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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.
 

DVD
Quick Glimpse

 

MOVIE
It's nice to have you back where you belong, Oswald!

TALENT
Directors: Various

Cast: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

FEATURES

Excellent documentary on Ub Iwerks by his grandaughter, Leslie and more

RATING
Not rated, but some of the Ub footage contains some risque cartoon antics

DVD

Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent

GEEK OUT
It's 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

TECH SPECS
Aspect Ratio (1.33:1)

Dolby Digital 2.0

DVD RELEASE DATE
December 11, 2007

 

 
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