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Western Animation: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
aka: Oswaldthe Lucky Rabbit
Well, we never said that he was the modest rabbit...

"Oswald will not only be able to hold his own with competition, but will set a pace that will make the others hustle."

Lucky rabbit,
That lucky Oswald Rabbit!
Nicest rabbit,
That you ever knew!
Lucky habit,
That lucky Oswald habit!
If you get it,
You'll be lucky, too!
The Walter Lantz Oswald theme.

While Disney has created many memorable cartoon characters throughout the decades, we must remember that it all started with a... rabbit?

The original cartoon star of animation duo Walt Disney and his longtime friend and partner Ub Iwerks note , Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was once an all-but-forgotten, but very important, character in the History of Animation. Despite how obscure he remained for many years, his presence would wind up having a large impact on the future of the cartoon industry as a whole, laying the groundwork and paving the way for Walt Disney's future projects which would change animation forever.

In the waning years of the Silent Age, Walt Disney was — for lack of a better term — a nobody. Thrice, he had attempted to enter the field of animation, and all three efforts had led to dead ends: first, Walt's doomed Newman Laugh-O-Grams studio; which was followed by his equally-doomed follow-up series Lafflets; and then, by the slightly more successful live action/animation-blending Alice Comedies series. Finally, distributor Winkler Pictures got Walt and Ub a contract with Universal Studios. Walt, Ub, and their staff put together a pilot starring Oswald, called Poor Papa. Though Papa didn't impress Universal's management, a series of Oswald short comedies were still given the greenlight, and the Disney staff got right to work, with Oswald's official debut coming in the short Trolley Troubles (1927).

Still inspired by his viewings of Charlie Chaplin films, Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur, as well as Otto Messmer's Felix the Cat, Paul Terry's Aesop's Film Fables and Max Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell, Walt began striving for higher-quality animation and more dynamic use of rubber-hose animation, as well as much heavier emphasis on personality, story-based gags, and much more attention to story — this made the series a huge advancement over Walt's earlier Alice Comedies. While the animation was not quite up to par with the competition, be it technically or drawing wise, Oswald was rife with inventive gags and animation, and benefited from crisp pacing and feel-good premises. Oswald himself, like his successor Mickey, was a likable, scrappy but otherwise rather nondescript character. Contributing to Oswald's success were animators that would later claim their own stakes in the future of the medium, including his right-hand man and top animator Ub Iwerks (who not only animated, but handled the overall key poses, timing and art direction) Hugh Harman, Rudolph "Rudy" Ising, Norm Blackburn and Rollin "Ham" Hamilton, Friz Freleng, Les Clark among more esoteric names like Ben Clopton.

While it didn't reach the level of success of Fleischer's Koko The Clown or Messmer's Felix the Cat, the Oswald cartoons quickly became a hit series with the public. Oswald was even the first Disney cartoon character to receive his own tie-in merchandise (e.g., candy, stuffed animals, and pinback buttons)! Walt finally had a hit cartoon star, and it seemed like nothing could go wrong...

But alas, his success with Oswald was not to last. In 1928, Disney got into a hassle with Charles Mintz, then de facto boss of Winkler Pictures during negotiations for the second season of Oswald shorts. When Disney asked Mintz for a 20% budget increase (so that he could continue improving his animation standards), he was told not only that he would receive no budget increase, but that he had to accept a 20% budget decrease. As if things weren't bad enough, Mintz informed Walt that he had been secretly hiring away most of Walt's animation staff under a new contract — and in the biggest blow of all, he reminded Walt that he technically did not own the character or trademark rights to Oswald. (In fact, it has been said that Charles Mintz actually chose the name for Oswald out of a hat.) So Mintz gave Disney an ultimatum: take the budget cut and loss of staff control, or lose the right to use Oswald altogether.

We all know how this turned out, folks. After completing the remaining Oswald cartoons they were contracted to make, Walt, his brother Roy, Ub, and the two apprentice animators who'd stuck with them, Les Clark and Wilfred Jackson, left Winkler and Universal altogether. Walt, devastated by the ordeal, learned from there on out to be his own boss, and to always make sure that he owned the full rights to every character he created.

That, and this ordeal led him and Ub to create their own Captain Ersatz for Oswald when they started Walt Disney Productions: Mickey Mouse.

Meanwhile, back at Universal, Charles Mintz got a second season of cartoons made starring Oswald, but tensions between himself and the Universal executives were starting to boil over - specifically, after the overnight success of Mickey Mouse, the executives were more than a little upset that Mintz had let Disney walk away from the studio. After negotiations to bring Walt Disney back to the studio failed,note  as well as the second season of Oswald not nearly doing as well as the first, Universal reminded Mintz that he didn't own the rights to Oswald either, and Mintz was fired from the studio in 1929, prompting him to form his own cartoon studio for Columbia—and then proceed to rip off Mickey Mouse with his own Krazy Kat cartoons!

