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.