What a pleasure it is to finally see Walt Disney's Oswald The Lucky
Rabbit. What a shame that shady business dealings cost Walt's young
studio this worthy animation creation. In hindsight, having Oswald and
some of his animators taken from him was the best thing that happened to
Disney. The rest they say is history. Oswald's been unseen by the public
and hidden away for years, and now we're lucky to finally see this
legendary character. A tremendous set of Oswald cartoons is now on DVD.
It may be animation blasphemy to say that I enjoyed most of Oswald's
black-and-white antics better than Mickey Mouse's early antics. The
characters were created by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks. They
have a similar comedic style and similar adventures. They even look
similar to each other. Yet Oswald, from the onset, is more likeable than
Mickey. Where Mickey was sometimes cruel to animals and rough around the
edges in his early cartoons, Oswald begins his adventures a bit more
refined and likeable. Of course, Mickey became a lot more refined and
loveable in short time. But I did find myself sitting down and watching
the Oswald cartoons, admiring his comic timing and how Ub Iwerks knew
how work a sequence of animation.
Ub Iwerks was a brilliant collaborator with Walt. His animation and
technological smarts helped create some of the best animation Disney
offered in the 1920s. He was so well regarded by Walt that he was paid
more money than the boss.
Iwerks ingeniously added personality and innovative animation to Oswald.
This simplistic character looked fairly similar to other cartoon
characters of the day. Iwerks, however, gave the little rabbit a
distinct personality. Oswald is a sweet character who's got a big heart,
and he always out to please the girls. In some ways, "Oh What A Knight"
(1928) precludes one of my own favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons, "The
Brave Little Taylor" (1938). The unabashed romanticism of the hero who
tries to win the hand of the fair maiden is readily seen in both shorts.
One thing to look for in "Oh What A Knight" is some of the excellent
staging Iwerks put into the cartoon. I also enjoyed some of the early
Oswalds, including "Trolley Troubles" (1927). Iwerks' use of perspective
and immersing the audience into the cartoon world of this lucky rabbit
was groundbreaking. From what I gathered about Oswald, both Walt and
Iwerks truly worked together in bringing Oswald to the screen.
The footage was taken from a variety of sources. Most of it looks very
good, considering the age and the sources. Nothing here is distracting
as far as visual quality is concerned. There is a beautifully composed
and recorded score by Robert Isreal that accompanies the Oswald shorts.
Included with the Oswald shorts is Leslie Iwerks' 1999 documentary about
her grandfather, "The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story." This
is a well-made tribute to Ub and features insight into his work and his
life. It's fitting that his grandaughter would shine a spotlight onto
the man who animated early Mickey and give him his distinctive
personality. We're also shown Ub's other creations like "The Skeleton
Dance" (1929) and his ingenious ability to create technological
breakthroughs for filmmaking.
Also featured in Iwerks' film are some of the films Ub made during his
time away from Disney. "Flip the Frog" wasn't as endearing as Oswald or
Mickey, but if anything, he was funny and risque. They were made before
the Hays Code came into effect and changed how audiences would see
movies for decades. These cartoons would preceed the often bawdy films
of Chuck Jones during his Warner Bros. golden years. Jones was one of
the animators at Ub's studio.
For Disney and animation fans, the news that the Walt Disney Company
traded sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC/Universal was incredible. Walt
and Ub's early cartoon creation would finally come home. The public may
not know who Oswald is just yet, but hopefully Disney will use this DVD
as an opportunity to showcase this fine animated creation.
Photos: © Disney. All rights reserved.
It's nice to have you back where you
Cast: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Excellent documentary on Ub Iwerks by
his grandaughter, Leslie and more
Not rated, but some of the Ub footage
contains some risque cartoon antics
nice to see the other side of Walt's early studio in Ub Iwerks
Don't let the silent film and black and white cartoons throw you
off--there is some great animation here
Aspect Ratio (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 2.0
DVD RELEASE DATE
December 11, 2007