Cat and Koko the Clown.[1][5]

In the spring of 1928, Disney traveled to New York City in hopes of negotiating a more profitable contract with his producer Charles Mintz. But as economic problems were apparent at the time, Mintz figured Disney should settle for a 20% cut, although large turnarounds were promised if the studio's finances showed considerable growth. While his fellow animators remained at Mintz's studio, Disney decided to quit his job and therefore leave the character he created. On his long train ride home, he came up with an idea to create another character, and retain rights to it. He and Iwerks would go on to develop a new cartoon in secret, starring a new character which would soon become the most successful and popular cartoon character in film history and later become the foundation of a global entertainment empire. The first Mickey Mouse cartoon to be filmed, Plane Crazy, was produced as a silent in the summer of 1928 although not released until it got a soundtrack after the first Mickey Mouse film with a synchronized soundtrack, Steamboat Willie, reached the screen that fall, became a major hit, and eclipsed Oswald.[citation needed]

Universal takes direct control[edit]

A version of Oswald redesigned by Walter Lantz.

Mintz, meanwhile, opened his own studio consisting primarily of former Disney employees, where he continued to produce Oswald cartoons, among them the first Oswald with sound, Hen Fruit (1929). While things were going in Mintz's favor, animators Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising asked Universal head Carl Laemmle to remove Mintz, suggesting they would be the ones to continue the Oswald series. But Laemmle denied their requests and even terminated Mintz's contract, opting to have the Oswald cartoons produced right on the Universal lot instead.[6]

By a coincidence, Disney and Mintz each produced nine cartoons the first year and 17 the next, before Oswald was taken over by others. Laemmle selected Walter Lantz to produce the new series of Oswald shorts (the first of which was 1929's Race Riot). Lantz consulted Disney about Oswald and he gave Lantz his blessing to continue the Oswald series as the Mickey Mouse shorts had become more successful, so the two became close friends.[7]

Over the next decade, Lantz would produce 142 Oswald cartoons, making for a grand total of 194 films that the character starred in, spanning the work of all three producers. After Lantz took over production in 1929, the character's look was changed to some degree over the following years: Oswald got white gloves on his hands, shoes on his feet, a shirt, a "cuter" face with larger eyes, a bigger head, and shorter ears (pictured right). With 1935's Case of the Lost Sheep, an even more major makeover took place: the character was drawn more realistically now, with white fur rather than black, shoes are removed, plus wearing suspenders instead of a shirt and shorts. This new Oswald model was adapted directly from a non-Oswald character in another Lantz cartoon: the Cinecolor "Fox and the Rabbit" (1935), released some two months earlier as the last of the early Cartune Classics series.

The cartoons containing the new, white-furred Oswald seemed to be different from their predecessors in more than one way, as the stories themselves became softer. Minor changes in the drawing style would continue, too. With Happy Scouts (1938), the second-to-last Oswald film produced, the rabbit's fur went from being all-white to a combination of white and gray.

Unlike the Disney shorts, in which Oswald did not speak, Lantz's cartoons began to feature actual dialogue for Oswald, although most of the cartoons were still silent to begin with. Animator Bill Nolan did the voice of Oswald in Cold Turkey, the first Lantz cartoon with dialogue, and the following year Pinto Colvig, who was working as an animator and gag man at the studio, started voicing Oswald. When Colvig left the studio in 1931, Mickey Rooney took over the voicing of Oswald until early in the following year. Starting in 1932, Lantz ceased to use a regular voice actor for Oswald, and many studio staff members (including Lantz himself) would take turns in voicing the character over the years. June Foray provided Oswald's voice in The Egg Cracker Suite, which was the final theatrical short to feature the character.

Oswald made a cameo appearance in the first animated sequence with both sound and color (two-strip Technicolor), a 2½ minute animated sequence of the live action movie The King of Jazz (1930), produced by Laemmle for Universal. However, it was not until 1934 that Oswald got his own color sound cartoons in two-strip Technicolor, Toyland Premiere and Springtime Serenade. The Oswald cartoons then returned to black-and-white, except for the last one, The Egg Cracker Suite (1943), released as a part of the Swing Symphonies series. Egg Cracker was also the only Oswald cartoon to use three-strip Technicolor. But before he was permanently retired, Oswald made a final cameo appearance in The Woody Woodpecker Polka (1951), also in three-strip Technicolor, which by then had become the norm in the cartoon industry.

Career in comics[edit]

Oswald and his surrogate sons. After a few years on screen, Oswald settled to be featured in comic books. This version of the character is also designed by Walter Lantz.

