Next year, the Walt Disney Company will turn 100 years old. Ahead of that big milestone, Disney’s released a new animated short highlighting one of the oldest and long-forgotten creations: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Released earlier in the week, the short is fittingly in black-and-white and features traditional animation. That the short is about the character returning to film was an intentional choice, said director Eric Goldberg in a statement. “We wanted to bring Oswald back, and in the short, he literally returns to his original home, the movie screen,” he said. “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.”
Oswald was created in 1927 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, and first debuted in the “Trolley Troubles” short that same year. His entire filmography of nearly 30 shorts runs from 1927-1938, though most of those are from Universal, who acquired the rights from Disney in 1928. After Oswald was sold off, Disney and Iwerks went on to create Mickey Mouse, and the rest is history. As his time in shorts was winding down, Universal kept Oswald alive with a series of comics from the ‘30s to the late ‘60s, and gave him his own supporting cast, including surrogate sons. As his star power was fading, Universal eventually replaced him with Walter Lantz and Ben Hardaway’s Woody Woodpecker.
In 2006, Oswald was back to Disney by Universal in exchange for sportscaster Al Michaels jumping from ESPN to NBC Sports (seriously), though nothing big really came of this for several years. He was planned to star in his own series on Disney+, which would’ve been a follow up to the 2018 revival of The Three Caballeros, but that was later canned. The most substantial appearance he had was in the short-lived Epic Mickey video game series from Junction Point Studios, which was the first time he and Mickey appeared together in any capacity. In the sequel, it was even possible to play as Oswald if a second player was on hand.
Given how Disney loves to flex its IP-hoarding body at every opportunity, maybe we’ll be seeing more of Oswald in the near future? It’d be a little strange to release a short for the character 10 months before Disney’s celebrating the century milestone otherwise.
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