- “He, uh, seems pretty popular down here.”
- ―Mickey Mouse
In early cartoons, Oswald was very similar to the early incarnations of Mickey Mouse, that being the mischievous but well-meaning character made popular among cartoons in the 1920s. He was energetic, inventive, adventurous and almost always caused trouble, but found his way out through cunning and wit. Oswald loved to play and make others laugh, but despite his flaws, he has morals and always tries to do the right thing. His personality traits were something never seen at the time, as most cartoon stars had no personality, and he favored the new "emotion" gag over slapstick.
In his current revival (especially in the Epic Mickey series), Oswald is portrayed as more aggressive, serious, and short-tempered than Mickey, though he does have a sense of fun and humor. Oswald is not welcoming towards strangers and even comes across as spiteful towards people he doesn't trust. He is very brave, but overconfident, which makes Oswald impulsive and bordering to the point that Oswald can be ignorant and ultimately fumble. Ironically, despite having the moniker of "lucky," Oswald is prone to bad luck as much as good luck, which has led him into many unfortunate situations often caused by his own overconfidence - he can only escape from these by his own good luck.
Despite his less-appealing traits, Oswald remains fundamentally good-hearted. He is motivated by a love for adventure and heroism. A recent interview with Disney historian David Gerstein has highlighted the difference between Mickey and Oswald in terms of personality:
|“||You might say that Mickey's personality is a bit less inherently funny, but you still have just as much fun with him by putting him in incredible jams. Oswald ... let's put it like this: imagine Mickey if he were a little more egotistical or fallible, or imagine Bugs Bunny if he talked the talk but wasn't as good at walking the walk.||”|
Oswald has also been shown harboring a strong jealousy towards his "replacement" for effectively stealing his life. Some materials indicate this relationship outside of spin-off material; pictures were approved by Walt himself that depicted Mickey and Oswald meeting for the first time and support these sentiments.
With luck on his side, Oswald is willing to take risks and will attempt to do what's best for his family and friends. Though he doesn't appear to be, Oswald can be quite friendly if he wants to. His love for Ortensia is just as strong as Mickey's love for Minnie.
The Walt Disney/Universal Era
In January 1927, Winkler Pictures head Charles Mintz told Disney and Iwerks to create a cartoon character they could sell to Universal Pictures - Universal wanted to re-enter the cartoon business and needed a character of it's own. Disney began working on both the character and the films shortly after he moved his studio to Hyperion Avenue.
Disney opted to make the character a rabbit at the suggestion of Carl Laemmle, Universal's founder. Universal's publicity department chose the name of the character by drawing it out of a hat filled with slips of paper with different names on them. An early press release from Universal Weekly called the character "Oswald, the Welsh Rabbit".
The first Oswald cartoon, Poor Papa, was poorly received by the Universal executives and Mintz. Universal initially did not distribute it to theaters. Disney and Iwerks created a younger and neater Oswald for their next cartoon, Trolley Troubles. It was well-received and Universal released it to theaters on September 5, 1927. Universal continued to push advertising for the character.
As time passed, Disney feared that Mintz would forgo renewal of the contract, partly due to Iwerks informing Disney that George Winkler, at the behest of Mintz, had been going behind Disney's back during pick-up runs for Oswald reels and hiring away his animators. Eventually, Walt traveled with his wife Lillian to New York to find other potential distributors for his studio’s cartoons, including Fox and MGM, prior to meetings with Mintz. As Walt later recalled, he placed two Oswald prints under one arm and—feeling "like a hick"—marched "one half-block north" on Broadway to MGM to visit Fred Quimby and showcase his studio’s work on the series. During this period, Walt and Lillian attended the premier of the Oswald short Rival Romeos, which debuted at the Colony on 53rd and Broadway.
