Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Walt Disney is in the process of releasing a series of Treasures DVDs presenting assorted gems from its past. The latest in the series features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Oswald has been rather left out of Disney mythology, largely because Disney lost hold of the rights. Oswald was Disney’s all-animation cartoon series, preceded by the live action and animation mix of Alice in Cartoonland, but itself preceding the Mouse. The animation is basic by the standards that Disney would introduce in the 1930s, but is graced with enough inventive touches and decent gags to please more than just the animation archaeologist.

Twenty-six Oswald titles were produced by Disney over 1927-1928, with animation by Ub Iwerks, Friz Freleng, Rudolf Ising and others. But Disney lost the rights to the character in a battle with his distributor, Winkler Productions, and producer Charles Mintz continued with the series out of the silent and into the sound era, with many of Disney’s animators abandoning him and joining Mintz. After further business shenanignas, the series continued as Walter Lantz productions, distributed by Universal, up to 1938.

Years passed, and we find ourselves in 2006. After years of trying, Disney recovered the rights to the original twenty-six, Disney-produced Oswalds, and began a process of tracking down the best possible materials from archives around the world. Thirteen of the series now appear on Walt Disney Treasures – The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a two-DVD set released in America. The titles are:

Oh, Teacher (1927)
Great Guns (1927)
The Mechanical Cow (1927)
All Wet (1927)
Oh What a Knight (1928)
Sky Scrappers (1928)
Trolley Troubles (1927)
The Fox Chase (1928)
Bright Lights (1928)
Tall Timber (1928)
Rival Romeos (1928)
Ozzie of the Mounted (1928)
The Ocean Hop (1927)

Additional titles on the DVD are three Alice comedies (Alice Gets Stung, Alice In The Wooley West, Alice’s Balloon Race), the post-Oswald Disney classics Skeleton Dance (1928), Steamboat Willie (1929) and Plane Crazy (1928), and Leslie Iwerks’ (Ub’s granddaughter) 1999 documentary, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story. Robert Israel provides an organ music score, and there is audio commentary as well.

Find out more about Oswald from the Toonpedia site, and read the Disney side of events from a February 2006 press release. And get the Walter Lantz side of the history from the Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia.