Earliest Oswald Cartoon Unearthed?!
Actual footage of Mickey’s predecessor; Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, is hard to come by. Disney lost the rights to the character in 1928 and Universal, his new owners, soon had to watch Mickey’s popularity greatly eclipse the Oswalds.
Add to that the cost saving device of washing old cels to reuse them, and it’s no wonder that the Lucky Rabbit started fading in to obscurity. (That is until 2006 coincidentally, when Disney brought back the rights to Oswald in a deal with Universal for several of their minor assets).
But Oswald’s place in history is assured. Not only was he Mickey’s predecessor (in looks and personality), but he was also Walt Disney’s first successful character, he first time he realised he couldn’t trust the larger studios, and one of the first animated characters with a real personality (apparently based on swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks) and genuine physical comedy.
So it’s always a huge excitement (amongst the sorts of people who get hugely excited by these things) when early Oswald footage is discovered, and this latest footage may just have some of us drooling. Almost certainly animated by Disney’s long term collaborator Ub Iwerks (pictured), this is the earliest known Oswald footage, and its clear to see the humour, timing and bendy limb action that went on to become his trademark and Walt’s meal ticket.