In the spring of 1928, Disney traveled to New York City in hopes of negotiating a more profitable contract with his producer Charles Mintz. But as economic problems were apparent at the time, Mintz figured Disney should settle for a 20% cut, although large turnarounds were promised if the studio's finances showed considerable growth. While most of his fellow animators left for Mintz's studio, Disney decided to quit working on the Oswald cartoons. On his long train ride home, he came up with an idea to create another character, and retain the rights to it. Walt recalled most of what had happened in an interview and some stories claim the copyright to the character had been "lost" to Winkler/Universal.
Disney and Iwerks would go on to develop a new cartoon in secret, starring a new character called Mickey Mouse. The first Mickey Mouse cartoon to be filmed was Plane Crazy in the summer of 1928, but it was produced as a silent film and held back from release. The first Mickey Mouse film with a synchronized soundtrack, Steamboat Willie, reached the screen that fall and became a major hit, eclipsing Oswald.
Oswald continued to appear in cartoons, comics, and merchandise after Walt stopped working with the character. One of Oswald's last appearances while under Universal's ownership was in Férias Frustradas do Pica-Pau (1995), a Woody Woodpecker game released for the Sega Master System in Brazil only.
In Oswald's first, official short, Poor Papa, he was a considerably older rabbit with a far more aggressive attitude. While the short was poorly received, it was significant in introducing Oswald's children, who would later reappear in Trolley Troubles and Oh, Teacher. Only three known recordings of "Poor Papa" are known to exist today. As mentioned above, the following short, Trolley Troubles, was the first to showcase the Oswald the world knows today. He was portrayed as a small, mischievous rabbit, often finding himself in trouble. He would always be saved, however, through his luck (hence the name). He was also shown to have the ability to disassemble his body parts at will, as seen when he literally detached his leg and kissed it for good luck. This trait would carry on to later incarnations.
Like many classic Disney characters, some stories revolving the rabbit would center wooing a love interest. Oswald's original love interest was named Fanny; a sultry rabbit. She would later be replaced by a cat named Ortensia in The Bankers Daughter.
Before he was introduced to Mickey, the infamous Pete was an enemy of Oswald's. The two were bigger rivals, often at odds for varying reasons, though Oswald would always come out on top, due to the impressive strokes of luck.
The Walt Disney Company acquires Oswald
In February 2006, The Walt Disney Company received a number of minor assets, including the rights to Oswald, from NBCUniversal in exchange for sending sportscaster Al Michaels from Disney's ABC and ESPN to NBC Sports. At the time, ABC had lost its contract for NFL broadcast rights, and despite recently signing a long-term contract with ESPN, Michaels was interested in rejoining broadcast partner John Madden at NBC for the Sunday night package.
The deal included the rights to the character and the short films made by Disney. Rights to the Winkler and Lantz/Universal-produced Oswald films would be kept by Universal. Iger had been interested in Oswald because of an internal design document for a video game, which would ultimately become Epic Mickey. Walt Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, issued the following statement after the deal was announced:
"When Bob [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. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."
Around the same time, the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets made a similar deal, the Chiefs giving the Jets a draft pick as compensation for releasing coach Herm Edwards from his contract. Referring to this trade, Michaels said:
"Oswald is definitely worth more than a fourth-round draft choice. I'm going to be a trivia answer someday."
To celebrate the acquisition, a line of special merchandise was released at Disney Stores nationwide and a Walt Disney Treasures DVD set was released compiling all of the surviving Disney-produced Oswald cartoons.
Oswald makes a cameo appearance near the end of Get a Horse!, waving to the audience from the bottom right side of the screen when Mickey and the gang all rejoice at Pete's defeat when Minnie drives Pete's car through. This was Oswald's first appearance in a Disney animation production in more than 84 years. However, Oswald's cameo was so well hidden that it was not noticed by the public that Oswald even appeared in the short until this fact was announced by Jerry Beck on his Facebook page in a post made on September 28, 2013.
Disney Japan also released a small Christmas short with Oswald and Ortensia online for the holidays. Creating the first new pure Oswald animation since his return to Disney. The story simply revolved around Oswald hiking up a mountaintop to visit Ortensia for Christmas.
