Al Michaels deal reunites Disney with original animated character - AP, 2/9/06
In exchange for allowing sportscaster Al Michaels to leave ABC early for a job at NBC Universal, The Walt Disney Co. is getting back a piece of its history - the first animated character created by Disney and the forerunner to Mickey Mouse.
His name was "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit," and the cheeky bunny was created by Disney and his chief creative partner, Ub Iwerks, in 1927 at the request of Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Pictures.
Before Oswald, Disney and Iwerks had made a series of animated and live action shorts based on "Alice in Wonderland." The films were distributed by Charles Mintz.
Disney cranked out 26 of the silent Oswald cartoons. The character proved popular and soon began appearing on merchandise.
In 1928, Disney traveled to New York to negotiate a renewal of the contract to produce the Oswald series.
Mintz balked at paying more for the series and instead suggested that Disney fold up shop and come to work for him.
Disney refused. But what he didn't know was that Mintz had secretly hired away most of Disney's key animators - except Iwerks. Universal owned the rights to Oswald and would continue to create cartoons without Disney.
In the deal announced Thursday, Disney will get the rights to the Oswald character plus all 26 shorts created by Disney. The deal, which also includes some sports content, does not includes the films and other products produced by Universal. Disney has not said what it will do with the cartoons, but a DVD release is likely.
"When Bob (Disney president and CEO Robert 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," Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller said in a statement Thursday. "Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."
Re: Al Michaels deal reunites Disney with original animated character - AP, 2/9/06
The Walt Disney Company Press Release
WALT DISNEY'S 1927 ANIMATED STAR – OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT – RETURNS TO DISNEY
Mickey Mouse's Predecessor Rejoins Disney's Family of Animated Characters through Agreement with NBC/Universal
Burbank, CA (February 9, 2006) – Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Iger announced today the return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to The Walt Disney Company by agreement with NBC/Universal, the company that had previously owned the rights to Oswald since his theatrical debut in 1927.
"As the forerunner to Mickey Mouse and an important part of Walt Disney's creative legacy, the fun and mischievous Oswald is back where he belongs, at the home of his creator and among the stable of beloved characters created by Walt himself," said Iger.
"When Bob 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," said Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller. "Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."
When Walt Disney opened his animation studio in 1923, he spent four years producing The Alice Comedies, a popular series of shorts featuring a live girl in a cartoon world. After four years, Walt created a new character – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt produced 26 Oswald cartoons, which were distributed by Universal and well-received by audiences. However, on a trip to New York to renew his contract for Oswald, Walt discovered a clause in his contract that gave Universal ownership of his popular new character. On the train ride back to Hollywood, Walt was devastated but realized he needed to create a new character – one that he would own entirely – and during that long trip across the country, Mickey Mouse was born.
This transfer of ownership is part of an agreement permitting sportscaster Al Michaels to contract with NBC. In the transaction ESPN also acquired significant programming and promotional rights, including telecast rights to the live Friday coverage of four Ryder Cup golf championships through 2014, expanded video highlights for the Olympics through 2012, video promotion for ESPN's Monday Night Football during NBC's Sunday night football through 2011, and expanded highlight rights for other NBC Sports properties through 2011.
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise with four business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment and consumer products. Disney is a Dow 30 company, had annual revenues of nearly $32 billion in its most recent fiscal year, and a market capitalization of approximately $51 billion as of February 8, 2006.