"They may be too primitive to enjoy for their entertainment value alone, but these 13 silent, black-and-white cartoons from the 1920s have a ton of historic value. They're what remains of the 26 shorts Walt Disney did just before Mickey Mouse, during 1927 and 1928. The animation team included a trio of future stars -- Ub Iwerks, who would go on to draw Mickey, Friz Freleng, who later drew many Bugs Bunny cartoons, and Rudy Ising, who went on to run Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies unit.
Though he got off to a rocky start, Oswald was plenty popular. With the same engaging, spunky personality as his rodent successor, the Lucky Rabbit even had his own merchandise -- a chocolate-covered marshmallow Oswald candy bar, a stencil set and a pin-backed button. In 1928 Disney lost the rights to the rabbit to the shady distributor for Universal, replacing him with the very similar looking mouse we know and love today. Disney regained them in 2006, in exchange for allowing then-ABC television sportscaster Al Michaels to go to work for Universal's network, NBC.
The cartoons have new, orchestral soundtracks by Robert Israel, who earlier created the scores for The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vols. 1-3.
What makes the set terrific, however, are two unexpected additions. First, most of the shorts come with audio commentary, which really makes them interesting. Second, Disc 2 is a Academy Award quality (really!) documentary about Iwerks, called "The Hand Behind the Mouse," that was produced by his granddaughter, Leslie. Since it wasn't created by the Disney company, it's an honest, balanced, warts-and-all portrayal. In fact, it's the best inside look at the history of company ever. Kelsey Grammar narrates.
Collectors will note that this Treasures set comes in a gold tin, not silver. Also included is a little lithograph that's a sampling of some Oswald sketches, and a cute little Oswald button.
By the way, some of the post-Disney Oswalds are also now available on DVD. After Disney lost the rights to the character, Universal assigned the Lucky Rabbit to animator Walter Lantz, of Woody Woodpecker fame. The new Woody compilation, The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection, includes a handful of Lantz's Oswald shorts."
Not classic Disney, but very historic Disney. Here is the ti
Paul J. Mular | San Carlos, CA USA | 10/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While not classic Disney animation, these cartoons are far ahead of the other cartoons produced at the same time. This is one of the most historic Disney DVD releases ever. The loss of Oswald was the thorn in Walt's foot. This drove Walt to change his business practices. Sadly less than half of the Walt Disney produced Oswald Rabbit cartoons survive today.
Here is the list of the 13 Disney Oswald cartoons known to exist & included in this set:
1927 TROLLY TROUBES - Oswald orpeates a trolly car with wild results. OH, TEACHER - Oswald's sweetheart is stolen by a schoolyard bully, so he has to fight him during recess to win her back. MECHANICAL COW, THE - Oswald aopeates a milk stand using a robot cow who gives milk like a gas pump. GREAT GUNS - Oswald goes to war, his nurse gilrfriend helps to keep him in one shape as he fights in the trenches. ALL WET - Oswald takes a job as a lifeguard to keep an eye on Miss Rabbit, who fakes an accident for his attentions. OCEAN HOP, THE - Oswald goes up in a Trans-Atlantic airplane race.
1928 RIVAL ROMEOS - Oswald and Pete rival for the attentions of Lady Love. BRIGHT LIGHTS - "Stage Door Johnny" Oswald sneaks backstage to pursue a dancing girl. OH, WHAT A KNIGHT - Oswald's medieval sweetheart is being help captive in a castle, he mist rescue her. OZZIE OF THE MOUNTED - R.C.M.P. Ozzie pursues Pete in the guise of Foxy Wolf. SKY SCRAPERS - Oswald takes a job on a construction site working high steel with Pete as his foreman. FOX CHASE, THE - Oswald rides a reluctant horse against a smarter-than-usual fox. TALL TIMBER - Oswald goes out into the great outdoors where he canoes down the rapids and finds himself captured by a pack of bears.
There have been rumors that "HOT DOG" and "RIDE 'EM PLOWBOY." exist, but they are not included in this set.
BONUSES: Documentary: Oswald returns! Pencil animation from a lost Oswald cartoon.
Alice Comedies: 1) Alice Gets Stung (new to DVD) 2) Alice In The Wooley West (new to DVD) 3) Alice's Baloon Race
Documentary: The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story.
The Oswald cartoons will seem quite primitive to those used to the classic color Mickey & Donald Cartoons. Even the B&W Mickey Mouse cartoons will seem more refined. These might bore some children, but the Disney Treasures are for the real animation buffs and I would highly recomend this to any Disney fan!"
Jon | NY | 09/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're like me, you've taken great pleasure in watching vintage cartoons over the years and have only heard of the existence of some - cartoons you might never have expected to see. Regardless of what the actual quality of the material may be, it is an itch that until recently has been very tough to scratch without hundreds of dollars for low-print run laserdiscs or a doctorate in pop culture and letters of introduction to all the major studios.
I'm just about 39 now and have heard of the Oswald cartoons for years. In this instance - and in others - the rarity of the material, the legalities involved, and the virtual absence of major commercial interest meant that these might have stayed locked in a vault 'til Judgement Day and I would never have the chance as a layman to see them (much less OWN them!).