For the third season of shorts, the character was brought in-house and handed over to Walter Lantz, a former Winkler director who would now open a studio of his own, after he won the rights to Oswald in a poker game. Over the next few years, Oswald became the headlining star of his studio and continued to star in moderately successful cartoons, at least prior to the mid-30's. Lantz, with the help of industry veteran Bill Nolan and young staffers like Tex Avery (who would occasionally direct a few shorts in Nolan's steed), took the Oswald series into a more cartoony, fantasy driven direction than what Walt had done with him, distinguishing Oswald from being merely Disney's take on Felix the Cat. The animation became much more loose and organic than Disney's product due to Nolan's fast speed, a compensation for Lantz's low budgets on the series, and the tone of Lantz's shorts shifted to improvised, freewheeling musical-oriented fests, with plenty of off the wall animation to boot. Oddly, Oswald had no regular voice actor in the Lantz era (apart from a period of about a year-and-a-half early on, when Pinto Colvig regularly served as his voice), and studio staff would just take turns voicing him.

By the mid-30's, Lantz gradually drew Oswald away from his cartoon roots and started making the series into a more cutesy, family-friendly like series, obviously in an attempt to emulate Disney's successful cartoons. As such, the character's popularity began to decline; appearances in color, as well as a few redesigns (at first making him more kid-like, then much more like an actual rabbit) did little to halt the slide. Lantz began launching other short subject series in an attempt to replace the Oswald series, but none of them were successful. By 1938, Oswald's popularity had dwindled enough to where Lantz decided to put the series on hiatus.

In 1943, Lantz attempted to resuscitate the Oswald series via one short, The Egg-Cracker Suite, where the character now sported yet another heavily overhauled redesign — only to find a cartoon industry that the cutesy hare was completely unsuited to. By this point in time, Disney parodies and fast-paced comedies, as well as Screwy Squirrel-type characters, were all the rage — including Lantz's own new star, Woody Woodpecker. As such, the now-domesticated Oswald was given the shaft as a series star altogether, after lasting an impressive 192 short subjects. His last cartoon appearance would be a brief cameo along with Andy Panda — Universal's second major cartoon star — in the 1951 short The Woody Woodpecker Polka. And aside from comic appearances, occasional TV reruns, the occasional history book anecdote, and two cameos in Christmas In Tattertown, the character fell into total obscurity, doomed to be a forgotten relic in animation history...

Or at least, that was how it seemed — until 2006, when things finally got better; In exchange for trading Al Michaels, a sportscaster, to NBC Universalnote , Disney acquired all of the rights to Oswald and his shorts (excluding the post-Disney Universal cartoons), and in 2007, they reintroduced the world to the character via a two-disc DVD collection called Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. A handful of the Lantz Oswalds were also included on the two Woody Woodpecker DVD sets released around the same time.

As if things weren't good enough already for the old bunny, he made his full comeback, as the older half-brother of Mickey, in the 2010 video game Epic Mickey.

Note: Belonging to Universal from the start (with Walt being unaware of this until the ink hit the fan, so to speak), Oswald, by pure technicality, is not part of the Classic Disney Shorts lineup and was technically not even a real Disney character until 2006, despite laying the groundwork for Walt and Ub's later work. It is argumentative if Oswald was really the first Disney animated hero because on one hand Disney and Iwerks did create the character, but on the other hand, Disney never had ownership of Oswald to begin with.

You can find information on the Walter Lantz Oswald shorts on the Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia.

Obviously, no relation to My Uncle Oswald.

Contrast Felix the Cat and Bosko The Talk Ink Kid (which, incidentally, was created by two of the animators on the Disney Oswalds, Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising).
     FILMOGRAPHY 

1927

  • Trolley Troubles
  • Oh Teacher
  • The Mechanical Cow
  • Great Guns!
  • All Wet
  • The Ocean Hop
  • The Banker's Daughter: No known print exists.
  • Empty Socks: No known print exists.
  • Rickety Gin: No known print exists.

1928

  • Harem Scarem: No known print of the actual film is known to exist, but a pencil test of it has been uncovered by the Disney Archives.
  • Neck 'n' Neck: No known print exists.
  • The Ol' Swimmin' Hole: No known print exists.
  • Africa Before Dark: No known print exists.
  • Rival Romeos
  • Bright Lights
  • Sagebrush Sadie: No print of the film is known to exist, although several pencil tests of it survive to this day.
  • Ride 'Em Plowboy: No known print exists.
  • Ozzie of the Mounted
  • Hungry Hoboes: Initially thought to be lost, but a print was discovered to still exist in a private collection. As of 2012, it was auctioned and sold for $35,000!
  • Oh, What a Knight
  • Sky Scrappers
  • The Fox Chase
  • Tall Timber
  • Sleigh Bells: No known print exists.
  • Hot Dog: No known print exists.
  • Poor Papa (the first cartoon produced, but last Disney Oswald released): While a print of this film does exist, Disney was unable to acquire it in time for the Oswald collection.
  • High Up: First of the Winkler Oswalds.
  • Mississippi Mud
  • Panicky Pancakes
  • Fiery Fireman
  • Rocks and Socks
  • South Pole Flight
  • Bull-Oney
  • A Horse Tale
  • Farmyard Follies

1929

  • Homeless Homer
  • Yanky Clippers
  • Hen Fruit: First Oswald cartoon produced with sound.
  • Sick Cylinders
  • Hold 'Em Ozzie
  • The Suicide Sheik
  • Alpine Antics
  • The Lumberjack
  • The Fishing Fool
  • Stage Stunts
  • Stripes and Stars
  • The Wicked West
  • Ice Man's Luck
  • Nuts and Jolts
  • Jungle Jingles
  • Weary Willies
  • Saucy Sausages: Last Winkler Oswald.
  • Race Riot: First of the Walter Lantz Oswald shorts.
  • Oil's well
  • Permanent Wave
  • Cold Turkey
  • Pussy Willie
  • Amatuer Nite
  • Hurdy Gurdy
  • Snow Use
  • Nutty Notes
  • Ozzie of the Circus