Oswald made his first comic book appearance in 1935, when DC Comics featured him in the series New Fun (later More Fun). His adventures, drawn by Al Stahl, were serialized one page to an issue for the magazine's first year, after which they ceased. The original black-furred version of Oswald was featured, even though Oswald was by this time a white rabbit on screen.

Oswald's second run in the comics began in 1942, when a new Oswald feature was initiated in Dell Comics' New Funnies, this time modeled after the latest cartoon version of Oswald and influenced by the drawing style of other Lantz comic book characters at the time. Following the typical development seen in most new comics, the New Funnies stories slowly morphed the character in their own direction.

At the start of the New Funnies feature, Oswald existed in a milieu reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh: he was portrayed as a live stuffed animal, living in a forest together with other anthropomorphized toys. These included Toby Bear, Maggie Lou the wooden doll, Hi-Yah Wahoo the turtle-faced Indian, and Woody Woodpecker—depicted as a mechanical doll filled with nuts and bolts (hence his "nutty" behavior). In 1944, with the addition of writer John Stanley, the stuffed animal motif was dropped, as were Maggie Lou, Woody, and Wahoo. Oswald and Toby became flesh and blood characters living as roommates in "Lantzville". Initially drawn by Dan Gormley, the series was later drawn by the likes of Dan Noonan and Lloyd White.

In 1948, Toby adopted two orphan rabbits for Oswald to raise. Floyd and Lloyd, "Poppa Oswald's" new sons, stuck around; Toby was relegated to the sidelines, disappearing for good in 1953. Later stories focused on Oswald adventuring with his sons, seeking odd jobs, or simply protecting the boys from the likes of rabbit-eating Reddy Fox and (from 1961) con man Gabby Gator—a character adapted from contemporary Woody Woodpecker cartoon shorts. This era of Oswald comics typically featured the art of Jack Bradbury, known also for his Mickey Mouse work.

Post-1960s, Oswald comics tended to be produced outside the United States, for example in Mexico and Italy. Through the end of the 20th century, the foreign comics carried on the look and story style of the Dell Oswald stories. More recently, they featured a "retro" attempt at recreating the original Disney Oswald.

In 2010, Oswald starred in the digi-comic series Epic Mickey: Tales of the Wasteland, a prequel to the Epic Mickey video game, sharing what the Wasteland was like before Mickey arrived there.

In 2011, Oswald starred in the Norwegian Disney comic "En magisk jul!", written by David Gerstein and drawn by Mark Kausler. It is based and takes place in the times of the classic Oswald shorts from 1927/1928.[8]

Return to Disney ownership: the Al Michaels trade[edit]

Al Michaels acknowledged that his contract negotiations had effectively traded him for Oswald, and spoke favorably of the deal.[9]

In February 2006, Disney CEO Bob Iger initiated a trade with NBC Universal in which a number of minor assets, including the rights to Oswald, were acquired by The Walt Disney Company in exchange for sending sportscaster Al Michaels from Disney's ABC and ESPN to NBC Sports.[2] At the time, ABC had lost its contract for NFL broadcast rights, and despite recently signing a long-term contract with ESPN, Michaels was interested in rejoining broadcast partner John Madden at NBC for the Sunday night package. Universal transferred the copyright to the character to Disney, and in exchange, Disney released Michaels from his employment contract, allowing him to sign with NBC.

The deal included the rights to the character and the original 26 short films made by Disney (namely, most of the Oswald films produced from 1927 to 1928). Rights to the Winkler and Lantz/Universal-produced Oswald films are kept by Universal and other related products was not included, and therefore Oswald appears in both Disney releases and in Universal's Woody Woodpecker and Friends collection. Iger had been interested in the property because of an internal design document for a video game, which would ultimately become Epic Mickey.[10] Walt Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, issued the following statement after the deal was announced:

When Bob [Iger] was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun.[11]

Around the same time, the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets made a similar deal, the Chiefs giving the Jets a draft pick as compensation for releasing coach Herm Edwards from his contract. Referring to this trade, Michaels said:

Oswald is definitely worth more than a fourth-round draft choice. I'm going to be a trivia answer someday.[9]

In January 2007, a T-shirt line from Comme des Garçons seems to have constituted the first new Disney Oswald merchandise. Following in December was a two-disc DVD set, The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, included in Wave Seven of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series. Several Oswald collectors' figurines and a limited edition grayscale plush toy appeared shortly after the DVD set's release. The Disney Store also began to introduce Oswald into its merchandise lines, starting with a canvas print and Christmas ornament that became available Fall 2007. A standard-issue color plush toy matching Oswald's appearance in Epic Mickey appeared in late 2010. This was followed by an ongoing roll-out of clothing and other products at the Disney Store, various chain stores, and the Disney California Adventure theme park, including the popular "Oswald Ears" hats (similar style to Mickey Mouse Club caps).