Films and television
Oswald can be seen in the hieroglyphics in the short "Entombed". Oswald made his first physical appearance in the episode "Canned", where he is dug up from a heap of trash by Mickey and promptly thrown into a trash can. In "Year of the Dog," a billboard featuring Oswald appears next to the Shanghai World Financial Center. He is subsequently seen in a number of hidden cameos through the episodes. In the episode "Hats Enough", upon fitting the magician's hat, Mickey would perform a magic trick and briefly turn himself into Oswald. However, the gag was cut for time.
Oswald is one of the main characters in the Nintendo Wii video game Epic Mickey. In the game, he is the ruler of the Cartoon Wasteland—a world where forgotten, rejected and retired Disney creations reside. Working with the Mad Doctor, he constructs robotic Beetleworx as a construction crew for his Disneyland-inspired vision. But then, an accident caused by Mickey Mouse early in his career creates a monstrous Shadow Blot that brings the Wasteland into ruins. The Mad Doctor then betrays Oswald and sides with the Blot. After a long battle, Oswald and his wife Ortensia seal the Blot inside a large jug at the top of Mickeyjunk Mountain, but at the cost of Ortensia's life.
Ever since Oswald remains at the mountain to guard the jug while nursing his hatred towards Mickey for having stolen the life and career that could have been his. When Mickey arrives, Oswald ends up reluctantly helping him on his quest to get out of Wasteland by refurbishing the Moonliner rocket in Tomorrow City, although Oswald is implied to be tempted to remove Mickey's heart and leave him in Wasteland, so Oswald can become a big star again.
After defeating the fake Shadow Blot at the summit of Mickeyjunk Mountain, Mickey reveals that he is responsible for the Thinner Disaster and the Blot and an extremely furious Oswald accidentally releases the real Blot, who steals Mickey's heart and begins to destroy Wasteland. The two decide to use the rocket to attack the Blot, only to land in Dark Beauty Castle, where the plans change to using fireworks to do the job.
The Blot ends up consuming Oswald, Mickey, and Gremlin Gus and the three have to fight the Blot from the inside. Oswald is stuck to the Blot's walls but is freed by Mickey. He catches Mickey's released heart but takes a good look at it, then, though a bit reluctantly, gives it back to Mickey, and launches the fireworks, which destroys the Blot once and for all. In doing so, Oswald is the real hero; he gives back Mickey's heart in the end and then saves the day. The impact causes Oswald and Ortensia to crash back to Mean Street and causes Mickey to leave Wasteland. In the shower of Paint that results from the explosion, Wasteland is restored and Ortensia is revived, helping to seal Mickey and Oswald's friendship and perhaps even extending into a true brotherhood.
In the sequel to Epic Mickey, the Mad Doctor returns to Wasteland, claiming to have reformed and offering to help protect the world against a new threat in the form of natural disasters. Oswald teams up with Mickey to save the day once again. To aid Mickey, Oswald has a remote that can defeat or redeem enemies with electricity, like Mickey's paint. Oswald's remote can turn Beetleworx into allies, and power machines. Oswald's other powers are the use of his ears as a helicopter to float and to remove his arm and use it as a boomerang to get items or hit things and enemies.
Oswald appears in the game to Mickey as he re-enters Wasteland. Because Mizrabel was forgotten, she brought Castle Illusion to Wasteland to drain the currently famous characters and threatens Wasteland's safety as well, and had kidnapped Minnie to lure Mickey in. In the game, Oswald monitors the hub stations as parts of the castle break away to inform Mickey of the captured toons and locate Mizrabel herself.
Epic Mickey: Tales of Wasteland
Oswald is the main character in the Epic Mickey: Tales of Wasteland (digi)comics. These comics are a prequel to Epic Mickey and takes place before the Thinner Disaster.
As the main character, he appears in all six of them. He and his Animatronic pals try to clean the Clock Tower in "Clock Tower Cleaners" and tries to spend a night in Lonesome Manor because Pete dared him in "One Scary Night". He gets his feet stolen in "The Game's Afoot", fiercely competes with Horace in "The Rubbish Cup", visits the Mad Doctor with Ortensia and tries many different personas to regain his popularity in "Oswald the Lucky Duck" and tries to escape Wasteland in "There's a Hole in the Sky".
