Disney Revives Character After Nearly a Century

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who preceded Mickey Mouse, stars in new animated short
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2022 1:08 PM CST

Mickey Mouse's rabbit forefather just came back from the Disney dead. Considered Walt Disney's "first breakout animated star," Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was first introduced to audiences in the 1927 short Trolley Troubles, per Variety. Disney went on to create 26 shorts starring the plucky rabbit within a year. But Disney and animator Ub Iwerks were then under contract with Universal Pictures, which claimed ownership of Oswald. Disney later said he invented Mickey Mouse as a replacement his own company would own. Almost a century later, however, the "plucky scamp" Oswald is back in a new self-titled, hand-drawn Disney short.

In 2006, the Walt Disney Corporation signed a deal with NBC Universal to obtain the rights to Oswald. The character has "subsequently appeared in games, merchandise, and around the parks," reports Polygon. But this is his first appearance in an animated short. In honor of Disney's 100th anniversary in 2023, "we wanted to bring Oswald back, and in the short, he literally returns to his original home, the movie screen," director and veteran animator Eric Goldberg (Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000) said in a statement. The short finds Oswald enthralled with a female rabbit he sees on screen.

Anxious to get inside the picture, he shoots a cannon at the screen, only to lose his head as a result. When the cannonball falls on his foot, he removes it to give it a kiss. Then he removes his own ears, which become scissors used to cut a hole in the projection screen. Jumping inside, Oswald finally gets to kiss the girl. "We wanted to have Oswald do all of the 'squash-and-stretch,' 'rubber hose'-animation style, celebrating that first generation of Walt Disney's artists," said Goldberg. "Our hand-drawn animation team … had a ball animating in the style of Oswald's era," added producer Dorothy McKim. (More Disney stories.)

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