1930

  • Kounty Fair
  • Cilly Con Carmen
  • Kisses and Kurses
  • Broadway Folly
  • Bowery Bimbos
  • The Hash Shop
  • The Prison Panic
  • Tramping Tramps
  • Hot for Hollywood
  • Hells Heels
  • My Pal Paul: Features a caricature of Jazz legend Paul Whiteman. The short was made as an obvious tie-in to...
  • The King of Jazz: Live action picture with a opening cartoon segment that Ozzie makes a very brief cameo in. Very first cartoon shot in two-strip technicolor, and as such is Ozzie's first appearance in color.
  • Not So Quiet
  • Spooks
  • Cold Feet
  • Snappy Salesman
  • Henpecked
  • The Singing Sap: First cartoon where Tex Avery is created as an animator.
  • The Detective
  • The Fowl Ball
  • The Navy
  • Mexico
  • Africa
  • Alaska
  • Mars

1931

  • China
  • College
  • Shipwreck
  • The Farmer
  • The Fireman
  • Sunny South
  • Country School
  • The Bandmaster: Public Domain.
  • Northwoods
  • The Stone age
  • Radio Rhythm
  • Kentucky Belles
  • Hot Feet
  • The Hunter
  • Wonderland
  • The Hare Mail
  • The Fisherman
  • The Clown

1932

  • Grandma's Pet
  • Mechanical Man
  • Wins Out
  • Beau and Arrows
  • Making Good
  • Let's Eat
  • The Winged Horse
  • Cat Nipped
  • A Wet Knight
  • A Jungle Jumble
  • Day Nurse
  • The Busy Barber
  • Carnival Capers
  • Wild and Woolly
  • Teacher's Pests

1933

  • The Plumber
  • The Shriek
  • Going to Blazes
  • Beau Best
  • Ham and Eggs
  • Confidence
  • Five and Dime
  • The Zoo
  • The Merry Old Soul: First Walter Lantz to be nominated for an Academy Award.
  • Parking Space

1934

  • Chicken Reel
  • The Candy House
  • The County Fair
  • The Toy Shoppe
  • Kings Up
  • Wolf! Wolf! (no relation to the Terrytoons short)
  • The Ginger Bread Boy
  • Goldielocks and the Three Bears
  • Annie Moved Away
  • The Wax Works
  • William Tell
  • Chris Columbus Jr.: Tex Avery claimed to have worked on the lengthy cannonball sequence.
  • The Dizzy Dwarf
  • Ye Happy Pilgrims
  • Sky Larks
  • Spring in the Park
  • Toyland Premiere: First Oswald cartoon in color.

1935

  • Robinson Crusoe Isle
  • The Hillbilly
  • Two Little Lambs
  • Do a Good Deed
  • Elmer the Great Dane
  • Springtime Serenade: The second Oswald cartoon in color.
  • Towne Hall Follies: First cartoon directed by Tex Avery.
  • At Your Service
  • Bronco Buster
  • Amatuer Broadcast
  • The Quial Hunt: 2nd cartoon directed by Tex Avery.
  • Monkey Wretches: Last cartoon to use the original Oswald design. First appearance of Meany, Miny and Moe the monkeys.

1936

  • Soft Ball Game: The making of this cartoon was featured in the 1936 documentary short "Cartoonland Mysteries".
  • Alaska Sweepstakes
  • Slumberland Express
  • Beauty Shoppe: Second appearance of Meany, Miny and Moe.
  • The Barnyard Five
  • Fun House
  • Farming Fools: Third appearance of Meany, Miny and Moe.
  • Battle Royal: Fourth appearance of Meany, Miny and Moe the monkeys. They would go on to their own short lived series after this cartoon. This short was renamed "The Big Fight" for reissued prints.
  • Music Hath Charms
  • Kiddie Revue
  • Beachcombers
  • Night Life of the Bugs
  • Puppet Show
  • The Unpopular Mechanic
  • Gopher Trouble

1937

  • Everybody Sing
  • Duck Hunt
  • The Birthday Party
  • Trailer Thrills
  • The Wily Weasel
  • The Playful Pup
  • Lovesick
  • Keeper of the Lions
  • The Mechanical Handy Man
  • Football Fever
  • The Mysterious Jug
  • The Dumb Cluck

1938

1943

  • The Egg Cracker Suite: Final Oswald cartoon and third one in color.

1951

  • The Woody Woodpecker Polka: Makes his very last cartoon appearance in a cameo.

1988

2013

  • Get a Horse: Now back at Disney, a CGI Oswald makes a cameo appearance waving to the viewer after the black-and-white screen is torn down.