Video game hero[edit]

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two marked the first appearance of Oswald as a playable character, alongside Mickey Mouse.

Oswald is one of the main characters in the video game franchise Epic Mickey. The world of Epic Mickey is called "Wasteland" and it is similar to Disneyland but for forgotten Disney characters, including Oswald,[12] who rules the place.[13] Actually, Oswald fashioned it after Disneyland, but he put images of himself in the place of Mickey in the statue with Walt Disney and other places throughout the town.[14] Oswald was the first cartoon character to be "forgotten" and inhabit Wasteland.[14] Oswald dislikes Mickey for stealing his popularity that he felt he deserved.[15] Oswald tries to make Wasteland a better place for forgotten characters, especially his "bunny children" and his wife Ortensia.[15]

The Blot, the main villain of the game, put Oswald's wife in suspended animation by soaking her in thinner.[16] At the end of Epic Mickey, Ortensia is revived by a rain of paint caused by the death of the Blot, Oswald and Ortensia kiss and cuddle, and Mickey and Oswald have also reconciled as brothers.[17] Oswald accidentally breaks the cork that keeps the Blot in a large glass bottle known as the Jug after finding out that Mickey accidentally ruined Wasteland. The short Oswald cartoon Oh, What a Knight was also included as an unlockable cartoon in the game. The recently discovered short Poor Papa was originally going to be in the game, but couldn't because Junction Point didn't have enough time to scan the short into the game before its release.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is a video game that was released on November 18, 2012.[18] It is the second game in the Epic Mickey series and for the first time, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a playable character in the game. Mickey Mouse makes his return to the alternate world of cartoon wasteland, a place inhabited with 80 years of forgotten Disney characters and Disney theme park attractions. The two team up, with Mickey wielding a magical paint brush with the power of paint and paint thinner while Oswald holds a powerful remote control which can command electricity.

Under previous Epic Mickey game designer Warren Spector, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two follows the previous game mechanics as well as adding a musical element. The characters of the game advance through levels with original music and lyrics. Each character will have a specific song that they sing and based on the choices one makes throughout the game, the music will change. The musical scores were created by Emmy award-winning composer James Dooley and lyricist Mike Himelstein.

Unlike the previous game, Epic Mickey 2 features full voiced cut-scenes with Frank Welker (Welker had also provided Oswald's vocal effects in the previous game) as Oswald's first voice actor in a Disney's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit production (Bill Nolan was Oswald's first voice actor in 1929 when Walter Lantz produced the Oswald cartoons). Disney has also introduced authentic Disney character voices which provide direction from the various characters to the players. The game contains new ideas from Disney and supports gaming mechanics such as PlayStation Move.[19][20]

Using Ub Iwerk's sketchbook drawings in 2012, archivists recreated a scene from an Oswald cartoon, Harem Scarem.[2]

Merchandise[edit]

A collectable sculpture released by Disney featuring Walt Disney holding a monochrome Oswald in his hand.

Shortly after the rabbit starred in a series of twenty-six black and white animated silent shorts between 1927 and 1928, he became the first Disney character to successfully sell merchandise: a chocolate-covered marshmallow candy bar, a stencil set, and a pin-backed button.[21] However, Disney lost the rights to Oswald shortly thereafter and the production of merchandise was put to a halt. Not long before Disney regained the rights to Oswald, Universal started marketing the character actively overseas. Disney slowly reintroduced him with merchandise such as shirts, figurines and a DVD of his original cartoons.[22] In 2004 and 2005, Oswald products became popular in Japan, and were primarily made available as prizes in UFO catchers. Typically manufactured by Taito and/or Medicom, these products included puppets, inflatable dolls, keyrings, and watches. They were generally based on a navy-blue version of the original Disney/Iwerks character.[23] Oswald made his first Disneyland appearance at Tokyo Disneyland on March 31, 2010 as an Easter float.[citation needed] At the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, a poster of Oswald can be seen at the Town Square Theater where Mickey Mouse is available for meet and greets. Also inside Mickey's meeting area, a doodle of Oswald and Mickey can be seen. Clothing products are also available at Disneyland Paris in Walt Disney Studios Park.[citation needed]

Theme park appearances[edit]

An Oswald costumed character showed up at the parks in Florida and California on the day Disney reacquired Oswald, but made no further appearances at the time.

In 2010, Tokyo Disneyland produced a float featuring Oswald for their first Easter holiday event.[24]

In 2011, Oswald appeared with other old Disney characters on the Construction walls for the Disney California Adventure Park new entrance.[25]

In 2011, Oswald appeared on a poster as a magician's rabbit in Town Square Theater in Magic Kingdom park.[26]

In 2011, Oswald appeared on various items of clothing available for purchase at Disneyland Paris in the shops on Main Street USA.

