Oswald the Rabbit returns: Walt Disney’s lost bunny
hops into 21st century
Entertainment icon Walt Disney was born 109 years ago Sunday and one of his
early creations is back on the scene is a surprising way:
the unlikely 21st century revival of Oswald the Rabbit.
Disney created Oswald with Ub Iwerks in 1927 and the first cartoon, “Proud Papa,” was really more a “sad dad.” The Universal leadership was not impressed with the production values and the character left them cold. The animation team went back to the drawing board (literally) and came back with a more polished product and a rabbit of true appeal in the cartoon “Trolley Troubles.” The work paid off too.
Through 1928, Disney and his team made 26 black-and-white animated silent shorts. Oswald proved so popular that merchandise was made — there were Oswald chocolate-covered marshmallow candy, stencil sets and a pin-backed button.
But Oswald hopped right out of Disney’s life in 1928. The cartoons were already viewed as costly, but Disney wanted more money to improve the product. Disney flew to New York to make his case but he was in for a rude surprise — Mintz had no interest in budget increases and, just the opposite, he wanted cutbacks. If Disney didn’t want to play along, well, Mintz made it clear that he controlled the rights to the bunny and Disney was expendable. Mintz had quietly signed most of Disney’s employees to new contracts to cut him out of the picture.
No one would have been surprised if Oswald had never been seen again. But Robert Iger, who took over as chief executive of the Walt Disney Co. in 2005, made it one of his priorities to reconnect the company with its traditions in more ambitious and unexpected ways. That led in 2006 to Oswald becoming a true Disney character – the lucky rabbit was among the assets the company acquired from NBC Universal in a deal that let sportscaster Al Michaels leave ABC and ESPN and sign with NBC.
Oswald the Rabbit returns: Walt Disney’s lost bunny hops into 21st century | Hero Complex – Los Angeles Times