- “He, uh, seems pretty popular down here.”
- ―Mickey Mouse
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, or simply Oswald, is an anthropomorphic rabbit and the first cartoon mascot created by Walt Disney.
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 quite 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 fallable, 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 Era
After the "Alice Comedies", Disney's second animated series (after the Laugh-o-Grams), folded up in 1927, Carl Laemmle approached Disney and requested a new all-animated series featuring a rabbit. Disney and Ub Iwerks created a new character called "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit". The first Oswald cartoon, Poor Papa, was poorly received by Charles Mintz and he demanded a better, younger version of Oswald. The next cartoon, Trolley Troubles, was well-received and the series was officially launched.
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 whom the world knows today. He was portrayed as a small, rather 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.
In 1928, with the series going strong, Disney demanded an increased budget from Mintz, which he refused. Mintz instead told Disney that he was going to cut the budget and if Disney did not agree to the cut, Mintz would take Oswald for himself. Disney refused and most of Disney's employees left to go work for Mintz. Only Ub Iwerks and Les Clark remained, who, along with Walt, secretly created a new cartoon star to replace Oswald — Mickey Mouse, who became the most legendary cartoon icon in the world, which is what would've been Oswald's position.
Meanwhile, over at Universal, Oswald's popularity and appearances in films would diminish with every passing year until the character fell into obscurity and was ultimately forgotten by the public and possibly Universal itself.
Return to Disney
In 2002, an episode of House of Mouse called "Dennis the Duck" inspired Disney to get Oswald back from Universal. Over the years, they had tried to get Oswald back through many attempts but kept failing.
In 2006, the Walt Disney Company finally got back the rights to Oswald through a trade with sportscaster Al Michaels after over 80 years. To celebrate Oswald's triumphant return to the company, 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 of 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Fourteen years prior to Epic Mickey, Oswald's video game debut was in a Sega Master System game titled Woody Woodpecker's Frustrated Vacation, released only in Brazil in 1996. This game notably marked Oswald's final appearance in his Walter Lantz design.
- In 2004, shortly before Disney acquired the rights to Oswald, Universal Pictures utilized an Oswald similar in appearance to the Disney/Iwerks design, but with blue fur and yellow shorts.
- 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.
- ↑ Oswald and Mickey (Walt Disney, 1935)
- ↑ 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).
- ↑ "OSWALD RABBIT TOYS". Cartoon Research (2005).
- ↑ "The Word Warrior: The evolution of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, part 5...". Street Writer (December 22, 2014).