After the Alice Comedies, Disney's second animated series (after the Laugh-o-Grams) folded up in 1927, Carl Laemmle approached Disney and requested a new, all-animated series featuring a rabbit. Disney and Ub Iwerks created a new character called "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit". The first Oswald cartoon, Poor Papa, was poorly received by Charles Mintz and demanded a better, younger version of Oswald. The next cartoon, Trolley Troubles, was well-received and the series was officially launched.
In 1928, with the series going strong, Disney demanded an increased budget from Mintz, which he refused. Mintz instead told Disney that he was going to cut the budget and if Disney did not agree to the cut, Mintz would take over Oswald for himself. Disney refused and most of Disney's employees left for Mintz. Only Ub Iwerks remained, who, along with Walt, secretly created a new cartoon character to replace Oswald — Mickey Mouse.
Return to Disney
In 2006, the Walt Disney Company finally got back the rights to Oswald through a trade with sportscaster Al Michaels after over 80 years. In the wake of Oswald's return to the company, a line of special merchandise was released at Disney Stores nationwide and a Walt Disney Treasures DVD set was released compiling all of the surviving Oswald cartoons.
Oswald is one of the main characters in the Nintendo Wii video game Epic Mickey. In the game, he is the ruler of The Wasteland—a world where forgotten, rejected and retired Disney creations reside. Working with the Mad Doctor, he constructs robotic Beetleworx as a construction crew for his Disneyland-inspired vision. But then, an accident caused by Mickey Mouse early in his career creates a monstrous Shadow Blot that brings the Wasteland into ruins. The Mad Doctor then betrays Oswald and sides with the Blot. After a long battle, Oswald and his sweetheart Ortensia seal the Blot inside a large jug at the top of Mickeyjunk Mountain, but at the cost of Ortensia's life.
Ever since, Oswald remains at the mountain to guard the jug while nursing his hatred towards Mickey for having stolen the life and career that could have been his. When Mickey arrives, Oswald ends up reluctantly helping him on his quest to get out of Wasteland by refurbishing the Moonliner rocket in Tomorrow City, although Oswald is implied to be tempted to remove Mickey's heart and take it for himself on that rocket ride. After defeating the fake Shadow Blot at the summit of Mickeyjunk Mountain, Mickey reveals that he is responsible for the Thinner Disaster and the Blot and an extremely furious Oswald accidentally releases the real Blot, who steals Mickey's heart and begins to destroy Wasteland. The two decide to use the rocket to attack the Blot, only to land in Dark Beauty Castle, where the plans change to using fireworks to do the job.
The Blot ends up consuming Oswald, Mickey, and Gremlin Gus and the three have to fight the Blot from the inside. Oswald is stuck to the Blot's walls but is freed by Mickey. He catches Mickey's released heart but takes a good look at it, then, though a bit reluctantly, gives it back to Mickey, and launches the fireworks, which destroys the Blot once and for all. In doing so, Oswald is the real hero; he gives back Mickey's heart in the end, and then saves the day. The impact causes Oswald and Ortensia to crash back to Mean Street, and causes Mickey to leave Wasteland. In the shower of Paint that results from the explosion, Wasteland is restored and Ortensia is revived, helping to seal Mickey and Oswald's friendship and perhaps even extending into a true brotherhood.
Originally, Oswald was to play a far more negative role. He was meant to be the main antagonist during the game's early stages. He and the Blot were originally going to combine and become the Storm Blot, but this was soon dropped and Oswald eventually became an anti-hero with a boss battle before finally settling down to deuteragonist because the producers didn't want to reintroduce him this way.
In Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the Mad Doctor returns to Wasteland, claiming to have reformed and offering to help protect the world against a new threat in the form of natural disasters. Oswald teams up with Mickey to save the day once again. To aid Mickey, Oswald has a remote that can defeat or redeem enemies with electricity, like Mickey's paint. Oswald's remote can turn Beetleworx into allies, and power machines. Oswald's other powers are the use of his ears as a helicopter to float and to remove his arm and use it as a boomerang to get items or hit things and enemies.
In his current revival, Oswald is portrayed as being rough, bitter and short-tempered around anyone he doesn't trust. Being forgotten for so many years has often made him very cynical about his life, mainly due to how no one remembers him. He has sympathy for others who suffer fates similar to his. He had especially strong jealousy and hatred towards his "brother", whom he blamed for stealing his once famous life. It takes someone with a strong will to earn his trust. Beneath his harsh and cold exterior, however, lies a saddened, miserable, and hurt character who just wants to be loved again by the hearts of others. His time with Mickey helped him realize how Mickey cares about him as a brother despite their differences and the glory Mickey stole from him for so long, allowing Oswald to mend his grudge with Mickey and accept who they truly are as brothers.
Besides being rather grumpy, Oswald mirrors Mickey in many ways. He is quite mischievous, adventurous and never escapes trouble, but finds his way out through cunning and wit. He loves to play and make others laugh, but still has morals despite his flaws and always tries to do the right thing. He will attempt to do what's best for his family and friends, even if there are risks involved. Though he doesn't appear to be, Oswald can be quite friendly if he wants to. His love for Ortensia is just as strong as Mickey's love for Minnie.
Role in the Series
Oswald hasn't appeared in the series, but his position is among the most important to the UUniverses. Since he and Mickey defeated the Shadow Blot, Oswald has been introduced to the Shell Lodge Squad during the next Disney Originos Celebration, and was even made the co-host. His history is explained well in the series. At the same time Disney lost Oswald, Oswald was banished from the Disney Universe due to owing the Universal Universe favors that needed to be filled. The High Council decided that Oswald spend his exile in Wasteland until something good happened. At first, Oswald liked his new home, until it was terrorized by Mickey by complete accident, and nobody except Mickey and Yen Sid knew about it, and none of them told anybody. This lead to the events of Epic Mickey 80 years later, when Mickey was forced to fix the damages he did to Oswald, and save the reputations of both him and Oswald. Since they stopped the Blot, Oswald became a famous figure for Originos, and appeared every year.