Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Oswald The Rabbit! Disney's First Cartoon Character.

Rabbit, A Pet Rabbit, Gray Rabbit  Before Disney became an independent business owner and film maker, he produced a cartoon for Universal Studios.  His creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, predates Mickey Mouse by one year.  Oswald resembles Mickey's character but with a rabbitish face and ears. 

Way back in the early 1920's when Walt Disney worked with Ub Iworks, they created a version of Alice in Wonderland with a live action girl integrated into a cartoon background with cartoon characters.  This process was the basis for Mary Poppins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and others.

This Alice was never commercially released but used to attract investors who began producing the 56 "Alice Comedies" which were then released.  In 1927, the distributor of these films negotiated an agreement to make 26 shorts starring the Disney created Oswald the Rabbit because Universal wanted to re-enter the cartoon market.

As per instructions, Disney and his partner began creating the first short "Poor Papa" but no one was happy with that first movie, so Disney redesigned Oswald to be sleeker with a personality of his own to set him apart from other cartoon creatures of the time.  He wanted Oswald to be Oswald rather than a string of gags.  The redone short came out two weeks later and they'd succeeded.  They created a movie with a character who was much more entertaining and the short received rave reviews.

The man who set up this opportunity, renegotiated the contract with Universal to produce more Oswald shorts without using Disney but instead, hiring many of his staff to do the work.  Unfortunately, this caused Disney to loose the rights to his creations but on the train trip back to California from New York City, he came up with Mickey Mouse

In addition, many of the animators who'd left Disney's employment, returned within a year to work for him once again.Universal kept Oswald and continued to make 26 shorts through the 1920's and 30's, up until 1943.  Many of the later ones were done by the man who created Woody Woodpecker but they were not of the quality as those produce by Disney and his crew.

If you get a look at one of the shorts, you'll see how much like Mickey, Oswald appears.  Over time, these Oswald movies became more gag heavy and lost the elegance Disney infused so Oswald disappeared into the annals of history. Within the last year,  one copy of "Neck n Neck", an early Oswald cartoon was discovered in Osaka Japan in the possession of a Japanese man who acquired it over 70 years ago.

Unfortunately, Disney was unable to get the rights back to Oswald during his life time but back in 2006 when sports commentator, Al Michaels, wanted to move from Disney owned ABC studios back to NBC,  the company took advantage of this and made returning the rights to them as part of the deal.  No one knew anything about Oswald at NBC but they researched, found the character and agreed to return Oswald and his rights back to Disney.

Once Disney had the rights, the could bring Oswald back in the form of a video game and they could begin selling merchandise to the public.  When Disney lost Oswald, he made sure he'd protect all his creations so no one could take them from him and never again lost anything.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.

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