A rare Disney cartoon was recently discovered called “Harem Scarem,” one that had humble beginnings known as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a time before Mickey Mouse and “Steamboat Willie.”
“This is a prime example of the kind of thing that we’re digging out of the vaults, going the extra mile to show the fans something new and unique,” archives director Becky Cline told Yahoo News. “There’s no new Walt Disney history to share unless we dig it out and discover it.”
He worked as an animator for Universal for several years before launching his own empire. And one of the major successes he helped create for Universal was the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
In total, 26 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons were produced for Universal in the 1920s and ’30s. In fact, it was Universal’s first-ever cartoon series. Though Oswald has his own unique characteristics, it’s clear to any observant fan that he provided much of the basis for what would become Mickey Mouse, arguably the most iconic animated figure in history.
However, things began to sour with producer Charles Mintz when the Winkler Productions head wanted to lower production costs and cash in on the character’s popularity.
“Walt was so creative and always trying to push the envelope. Not to compensate himself but to make the character better and to make the animation better,” Cline said.
“Walt didn’t understand that the contract he had signed gave Mintz ownership of the character. He was absolutely devastated. He wanted to do things his way.”
After getting out of his contract with Universal, Walt embarked on a long, lonely train ride back home to California.
“On the way back on the train back to Hollywood, Walt was sending telegrams to his brother and came up with the idea of Mickey Mouse,” Cline said. “He had a mouse he used to feed on his art board back in Kansas City. Mickey was kind of born in secret.”
“It was a hard break for Walt. He truly was devastated,” Cline said. “Walt was only 27-years-old when he lost the character.”
However, Disney brought the mouse back in his own sort of way and named him Mickey.