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Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Disney Home Video presents The Adventures of Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit. Running time: 3 Hours and 54 minutes. Two DVD set. Theatrically released between 1927 – 28. DVD released Dec. 11, 2007.
The lost son has returned to the Magic Kingdom. For nearly 80 years, Walt Disney’s first animated superstar was locked in the vaults of Universal. Oswald Rabbit was created by Walt after his company stopped producing the Alice comedies that mixed live action. Oswald proved to be a hit with audiences for two years. In 1928, Universal decided they didn’t want to pay Walt so they took control of the character and lured away most of his artists. In the wake of this loss, Walt created Mickey Mouse and thus insured his company would thrive. When NBC-Universal got the rights to Sunday Night Footballll, they were eager to hire longtime ABC announcer Al Michaels from Disney. In order to seal the deal, Michaels was swapped for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Who got the best of this trade? The viewers.
The sad fate of Oswald is discovered on disc one. Disney understands the precious nature of their film legacy. Universal’s vault is completely lacking in such standards. Of the 26 Oswald cartoons that Walt produced for Universal, the folks at Disney could only locate 13 of them. Many came from private collections. Who could expect Universal to care about a silent cartoon series? The surviving cartoons are far from pristine. While it’s evident that Disney did a tremendous amount of restoration work, the various film and videotape sources they used to piece together cartoons is evident. The music by Robert Israel helps accentuate the action without resorting too Mickey Mousing the visuals. Leonard Maltin does a fine job of re-introducing Oswald to Disney-philes.
Oswald shares certain qualities with the early Mickey Mouse. They both wear shorts without shoes. Their faces are white and round with black noses. Oswald’s ears are longer than Mickey’s ears. Oswald’s more akin to Krazy Kat in the surreal universe he occupied. His body was rubber and detachable. Mickey seemed a little bit more physically grounded. While both didn’t mind causing trouble, Mickey seemed to elicit a little joy from his victims. The passengers in “Trolley Troubles” seem horrified at Oswald’s outrageous driving. The cartoon shows off animator Ub Iwerk’s amazing skills as he gives us takes us into the wild ride with great POV angles.
“Great Guns” has Oswald in the middle of trench warfare. In a weird twist, Oswald battles it out with a mouse that looks like a certain future superstar. “The Mechanical Cow” has a robotic cow on Oswald’s farm. This has to be the laziest robot in cinema history. Oswald has plenty of fun with the robo-udder. “The Ocean Hop” has Oswald in an airplane race contest against an early version of Pegleg Pete. “All Wet” has Oswald selling freakish hotdogs at the beach. He even barebottom spanks a wiener.
“Bright Lights” has Oswald sneak into a theater. Be warned of a black face moment. “Oh What a Knight” is really risque for its time. Oswald wants to save a princess from her evil dad. What’s wrong with this? She’s a cat! Disney was giving us a glimpse of forbidden inter-species love. Walt backed away from this concept when he had Mickey and Minnie Mouse date. “Tall Timber” has Oswald battle a bear that looks like a rough version of Mickey’s face.
While this is a two DVD set, there’s barely enough surviving Oswald cartoons to fill a single DVD. The second disc is dedicated to Ub Iwerks. While there are people who think that Walt Disney was the animation genius in the company, Ub was the hand that fulfilled their destiny. After losing Oswald, it was Ub who secretly drew all the animation for the early Mickey Mouse cartoons. The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story is an engrossing documentary done by the animator’s granddaughter. He was a fascinating man. After he stopped animating, Ub revolutionized the special effects in the movies. He’s responsible for making Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds so horrifying. It’s great to see him get acknowledgment for his contribution to Disney’s greatness. Without Ub, Walt would probably be remembered as the guy who got screwed over by Universal and faded into animation history.
The return of Oswald to Disney is a reason for animation fans to celebrate. Walt Disney Treasures – The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit restores him to his former glory instead of being merely a trivia question. While he wasn’t as fully realized as Mickey Mouse, Oswald was a great testing ground for Disney and Iwerks. They even recycled several of his sequences for the early mouse adventures. While Walt claims that his Disney empire was all started by a mouse, it was instigated by a rabbit. Al Michaels should be proud that he was worth swapping for a legend instead of a sack of used hockey pucks. What John Madden’s worth? Elmer Fudd and Tennessee Tuxedo?
“Trolley Troubles,” “Oh Teacher,” “Great Guns!,” “The Mechanical Cow,” “The Ocean Hop,” “All Wet,” “Rival Romeos,” “Bright Lights,” “Ozzie of the Mounted,” “Oh What a Knight,” “Sky Scrappers,” “The Fox Chase” and “Tall Timber.”
The Oswald shorts are all 1.33:1. The transfers vary according to the source material.
While the cartoons are silent, the new musical score is Dolby Digital Surround. There are commentary tracks on six of the cartoons from Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler.
Oswald Comes Home (13:51) gives a history of the character, how Walt lost control of him and how it took a blockbuster trade for the rabbit to return to the House of Mouse.
Sagebrush Sadie (fragment) (1:02) is mislabeled. This isn’t a fragment of the lost short. Instead we’re shown the surviving pencil drawings of the animation. It’s great to see these sketches in motion.
Galleries contains vintage promotional materials, articles and drawings involving Oswald.
The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story (1:31:38) is a feature documentary about the man behind Disney. Kelsey Grammer does a fine job as narrator.
Before Oswald (23:17) features “Alice Gets Stung” (1925), “Alice in the Wooly West” (1926) and “Alice’s Balloon Race” (1926). These three cartoons feature a live action Alice interacting with an animated world. It’s like a pre-school version of Cool World.
After Oswald (19:09) contains “Plane Crazy” (1928), “Steamboat Willie” (1928) and “Steamboat Willie” (1928). It is amazing to think that Ub Iwerks was the sole animator on all three cartoons.
|The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Walt Disney Treasures – The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
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The Inside Pulse
This is an essential Disney Treasure for animation fans.