Noteworthy Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts:

  • Poor Papa (1927) The original pilot for the series. It was unreleased initially, but eventually saw a release in 1928.
  • Trolley Troubles (1927): The first released Disney Oswald cartoon.
  • High Up (1928): First Mintz Oswald cartoon made without Disney.
  • Fiery Firemen (1928): Friz Freleng's first directorial effort at any studio.
  • Hen Fruit (1929): First Oswald cartoon with sound.
  • Race Riot (1929): First Lantz Oswald cartoon made without Mintz. And to clear any unfortunate misconceptions, the title actually refers to a steeplechase.
  • The King of Jazz (1930): A live-action feature starring Bing Crosby (in his very first film appearance) and Paul Whiteman, which has an opening cartoon segment that Oswald briefly cameos in. The second cartoon shot in two-strip technicolor, released August 17, just a day after the Flip The Frog color short Fiddlesticks, the very first two strip technicolor cartoon got released; irregardless, it is Oswald's first color appearance. The movie also had an accompanying Oswald short as a direct tie-in to the film, "My Pal Paul".
  • Confidence (1933): Pro-New Deal cartoon, featuring Oswald seeking Franklin D. Roosevelt's help for his ailing farm. One animator on the short was Fred "Tex" Avery, who then worked at the Lantz studio.
  • Towne Hall Follies (1935): First directorial effort of Tex Avery, although he is not credited.
  • The Quail Hunt (1935): Second cartoon directed by Avery, once again uncredited.


    Tropes Related to Disney-made Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts and characters 

  • Animation Bump: When Oswald attempts to correct his flattening with a small boulder in Tall Timber, we get a closeup of his face in what appears to be fish-eye vision.
  • The Atoner
  • Badass Adorable
  • Bears Are Bad News: Oswald and Pete encounter one towards the end of Ozzie of the Mounted, and Oswald had to put up with some again in Tall Timber.
  • Betty and Veronica: Although never on screen at the same time, in general, Oswald's rabbit girlfriend, Fanny was a Veronica-type and his cat girlfriend, Ortensia, was more of a Betty type. However, the rabbit was abruptly replaced full time by Ortensia, and wouldn't return until well into the Lantz period of shorts.
  • Captain Ersatz
  • Chaste Toons: Averted in Poor Papa, and again in Epic Mickey — the old bunny is quite the multiplier. The hordes of kids from Poor Papa are still with Oswald in Trolley Troubles, where we see them crowding around the trolley and causing chaos in the first few scenes. He shoos them away before the action really gets going.
  • Child Hater: Oswald, ironically, despite having an army of offspring, clearly hates children in most of his shorts, and tries to brush them off whenever a child is trying to get his attention. Sometimes kids deserve the hate. The bratty little cat boy Homer bugs Oswald repeatedly in All Wet and is positively sadistic in Homeless Homer. He's just as mischievous in later shorts, too.
  • Clown Car: In Trolley Troubles, Oswald's tiny trolley, which looks like it could barely even hold 8 people, seems to be capable of holding hundreds of animals inside it.
  • Continuity Editing: Done terribly in the DVD version of Bright Lights. Ozzie of the Mounted and Sky Scrappers also suffer a few nasty skips.
  • Covered in Kisses
  • Darkhorse Victory: In Rival Romeos, Oswald's cat girlfriend gets so annoyed at Oswald and his rival that she ends up riding off with a third guy.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Detachment Combat: In All Wet, he fights off two rascally mice by ripping off his ears and using them as bats.
  • Disney Villain Death: The fate of the bad guys in The Mechanical Cow, who fall off a cliff and straight into the maws of awaiting sharks.
  • Everything's Better with Plushies: Per the Disney tradition, you can now buy Oswald plushies at the Disney Store.
  • Extreme Omnigoat: In a gag later reused for "Steamboat Willie", a goat gobbles Oswald's sheet music—so he twists its tail like a crank to make it play the music instead.
  • The Everyman: Like Mickey after him, Oswald is a somewhat scrappy, but otherwise rather nondescript character in the original cartoons.
  • Foreshadowing: To Epic Mickey:
    • The title used at the end of the cartoons shows that Oswald is aware of his status as a cartoon character, and demonstrates him using art supplies to affect the cartoon world.
    • You'll notice he's often being harassed by mice in both the opening and ending titles to each short.
    • He also spends a good chunk of Great Guns! tussling with a mouse. Disney's official Facebook fan page for Oswald posted a screencap of him throttling the said mouse with the caption "Sibling rivalry?"
  • Fox Hunting: Done in the short "The Fox Chase".
  • Gainaxing: Mlle. Zulu from Bright Lights.
  • Humanlike Hand Anatomy: Oswald and Ortensia the cat have humanlike hands and feet shaped like blocks that are flat on the soles in Epic Mickey. In early cartoons, Oswald was drawn either with oval feet or feet shaped roughly like that of his species.
  • Interspecies Romance: From Oh Teacher to All Wet, Oswald had a rabbit girlfriend (Fracine "Fanny" Cottontail), but starting with The Banker's Daughter, his love interest was a cat (Ortensia). And in Rival Romeos, his two rivals for said cat's affection are dogs.
  • Leitmotif: The Oswald DVD set gives him one in the newly orchestrated scores.
  • Living Shadow: A wonderful example in Oh, What a Knight: During the climatic swordfight, Oswald leaves his shadow behind to continue the battle for him while he helps his fair maiden.
  • Losing Your Head
    • A surprising variation of this trope: In the short Oh, What a Knight, Oswald, to avoid having his head chopped off, has his head pop off of his body and fly into the air, but it lands back on his body a second later.
    • In Ozzie of the Mounted, Oswald's head is knocked off by a spring that bursts loose from Oswald's robot horse. But once again, he catches his head on his body.
    • In Oh, Teacher!, a cat bully punches Oswald's head off, but then punches Oswald's body to fly even farther than his head, so inevitably Oswald's head lands back on his body.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: The reason Oswald is so lucky. They're even removable!
  • Manipulative Bastard
  • Motor Mouth
  • No Name Given: Oswald had two distinct love interests — one a cat, and the other another rabbit. Neither of them were ever given official names to the public. In general parlance, the cat was given the name Sadie for the purpose of discussion, because the title of one of the cartoons she was featured in was Sagebrush Sadie. The cat was later referred to as Ortensia in Epic Mickey.
  • Older Than They Look
  • Off Model: In Trolley Troubles, when Oswald removes his foot and is kissing it for good luck, his leg disappears for a few frames!
  • Panty Shot: The Mechanical Cow and Oh, What a Knight.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The Robert Israel scores on the DVD set sometimes include snippets of staple PD tunes; Tall Timber for instance has a snip of the "Dawn" segment of "The William Tell Overture" used when Oswald is in a pond, hunting ducks. Trolley Troubles new score includes a few notes from "I've Been Working on the Railroad" in the opening.
  • Remake
    • Disney later remade Sky Scrappers as the Mickey Mouse short Building a Building.
    • Walt Disney did use a few gags from the Oswald shorts and used them for some Mickey cartoons. For example, in Steamboat Willy, the gag where the goat ate the music sheets and the instrument and was turned into a phonograph, was used in the Oswald cartoon Rival Romeos.
  • Rascally Rabbit
  • Robot Buddy: The eponymous cow from The Mechanical Cow.
  • The Silent Age of Animation
  • Threatening Shark: The fate of the antagonists in The Mechanical Cow.
  • Too Many Babies: The plot of the pilot cartoon.
  • Toon
  • Unbuilt Trope: Some of these cartoons seem downright postmodern.
  • Visual Pun: In both Trolley Troubles and Oh Teacher, Oswald pulls one of his feet off, kisses it, rubs it against something (his head in Trolley Troubles, a brick in Oh Teacher), and places it back on his leg. Think about it...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So what happened to all those other fox hunters in "The Fox Chase"?
  • Written Sound Effect: Oswald's cartoons play with them a lot.