Oswald is quite adventurous, friendly and competitive in the comics. He is quick to take up a challenge and prove his worth, but also believes most people don't care for him and see him as an out of date version of Mickey. The Mad Doctor tries to trick Oswald for his evil plans. Oswald loves Ortensia and their Bunny Children and seems to be good friends with Horace Horsecollar. He also takes his Animatronic pals with him on many adventures.
Just Like Magic!
The Norwegian "En magisk jul!" (translated as "A Magical Christmas!") marks the first Oswald and Ortensia appearance in modern Disney comics outside of the Epic Mickey universe. Written by David Gerstein and drawn by Mark Kausler, it is based and takes place in the times of the classic Oswald shorts from 1927 and 1928. It was printed in America under the title "Just Like Magic!" in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #726.
A hungry Oswald and Toby Bear see Ortensia and her rich banker father, J. P. Whiskers, standing before a house where various foods are being brought in for J. P. Whiskers's Christmas dinner party. Oswald uses his charm and asks Ortensia if he and Toby can join them. A charmed Ortensia seems willing, but Oswald and Ortensia are quickly interrupted by Ortensia 's little brother Homer the Cat. The small bratty cat drags Ortensia inside while Whiskers lectures Oswald and slams the door in his face.
Still wanting to join Ortensia and the party, The hungry rabbit tries to prove his good luck as a disguised Oswald and Toby sneak into J. P. Whiskers's Christmas dinner party by impersonating a man they think is the head waiter. But the "waiter" was really a hired magician, so Oswald is forced to put on a magic show with a genuine, very powerful magic hat.
An Imaginary Friend
Prior to 2014, Oswald did not make any live appearances at the parks, due to the company having had no ownership of him for decades. After Disney reacquired the character in 2006, his likeness has become a semi-common part of the parks.
Clothing, toys, pins and other merchandise items featuring Oswald have since been made available in the parks as well.
During the Disney California Adventure expansion, Oswald appeared in a mural depicting him and several of his fellow classic Disney characters working as a construction crew. Also in the park, a souvenir shop called "Oswald's Filling Station" opened with Buena Vista Street in 2012.
At the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, a poster of Oswald can be seen in the queue area of the Town Square Theater. Also, inside Mickey's meeting area, a doodle of Oswald and Mickey can be seen. Unfortunately, he hasn't visited Walt Disney World yet.
For Tokyo Disneyland's Disney's Easter Wonderland, Oswald was the inspiration for a float.
Oswald finally made his first appearance as a meetable character at Tokyo DisneySea, starting on April 1, 2014.
Oswald was part of the cast during the 25th Anniversary of the resort.
During the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party in 2018, Oswald was featured along with Ortensia as the event's VIP characters, with a street show named "Oh My, Ortensia" serving as the latter's introduction to the theme parks.
Theatrical feature films and shorts
- Poor Papa
- Trolley Troubles
- Oh Teacher
- The Mechanical Cow
- Great Guns
- All Wet
- The Ocean Hop
- The Banker's Daughter
- Empty Socks
- Rickety Gin
- Harem Scarem
- Neck 'n' Neck
- The Ol' Swimmin' Hole
- Africa Before Dark
- Rival Romeos
- Bright Lights
- Oh What A Knight
- Sagebrush Sadie
- Ride 'Em Plowboy
- Sky Scrappers
- Ozzie of the Mounted
- Hungry Hobos
- The Fox Chase
- Tall Timber
- Sleigh Bells
- Hot Dog
- High Up
- Get a Horse! (cameo)
- Despite Oswald's origins being a hand-drawn, black and white character for Universal Studios, Oswald's first appearance for cinema within the ownership of Walt Disney Motion Pictures is in a CG format (Get A Horse!).