In 2012, Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort reopened with a new entry area called Buena Vista Street, themed to 1920s Los Angeles. Oswald's Service Station is a 1920s gas station (housing a gift shop) located at the north end of the street and features Oswald prominently in its logo. Disney California Adventure also sells Oswald merchandise, while next door Disneyland Park offers Mickey Mouse merchandise exclusively.

In 2012, Oswald ear hats appeared at the Emporium at Walt Disney World in Florida.

On April 1, 2014, a new Oswald costumed character began meet-and-greets at Tokyo DisneySea.

Filmography[edit]

Reissues[edit]

  • Some earlier Oswald shorts are in the public domain, and have thus been available for some years in various lower quality video and DVD compilations.
  • A professional restoration of the surviving Disney Oswald shorts, under the title The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, appeared as a two-disc volume in Walt Disney Treasures: Wave Seven, released December 11, 2007. The cartoons included Ozzie of the Mounted, Tall Timber, and a much extended version of Bright Lights, all newly rediscovered at the time.
  • Six Walter Lantz Oswald cartoons, including Hells Heels and Toyland Premiere, have been included in The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection DVD.
  • Five additional Lantz Oswald shorts, including Wax Works and Springtime Serenade, are included in The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 DVD.
  • The full version of Oh, What a Knight is included as an unlockable cartoon in Epic Mickey by collecting various film reels in the game.

Reception[edit]

  • Oswald won Best New Character in both Readers' Choice and Editors' Choice in Nintendo Power's Best of 2010 awards.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Oswald Comes Home" (DVD). (2007). Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit (Disc 1). Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc.
  2. ^ a b c d "Could Oswald the Lucky Rabbit have been bigger than Mickey?". BBC. December 3, 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Poor Papa". Big Cartoon DataBase, April 13, 2012
  4. ^ Susanin, Timothy S.; Miller, Diane Disney (April 7, 2011). Walt Before Mickey: Disney's Early Years, 1919–1928. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 78. ISBN 9781604739602. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ Rukstad, Michael; David Collis (5 January 2009). "The Walt Disney Company: The Entertainment King". Harvard Business School. 
  6. ^ "Oswald the Rabbit returns: Walt Disney’s lost bunny hops into 21st century". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  7. ^ Simpson, Wade. "Wednesdays with Wade: Oswald Comes Home". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  8. ^ En magisk jul! at InDucks
  9. ^ a b ESPN – Stay 'tooned: Disney gets Oswald for Al Michaels
  10. ^ Chris Remo, Jake Rodkin, Sean Vanaman (2011-03-10). "The Idle Thumbs Conf Grenade 2011: GDC 2011: Games Kasavin". Idle Thumbs (Podcast). Event occurs at 46:40–53:10. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ Walt Disney's 1927 Animated Star Returns to Disney, a February 2006 press release
  12. ^ GoNintendo. (2009). Game Informer reveals the first information on Epic Mickey. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from http://gonintendo.com/viewstory.php?id=100611
  13. ^ Miller, Matt. Gameinformer. Epic Mickey keeps looking better. (2010). Retrieved May 30, 2011, from http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2010/06/18/epic-mickey-keeps-looking-better-and-better.aspx
  14. ^ a b YouTube. Epic Mickey- All Cutscenes Part 1. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xzOlseu_yE&
  15. ^ a b YouTube. Epic Mickey- All Cutscenes Part 2. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TeZkFu7vd0&
  16. ^ YouTube. Epic Mickey- All Cutscenes Part 3. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts_30wE2_04&
  17. ^ Monorailvideos. YouTube. Disney Epic Mickey- Perfect Good Ending (Heart Touching Ending), and now he is the elder brother of Mickey. Retrieved May 31, 2011, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNo1Q2n-0GY&
  18. ^ Stewart, John. "Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two settles a release date". Gaming Examiner. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  19. ^ "‘Epic Mickey 2’ Release Date 2012: New Games For 3DS & Wii, XBox, PS3 [VIDEO TRAILER]". 
  20. ^ "Game creator dishes on 'Epic Mickey' sequel". 
  21. ^ "OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT Mickey's Predecessor". 
  22. ^ "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Jeff Heimbuch traces the sad history of Oswald the(Un)Lucky Rabbit". 
  23. ^ Cartoon Research: Oswald Rabbit toys
  24. ^ Oswald Float photograph on deviantART
  25. ^ Oswald spotted at Disney Land (kinda)
  26. ^ "Mickey Mouse shows you around backstage at Town Square Theater at Disney's Magic Kingdom". YouTube. March 30, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  27. ^ [1]

External links[edit]