Universal Studios (also known as Universal Pictures or simply Universal) is a major film company owned by NBCUniversal, which in turn is owned by Comcast. Universal was the distributor and owner of the Disney-animated Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons.

Its massive backlot at its Universal Studios Hollywood studio and theme park has served as a former filming location for Disney films. Universal has resorts in California and Florida, which are those states' primary competitors against Disneyland and Walt Disney World, respectively. Additionally, Universal has owned two animation studios, Illumination and DreamWorks Animation (with the latter being founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and being acquired by NBCUniversal in 2016), which are also meant to compete against Disney's current animation studios Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar respectively, as well as Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

On March 4, 1927, Winkler Pictures head Charles Mintz signed a contract with Universal within the presence of its vice president at the time, R. H. Cochrane. The contract stated that Winkler would produce 26 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons for Universal during the 1927-28 season. Universal had been negotiating deals with cartoon producers for the past three months; they wanted to get back into the cartoon business after ten years of no cartoons from the company.[1]

The Oswald character was designed and the cartoons were animated at the Walt Disney Studio, under the direct supervision of Walt Disney[2] and under a contract with Winkler Pictures. The titular character's name had reportedly been chosen by P.D. Cochrane, the head of Universal's publicity department. He gathered suggestions from the staff around the office, put them all into a hat, and drew out a name.[3] Universal released the first cartoon, Trolley Troubles, to theaters on September 5, 1927.

In February 1928, Winkler signed a contract with Universal that would guarantee three more years worth of Oswald cartoons.[4][5] The following month, the Walt Disney Studio's contract with Winkler to animate the Oswald cartoons would be terminated following the departure of several animators to Winkler and budget disputes. Ub Iwerks would be one of the few animators who stayed with Disney, and the two would go on to create Mickey Mouse.

Winkler Pictures would go on to produce an additional 26 Oswald cartoons for Universal, and they would be released from 1928 to 1929. During the production of the cartoons, animators Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising went to Universal to try and convince the studio to put them in charge instead of Mintz. Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal Pictures, got tired of the internal politics and terminated Winkler Pictures' contract. He decided to produce the series in-house with director Walter Lantz taking charge.[6][7][8][9] Walter Lantz would go on to direct and produce 142 cartoons with Oswald.

In February 2006, The Walt Disney Company obtained the rights to the Oswald character and the 26 short films made by the Disney Studio from NBCUniversal as part of a deal which sent sportscaster Al Michaels from ESPN to NBCUniversal's NBC Sports. The rights to the Winkler/Mintz and Lantz/Universal-produced Oswald films would stay with NBCUniversal.

Relationship with Marvel

On August 31, 2009, Disney announced that it would acquire Marvel Entertainment for approximately $4 billion. Universal announced that Marvel Super Hero Island, a themed land at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort, would not be affected by the deal and would continue to operate as long as the contract allowed. Disney CEO Robert Iger acknowledged that Disney would honor all of Marvel's contracts with competitors, but that Marvel characters would simultaneously be able to appear in some Disney parks.[10] Marvel properties and characters are not permitted to appear in Walt Disney World Resort theme parks, as Universal holds the rights to use the characters east of the Mississippi River. As such, Disney has taken other measures to promote its Marvel properties within the Resort. For example, monorail trains have been wrapped in advertisements promoting films such as The Avengers and Iron Man 3. As these monorail trains featured Marvel characters, they were operated only on the Resort and Express lines of the Walt Disney World Monorail System, which run entirely outside the theme parks, unlike the Epcot line, which enters and loops through its namesake park. The resort does have a Marvel-themed store, Super Hero Headquarters, which is located outside of park gates in Disney Springs.

Marvel characters and properties are featured more prominently in other Disney park resorts, specifically at the Disneyland Resort in California, where Universal has long since abandoned its rights to use the Marvel characters in its own California park. The Disneyland Resort has featured meet-and-greets with Captain America and Thor, has featured the Avengers Half Marathon as part of RunDisney, features Iron Man, Thor, and Spider-Man (and formerly Captain America when the attraction operated as part of Innoventions) at its upcoming Super Hero HQ attraction in Tomorrowland, has hosted film sneak peeks for Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and has run Marvel Cinematic Universe movie marathons at the Magic Eye Theater during its 24-hour events. The first Marvel attraction at a Disney park, the Iron Man Experience, is now open in Tomorrowland at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons



Disney productions filmed at Universal

As Universal Studios Hollywood has such a massive and versatile studio backlot, many other movie studios tend to use the backlot as a filming location. Disney is not an exception to this. Some Disney films and shows that have been shot orpartially shot at or co-produced with Universal include:


Television series

  • Monk (USA Network, 2002-2009, ABC Studios and Universal Media Studios) - Co-produced with Universal.
  • Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004-2012, ABC Studios) - Wisteria Lane is filmed on the Colonial Street residential set.
  • Ghost Whisperer (CBS, 2005-2010, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television) - Grandview is filmed on sets such as Courthouse Square, which is famous for its use in Back to the Future until an accidental fire destroyed much of the set in June 2008.


  1. "Universal Announces Release Of "Oscar, the Rabbit" Cartoons" - Motion Picture World (3/12/1927)
  2. "Disney, Walt" - The Film Daily Presents the Product Guide and Director's Annual 1937
  3. The History of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Part One
  4. "And That's That" Column - The Film Daily (2/1928)
  5. "Universal Signs for 3 More Years of Oswald" - Motion Picture News (2/1928)
  6. "The History of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Part Two"
  7. "Lester Kline" - The Film Daily (4/15/1929)
  8. "Benny Rubin and Oswald Make Universal One-Reelers Super Shorts" - Universal Weekly
  9. "Lantz, Walter" - The Film Daily Presents the Product Guide and Director's Annual 1937

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