     Tropes related to Post-Disney Oswald Shorts Made by Winkler and Lantz 

  • Abusive Parents: The dad of the kid in "Kounty Fair" (1934), although when Oswald finds out just how obnoxious his kid really is, and when the kid in question beats up and chases his dad out of his own house, he becomes just slightly more sympathetic.
  • Affectionate Parody: "Spooks" is basically an abridged cartoon burlesque of The Phantom of the Opera, right down to emulating the infamous unmasking scene from the Lon Chaney Phantom film from the 1920's.
    • "Hells Heels" is a parody of the western film "Hells Heroes", and several bits of the cartoon spoof plot points from the film.
  • All Just a Dream: The ending of "The Merry Old Soul".
    • The ending of "Grandma's Pet", when Oswald kisses Red Riding Hood, only to wake up and find out he's kissing a cow. Fortunately, the cartoon clearly sets it up as a dream from the start, so the ending comes off as a punch line instead of a cop out.
    • The ending of "Sky Larks", when Oswald and Dopey Dick are awakened by the theater janitor.
  • Alliterative Name: Dopey Dick, a recurring sidekick of Oswald in later shorts.
  • Animation Bump: In certain shorts such as "Hell's Heels" and "The Winged Horse", the background would actually be animated in perspective! "Confidence" takes this further and uses an actual photographed model of the Earth when the Depression phantom is flying about.
    • In "Spooks", when the Phantom starts chasing after Oswald, we get a fluidly animated close-up of him slithering out of his door, right into the camera!
    • The starry space scene in "Sky Larks", which ends with a first-person, fully animated zoom-in on Mars.
  • Art Evolution: In addition to the general look of the art direction going from minimalist watercolor backgrounds to either newspaper comic style ink and pen sketches or more detailed watercolors, Oswald went through several redesigns as the series ran its course, eventually looking somewhat like an actual rabbit.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The giant martian from "Sky Larks".
  • Badass Adorable: Oswald retains this trait, as shown in Jungle Jingles when he grabs a gun and pumps the lion who's chasing him full of lead.
  • Baseball Episode: The episode Soft Ball Game.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Mexico has Oswald challenging a bear in a cockfight.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Paul Whiteman in "My Pal Paul"; he just happened to be driving by when Oswald was on the verge of being crushed to death by a hanging tree, and he promptly props the tree back up and befriends Ozzie.
    • Oswald himself pulls it off in "The Dizzy Dwarf", by chasing down and revealing Rumpelstiltkin's name to the girl just in time.
    • In "Do A Good Deed", the birds and the bees save Oswald and his camp from a ravenous bear attacking them.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Oswald's great dane, Elmer, a character who appeared in several later shorts.
  • Body Horror: In "Busy Barber", Oswald saws off the tail of a sleeping tiger and uses it is as a barber cane! And later in the short, when Oswald's chair is defending him from the tigernote  and when the tiger eats Oswald, the chair proceeds to pull the tiger inside out!
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The Sheriff's kid that Oswald finds in "Hell's Heels", and the kid Oswald takes to the fair in "Kounty Fair" (1934).
  • Bull Seeing Red: Parodied in "The Plumber", where Oswald does a bullfighter and cape routine with a swordfish!
  • Canon Discontinuity: If Epic Mickey is anything to go by.
  • Canon Immigrant
    • Oswald's final, "white rabbit" design actually originated in an unrelated Lantz cartoon called Fox and the Rabbit, which was based on a children's story of the same name. Walter Lantz decided that he liked the design of the rabbit in that cartoon so much that he had it adopted as Oswald's design in his next cartoon.
    • Two twin bear cubs, antagonists of Oswald in Disney's Tall Timber, were reduced to just one rival — eventually called Toby Bear — in the Lantz short Kentucky Belles. In later Lantz comics, Toby became Oswald's buddy. The Disney comics bring things full circle, with Toby keeping his later buddy role but reverting to the original Tall Timber visual design.
  • Captain Ersatz: Dopey Dick, a recurring character in later Oswald shorts, is very much a copycat of Wimpy from Popeye The Sailor, right down to wearing his same outfit and having similar mannerisms!
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The giant martian from "Sky Larks", who is a type 3; he even proudly sings that he's a "big ol' meanie."
  • Christmas Episode: "Toyland Premiere", a color short in which Oswald plays a minor role.
  • Crossdressing Voices: One of his later voices was a female.
  • Darker and Edgier: In contrast to the Disney shorts, the Lantz Oswalds initially had much bawdier, weirder humor and sometimes grayer morality than Disney would have ever dared go—especially evident in shorts like "Hell's Heels", "Chile Con Carne" and "Kounty Fair" (1934).
  • Dastardly Whiplash: The villain of Towne Hall Follies.
  • Dem Bones: The skeletons featured in Hell's Heels, as well as the skeleton from the opening of Spooks.
