The Walt Disney Company has brought back an old friend for an important anniversary.
Last Thursday, Walt Disney Animation Studios unveiled a brand-new, hand-drawn cartoon short starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, one of Walt Disney's first popular animated characters.
The one minute and seven seconds-long cartoon marks the first time the character has appeared in a Disney cartoon in 95 years. It was created as part of the company's planned celebrations for its 100th anniversary, according to a press release distributed on Dec. 1.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit follows the title character as he visits a movie theater to view a movie of the same name, only to realize he is needed to actually jump into the movie screen to complete the film's story.
"On the eve of Disney's 100th anniversary, it was such a joy to create the first new Oswald short from our studio since 1928," producer Dorothy McKim said in a statement. "Our hand-drawn animation team—including our hand-drawn legends Mark Henn, Randy Haycock, and Eric Goldberg, as well our wonderful team of 2D apprentices—had a ball animating in the style of Oswald's era."
Animator Goldberg, who directed the new short, called Oswald "such a plucky scamp" in a statement.
"We wanted to bring Oswald back, and in the short, he literally returns to his original home: the movie screen," the director 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."
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Disney himself first introduced Oswald in a 1927 short titled Trolley Troubles; the company's animation team created 26 short films starring the lucky rabbit between then and 1928.
The character is considered one of the first animated characters in history to display a unique personality and was an early fan favorite for Disney, according to a release.
Disney lost creative control over the character to Universal Pictures in 1928, leading the film producer to develop Mickey Mouse to replace Oswald, according to a 2010 Los Angeles Times report. Around 140 more cartoons featuring Oswald were produced by Universal over the next 10 years, but the character eventually faded as Disney and Mickey reached new heights of fame, according to the outlet.
In 2006, the Walt Disney Company made a deal with NBCUniversal "that included permitting sportscaster Al Michaels to contract with NBC in exchange for the return of Oswald" to Disney, allowing the company to use Oswald in content and merchandise once more, according to a Disney release.
The effort to regain the rights to Oswald were spearheaded by CEO Bob Iger, who originally took over in 2005 and just unexpectedly returned in the same position on Nov. 21 after previously leaving the company when his contract ended at the end of 2021.