- Oswald, Goofy, and Pete are three of the very few characters from the Classic Disney Shorts to have a biological child instead of a traditional niece or nephew. Goofy has Max, Pete has P.J. and Pistol and Oswald has the Bunny Children. Donald has a son in How to have an accident at work, but it's a one-time instance.
- In the Bonkers comics, there is a character named Nimrod the Rabbit, a comedian and keeper of the Toonstone, who is very similar to Oswald.
- In Walter Lantz' use, Oswald's last name was "Rabbit", and the comic book to his name (running alongside Disney books such as Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge) was subsequently called Oswald Rabbit. To this day, Oswald's official name is "Oswald Rabbit" in Japan, but this is unstated in all English-language media.
- Oswald's Japanese appearance from this time may have inspired the character design for the Bunny Children, as each Bunny Child is blue in color.
- Before Disney acquired the rights back for Oswald in 2006, he had been previously voiced by Bill Nolan in 1929, Bernice Hansen from 1932 to 1938, Walter Lantz in 1935, Dick Beals in 1952, Mel Blanc in 1957, Gloria Wood in 1957, Pinto Colvig in 1930, Mickey Rooney in 1931, and June Foray in 1943, and is now currently voiced by Frank Welker.
- Unused concept art by Disney artist Kevin Nelson for Wreck-It Ralph had Oswald being proposed as a racer for Sugar Rush.
- At one point in development, Oswald was considered to be the final villain of Epic Mickey, but the idea was short-lived and eventually scrapped.
- ↑ Oswald and Mickey (Walt Disney, 1935)
- ↑ "Development of Cartoons Still Likely" - The Calgary Daily Herald (7/20/1936)
- ↑ "Sales Head Highly Enthusiastic Over Universal's 1927-28 Plans" - Universal Weekly (3/19/1927)
- ↑ Oswald Ad
- ↑ Oswald Ad
- ↑ "No Matter How Good it is...Boost it!" - Universal Weekly
- ↑ "National Tie-Ups" (Oswald Candy Bar)
- ↑ "Oswald Stencil Set an Exploitation Wow" - Universal Weekly
- ↑ "Way Back When..." - Clinton County Weekly (7/29/1937)
- ↑ "Mouse's Master" - The Deseret News (2/17/1938)
- ↑ "Biography of Walt Disney and Real Secret of His Artistry" - The Shawinigan Standard (4/13/1938)
- ↑ "Disney Owes It All To That Mouse, Mickey" - The Calgary Herald (7/30/1953)
- ↑ "When Mickey Mouse's Papa Was A Boy" - Lodi News-Sentinel (9/25/1936)
- ↑ The History of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Part One
- ↑ Written Timeline of Disney (1925-1928)
- ↑ "New Batch of 335 Cartoons Helps Relieve 7-Year Logjam" - Billboard (12/4/1954)
- ↑ "Guild Films Gets All MPTV Features, Plus Sales Force" - Billboard (2/9/1955)
- ↑ Guild Films Ad - Billboard (10/6/1956)
- ↑ "Wooden dolls much in demand" - The Victoria Advocate (10/19/1995)
- ↑ "OSWALD RABBIT TOYS". Cartoon Research. (2005)
- ↑ "The Word Warrior: The evolution of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, part 5...". Street Writer. (December 22, 2014)
- ↑ "The Idle Thumbs Conf Grenade 2011: GDC 2011: Games Kasavin" (46:40–53:10)
- ↑ Walt Disney's 1927 Animated Star Returns to Disney, a February 2006 press release
- ↑ "Stay 'tooned: Disney gets 'Oswald' for Al Michaels"
- ↑ Tweet from Tara Billinger
- ↑ Disney Infinity: Welcome Mickey and Minnie
- ↑ Inducks entree for "En magisk jul!"
- ↑ PreviewsWorld.com's page for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #726
- ↑ Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Is on His Way to Disney California Adventure Park
- ↑ Insider: Starting Today, Meet Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
- ↑ "Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party". Disneyland Paris PressNews. (January 18, 2018)