I can hardly express how pleased I am to witness Disney release these in a popular format for the general public - and at a dynamite value, too!
As an enthusiast of 1920's/1930's era cartoons I'd like to say "Thank you!" to the Disney Co. and express my appreciation for their blazing a trail other companies and distributors might follow in releasing so many of the '30s era short films on dvd and proving that there IS a market for such material.
Happy Viewing! -Jon, NY"
It's not about Walt - or Oswald - It's about UB IWERKS! And
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 12/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lately I've been reviewing a whole bunch of DVDS that, for some strange reason, have titles and packaging which hide the real gems inside the boxes. This latest volume in the "Disney Treasures" series is just another one. NO.. I'm not saying not to buy it. You should. I'm just harping on Disney for keeping the prize hidden inside.
In this case the "prize" is the wonderful two -hour documentary on UbIwerks made in 1999 by his granddaughter, Leslie, which was out on VHS but is long out of print. Yet, surprisingly, this whole "Oswald" set should have been called "Ub Iwerks: The Link between Walt and Mickey (featuring Oswald and Alice)". THAT would have said something. The documentary takes up more time than all the Oswald cartoons included, and it's fabulous. You'll learn about all the work he did when he created his own studio. (In fact this documentary led me to seek out more of Iweks films. And you'll learn how he is the one who made Hitchcock's "The Birds" work! This documentary should have been promoted more.
But as to Oswald, the cartoons are well done and the prints are decent. (As you'll learn in another short featurette, they had to see out existing prints as most of the originals were discarded.) And the story of how Oswald was re-acquired by Disney in a trade for a TV sports commentator is fascinating.
I'm glad that Disney is reissuing this material in these nice collectors sets and only wish they'd come out more often. If nothing else, you need this volume to learn more about, not Walt, but Ub and the amazing things he did!
Steve Ramm "Anything Phonographic" "
PRE-MICKEY DISNEY ICON
Tim Janson | Michigan | 04/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The history of Oswald the Rabbit is as eccentric as the character itself. Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created the character in 1927 but they were created specifically for Universal Studios. With some 26 shorts created, Disney sought an increase in their budget for the series. He was not only turned down but instead had his budget cut by 20%. When Disney scoffed he was basically told too bad because Universal owned the character and had actually already hired away most of the animators who worked on the series.
The one animator who didn't leave was the great Ub Iwerks. With Oswald gone, he and Walt set about creating a new character. That character would become the symbol of Disney, Mickey Mouse. Mickey was, at first, pretty much a pure copy of Oswald. Universal would continue to produce Oswald shorts for another ten years, picking Walter Lantz, best known as the creator of Woody Woodpecker, to produce them. Ironically, during his later years, Oswald would be softened a bit and end up resembling Mickey Mouse.
Now here is where it gets interesting...In 2006, ABC, which is owned by Disney, lost the rights to NFL football. Monday Night Football broadcaster, Al Michaels, asked to be released from his contact at ABC so he could join his partner, John Madden at NBC. Disney agreed but only if the rights to Oswald Rabbit were returned to them. Thus, I'm pretty sure this was the only time in history a broadcaster was traded for a cartoon character...I think Disney got the better of the deal.
Naturally Disney set about putting together a Treasures collection for Oswald. The only trouble is that only 13 of the original 26 shorts could be found and their quality differs quite a bit. This set features all 13 of the Oswald shorts and is filled out with several "Alice" shorts (Disney's first animated star) and also some early Mickey Mouse shorts including "Plane Crazy" the first Mickey Short, and "Steamboat Willie" the first Mickey short featuring sound.
While the animation on the Oswald cartoons is somewhat crude it's also very inventive with unique perspectives and shadowing effects. This is best exemplified in "Oh what a Knight" as Oswald tries to rescue his sweetheart from a castle, engaging in a sword battle with her father. Oswald periodically hands his sword to his shadow to continue the fight while he goes and smooches his girl. It's quite well done and one of the best looking shorts in the collection.
I also enjoyed "All Wet" in which Oswald is selling hot dogs at a beach (and the hot dogs keep trying to escape). When the cute girl rabbit pays him no attention he pays off the lifeguard to do his job and the girl fakes drowning in order to get Oswald to rescue her.
"Bright Lights" is another frantic bit of hilarity as Oswald sneaks backstage at a show and hides in a box that turns out to be a tiger's cage. Soon the Tiger is chasing Oswald throughout the theater.
The complete list of shorts includes:
Oh, Teacher (with commentary by Mark Kausler)
The Mechanical Cow
The Ocean Hop (with commentary by Mark Kausler)
Bright Lights (with commentary by Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck)
Ozzie of the Mounted (with commentary by Jerry Beck)
Oh What A Knight (with commentary by Leonard Maltin and Mark Kausler)
The Fox Chase (with commentary by Jerry Beck)
Featurettes include "Oswald Comes Home" a history of the character and "The Works of Ub Iwerks".
Oswald isn't the "Holy Grail" of animation finds that some may claim but it's certainly nice to have them back at Disney where they can be seen for the first time in decades. "