  • Demoted to Extra: Initially the headlining star of Walter Lantz's cartoon studio, his declining popularity prompted him to be dropped from the short lineup in 1938, with a failed revival attempt appearing in 1943. While he still appeared in many tie-in comics to Lantz cartoons, the only time he would appear again in a Lantz cartoon was as a brief, non-speaking cameo in "The Woody Woodpecker Polka" in the early 1950's, and in reissue title cards for older Lantz shorts (curiously, even for shorts he had no part in).
  • Deranged Animation: Any short that Bill Nolan worked on, especially Hells Heels. Even more obvious when Nolan started directing some of the shorts himself, and allowed his animators (including a young Tex Avery) much more freedom than Lantz did. The very early Lantz Oswalds from around 1929 particularly stand out, due to their extremely loose, downright surreal movement and gags.
  • Desert Skull: In Hell's Heels.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: "The Plumber" is built almost entirely around gags of Oswald's house getting flooded.
  • Dreadful Musician: Fuzzy Wuzzy the violinist in "Radio Rhythm"; even the microphone plays the violin better than he does!
    • The underwater band led by a Walrus in "Hells Heels".
  • Driven to Suicide: Early in "My Pal Paul", Oswald tries to hang himself after he's exposed as a fraud musician—only for the tree to topple over and try and crush him, prompting him to beg for help—Paul Whiteman by chance is driving by, and he easily props the tree back up, and removes Oswald's head from the noose and puts it back on his body.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Monkey Wretches, Beauty Shoppe, Farming Fools and Battle Royal, which feature the first appearances of Lantz's short-lived stars "Meany, Miny and Moe".
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: The duet Oswald and his cat girlfriend (here referred to as "Marie") sing in Not So Quiet.
  • Gainax Ending: The end of Spooks, where Oswald is cornered by The Phantom, and he is asked a question: "What sound does a chicken make, when it lays a square egg?" He then slaps Oswald, who says "Ow!" "Correct!" And then the Phantom vanishes, leaving Oswald bewildered and victorious.
  • Groin Attack: Happens to Oswald in the climax of Spooks due to a bunch of lizards running under him (with their spikes rubbing against him below) and again in Cold Feet, delivered by sliding down pine trees.
    • In "Mars", when Oswald is returning to Earth on a comet, a string of stars drag under his crotch, but unlike the other examples, he's not really harmed but just annoyed by it.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: In the opening of "The Merry Old Soul", we are treated of the sight of Oswald's teeth, eyelashes and uvula, as he wails in pain from an aching tooth.
  • Haunted Castle: Used in the short "Wet Knight"; the drawbridge even has the words "Haunted Castle" in neon under it!
  • "I Am" Song: Oswald sings his theme song in Africa after the Queen asks him who he is.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Not unlike The Phantom of the Opera, The Phantom in "Spooks" is instantly smitten by Oswald's girlfriend Kitty, and even successfully helps her out with her singing (by rigging a record player behind her). When it's over though and the Phantom awaits the embrace of "My beloved!", Kitty completely ignores him, leaps over him and embraces Oswald instead. Understandably, the Phantom is pissed, and kidnaps her to his lair.
  • Interspecies Romance: Oswald sporadically has girlfriends throughout the series, who are usually cats.
    • The Phantom from "Spooks", who is a gangly, skeleton like creature, is instantly smitten by Oswald's cat girlfriend, tellingly named Kitty. It's completely one-sided, however.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: In "Kounty Fair", When Oswald finds out that the kid he took to the fair from an abusive dad is an obnoxious, harmful pest, he throws him right back into his dad's house—only for the kid to beat up his dad, chase him out of his house, and proceed to go after Oswald!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: While the series seldom if ever has any fourth-wall busting elements, the closest it comes to making one is in "Sky Larks", when the theater that Oswald and others watch the newsreel in is called the Cartoonville theater (and the newsreel they're watching is a live-action film).
  • Leitmotif: Oswald has a leitmotif in this series in the form of a snippet of the song Turkey in the Straw. Funny, considering that was the same song played in the first hit of his half-brother.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: In "Spooks", the Phantom deflates a singing hippo with a pin, and puts a record player under Kitty's skirt so she can audition, allowing her to sing—although the record skips at one point, and at one point it needs to be rewound (and when it dies down, Kitty winds down with it).
    • This happens to Oswald in "My Pal Paul" when the kid pup finds out the music he's "playing" is coming from a record player right behind Ozzie, and promptly exposes him as a fraud.
  • Lighter and Softer: The shorts from the mid-1930's and onward; while Oswald was never dark to begin with, much of the offbeat humor and Anti-Hero or Villain Protagonist qualities Oswald would display in the earlier shorts were either heavily toned down in favor of more sentimental, juvenile story material like fairy tales, or abandoned altogether.
  • Literal Ass Kicking: In Jungle Jingles a squirrel does this to Oswald, for no particular reason.
    • In "The Plumber", a taxidermied swordfish comes to life and rams Oswald in the rear for strangling a child fish, and several others follow suit—only for Oswald to pluck them out and throw them right back!
  • Losing Your Head: A bizarre example that's played for laughs in Hell's Heels: After the local sheriff chases Oswald out of town, he yells to Oswald, "And if you ever come back, i'll—" and the Sheriff attempts to do a "finger crossing neck like blade" motion... but beheads himself! After getting bit trying to pick his head back up, the sheriff quickly puts his head back on backward, and proceeds to walk backward back to town.
  • Lower Deck Episode: "Toyland Premiere", a Cartune Classic where Oswald does appear, but only has a small role in favor of all the celebrity cameos.
    • "Puppet Show", where Oswald only makes brief appearances before the focus shifts to the puppets.
    • In "Beach Combers", Oswald plays a minor role in favor of his dog.
  • Made of Iron: Used as a gag in "Hells Heels"; Oswald gets thrown in a bank by his fellow bandits while holding a stick of dynamite, and when it goes off, it destroys the entire bank, and literally charrs his cohorts to the bone—while he falls down basically unharmed, and only briefly dazed from the explosion that he was clearly at the event horizon of.
  • Medium Blending:
    • The use of a live-action model Earth in "Confidence".
    • The newsreel the audience is watching in "Sky Larks" is actual live action footage!
  • Mickey Mousing: Very frequent in some of these shorts.
  • Modern Egypt: A Theme Park Version of it is seen in Africa. The Sphinx briefly comes to life for the song in said short, which also confirms in-universe that the statue was based on a female.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Egyptian queen Oswald meets in Africa. Strangely, when she runs after Oswald, her body turns into standard Rubber Hose Limbs, probably because it would have been too hard to animate her semi-realistic figure.
  • Name's the Same: There are two shorts in the series, years apart from each other, called "County Fair" (although the 1934 one has a K in it).
  • Nightmare Face: The face of the phantom from Spooks.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Fuzzy Wuzzy in "Radio Rhythm" is an obvious parody of then-famous Violinist David Rubinoff.
    • Jazz legend Paul Whiteman appears in cartoon form in My Pal Paul, obviously as a tie-in to the then-recently released film, The King of Jazz.
    • "Confidence" features of a caricature of then-president Teddy Roosevelt.
    • A grotesque caricature of Mae West also appears in Towne Hall Follies.
    • "Toyland Premiere" features several different caricatures of celebrities from the 30's, including Shirley Temple, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Boris Karloff, Laurel and Hardy, and Tarzan.
    • At the end of "The Dizzy Dwarf", when one of the jesters sees a skimpily dressed dame walking by, he dons a Harpo Marx outfit and chases after her, only to get a quick smackdown.
  • Off Model / Depending on the Artist: Oswald's appearance would often change depending on who was animating him.
  • Oh, Crap: Oswald reacts this way when he discovers the kid he found is the son of the Sheriff he had just finished outrunning.
  • Ominous Owl: One appears early in the short "Spooks".
  • Pie-Eyed: All of the characters in later shorts.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The kid Oswald cares for in "Kounty Fair" (1934). He beats up his own dad and chases him out of his house at the end!
  • Planet of Hats: In "Sky Larks", Oswald and his friend visit the planet Mars, where every living thing on the planet is a weapon— they even have "horse pistols"!
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: (General) Pegleg Pete does this to Oswald in Not So Quiet.
  • Product Placement: The short "My Pal Paul" was made as a direct tie-in the 1930 Universal movie The King of Jazz (which Oswald also made a very brief cameo in)—the first shot even has a billboard of the film, and the short is centered around Oswald befriending jazz legend Paul Whiteman.
  • Public Domain Animation: A couple of the Lantz Oswalds, such as "The Plumber" and "Beach Combers" are in the public domain.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The very first piece of music used in the Lantz Oswald Race Riot is an excerpt of a Richard Wagner opera, the Prelude to Act 3 from Lohengrin.
    • "Two Little Lambs" has an excerpt of the Johann Strauss waltz "The Blue Danube".
  • The Quiet One: Oswald gets a voice in these cartoons, but barring singing and yelps, he doesn't have much dialogue, even compared to other characters.
  • Random Events Plot: Many of the cartoons have either very loose or outright stream of consciousness progression.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Briefly seen in the opening of the short Puppet Show, which is otherwise a mix of puppetry and animation centered on two puppet characters.
  • Rotoscoping: Presumably used to animate the Greek statue and Zazu Pitts in "Merry Old Soul".
  • Rubberhose Limbs: All of the characters in the series possess this.
  • Schizo Tech: The living weapons seen on mars in "Sky Larks", which are very much old fashioned, broadly drawn weapons such as pistols and cannons.
  • Screwy Squirrel: The kid Oswald helps out in "Kounty Fair".
  • Self-Disposing Villain: The Phantom from Spooks. Just when he has Oswald in his clutches, he proceeds to ask him the "What sound does a chicken make when it lays a square egg?" joke. Oswald can't answer, so he just slaps him to make him say "Ow!" and accepts the compulsive answer as correct, vanishing into thin air.
  • Shape Shifter: The Phantom from "Spooks" is able to do this, even briefly turning into a shadowy lizard late in the film.
  • Shout-Out: In "The Dizzy Dwarf", when Rumpelstiltskin is grilling the girl for his name, one of the names she suggests is Amos n' Andy, which was a very popular radio show in the 1930's.
    • The title of "Permanent Wave" (1929) is a punny reference to a then-new hair pressing machine.
  • Stripped to the Bone:
    • Oswald's partners suffer this in "Hell's Heels" when they blow up the bank and are reduced to skeletons by the explosion, although they're apparently still alive and promptly abandon Oswald (who survived basically unharmed, despite being the one who was holding the dynamite stick).
    • The fate of the evil Gorilla at the end of "Wet Knight"; Oswald launched a sentient bomb at him, which slaps him—the gorilla slaps back, triggering an explosion that leaves nothing but his skeleton behind.
  • Stock Footage: The Unpopular Mechanic reuses animation from The Barnyard Five.
  • Suddenly Voiced: After his cartoons went into sound, although Oswald's dialogue is still rather uncommon.
  • Super Strength: It revealed in Oswald cartoons Fiery Firemen and Not So Quiet that Oswald have super strength. In the end of Fiery Fireman, Oswald could lift a hippo with just one hand. In Not So Quiet, Oswald was carrying a gun a few times of his own height and weight and when he was about to be shot at sunrise he shattered many cannonballs that were firing at him into pieces with just one punch. Oswald have shattered shooting cannonballs before in Great Guns made during the Disney/Iwerks era of Oswald, when Fanny was still his girlfriend. "My Pal Paul" also shows he's strong enough to keep a tree from crushing him, although he's clearly straining from it and needed help to get out of it.
  • The Cameo: In the animated segment of the film The King of Jazz.
  • The Golden Age of Animation: Continued his run into this from the Silent Age, ended his run 1938 and again in 1943, and was demoted to cameo and comic work afterwards.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Subverted in "Hells Heels"; the kid goes up to a pond which clearly has a "Poison" sign near it, and decides to drink it. Oswald immediately tries to stop him, only to get slugged in the face by the brat, who drinks the water—and is not only completely unharmed, but reveals an underwater music band.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In "Spooks", Kitty acts like this to the Phantom who had just helped her win over the audience by rigging her with a record player—when he awaits her thankful embrace, she brushes him off by leaping right over him and into the awaiting Oswald.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: "Radio Rhythm", an early Lantz Oswald with numerous outdated references to 1930's radio stars.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In "The Dizzy Dwarf", Rumpelstiltskin flees in a hair-tearing rage when Oswald reveals his name to the girl.
  • Villain Protagonist: Oswald in "Hell's Heels"; he starts the short with two robbers who blow up a bank to rob it, and evades the local Sheriff, only to get strongarmed by his missing son into returning him back to the Sheriff.
  • Villain Song: A brief one in "Sky Larks" when the martian giant sings about how he's a "big ol' meanie."
  • Villain Teleportation: Rumpelstiltskin uses a magic variant of this in "The Dizzy Dwarf".
  • Visual Pun: In the first short, "Race Riot", Oswald's horse refuses to get out of bed, faking illness by showing that he has a coated tongue—a tongue that literally has a coat on it!
    • Just near the end of "Hell's Heels" when the Sheriff's kid drags Oswald to him, when the Sheriff tries to grab Oswald, he literally jumps out of his skin—as in, his head and skeleton jump out of his body!
    • In "Spooks", Kitty explains to the Phantom why she can't sing good, by showing she has her tongue tied—literally tied up in several knots!
    • In "Sky Larks", among the denizens of Mars, which consists entirely of living weapons, are horse pistols!note 
  • Wild Take: An almost proto-example is featured in "Weary Willies", with the bear squeezing Oswald to where his eyes grotesquely pop out like balloons.
  • When Trees Attack: In "The Dizzy Dwarf", Rumpelstiltskin creates a living tree that captures Oswald, while he goes after his girl.
    • In "Grandma's Pet", a wolf tries to shoot Oswald, only for it to bounce off a nearby sapling, which cries for its nearby momma tree. The angry tree then grabs the wolf and spanks him.
  • Your Size May Vary: In the short Spooks, when Oswald is being chased by the Phantom; in the next shot, Oswald is inexplicably a third of his usual size (and then back to normal in the next shot).

     Tropes related to Oswald in Epic Mickey 


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alternative title(s): Oswald Rabbit; Oswald The Lucky Rabbit
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