Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who Drew Oswald Rabbit??

by Connie Cortright

To continue our exploration of cartoon characters from the 20s to 30s... This week we meet one that I never heard of before. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was the forerunner to Mickey Mouse. He was developed and animated by Walt Disney before Disney left Universal Studios in 1928.

In fact, the reason Walt Disney started his own company and created Mickey Mouse was because Oswald Rabbit was so successful in 1927. Disney, riding high on the success of "Trolley Troubles" starring Oswald the Rabbit, baulked when Universal Studios suggested giving him a 20% cut in his salary. He figured that the studio couldn't get along without him so he refused to renew his contract at the lower rate. Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks left Universal and formed their own  company. They redid the cartooning of Oswald and created Mickey Mouse.

When Disney was originally creating Oswald, he decided to draw a rabbit because the competition of characters were cats (Felix the Cat and Krazy Kat). When one compares Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in his early drawings and Mickey Mouse, it's easy to conclude that they were drawn by the same artist. Mickey's ears are round, but the shoes and pants are almost alike. The eyes are drawn in a very similar style also. Walt Disney's hand can be seen in both drawings.
Universal Studios hired Walter Lantz to cartoon Oswald the Rabbit after Disney formed his own company. Lantz changed Oswald appearance through the 30s several times. He no longer wore white gloves or shoes and his clothes changed also.

By 1948 Oswald had become a "father" to two adopted orphan rabbits Floyd and Lloyd. He looked completely different when he appeared in comic books trying to raise his two sons. During these years he was illustrated by Walter Lantz, who was also the artist for Woody Woodpecker. 

I don't remember the cartoon character of Oswald the Rabbit as I was growing up. Maybe that's because his artists kept changing his appearance so often.  

If any of you have any Oswald the Rabbit stories to share with me, I'd love to hear your remembrances of him. Somehow, I don't think he can hold a candle to Mickey Mouse, though.

Information taken from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


by Connie Cortright

Or maybe I should say Mickey Mouse. Since the official first appearance of Mickey Mouse was November 18, 1928, that is considered his "birthday", thus this is a great week to celebrate this cartoon character. He was originally named Mortimer Mouse by his creator Walt Disney. However, Disney's wife Lillian convinced him to change the name and suggested the substitute name of Mickey, which stuck with him.

Mickey Mouse isn't Disney's first cartoon character, but came into existence when Disney's contract was up for negotiations on the first character he created (stay tuned for next week's blog to find out about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit). Universal Studios retained the rights to his first idea and insisted that Disney take a pay cut in his new contract to stay with them. Disney refused since he felt that they needed him to continue their successful cartoon shorts with Oswald. Disney left Universal Studios, taking with him his one remaining partner Ub Iwerks. They formed a new company - Disney Brothers Studio - and came up with the character of Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney turned his business and new character into a success story by using his marketing skills. The first successful short cartoon starring Mickey Mouse was named "Steamboat Willie'' in 1928. This became an instant hit because it synchronized the soundtrack of music and other sound effects with the animated movie. For the first time movie goers watched a cartoon character's actions exactly match the accompanying soundtrack. Disney used this instant success and added to the popularity by releasing Mickey Mouse merchandising for children. This included watches and alarm clocks using the arms of Mickey to point to the time on the clock. Also a big hit with children were the plush Mickey Mouse toys sold every Christmas since then.

Within two years of Mickey's debut, Walt Disney also started the Mickey Mouse Club, a fan club for children. This club became even more popular in the 50s with the use of television across the land. I know that was a favorite for me when I was growing up.

Walt Disney added other characters in the adventures that Mickey Mouse encountered. By 1930 Minnie Mouse was added to the cast with their pet, Pluto following shorty thereafter. Mickey's friends Goofy (1932) and Donald Duck (1934) joined him before too long.

The appearance of Mickey Mouse has changed over the years, but the artists consistently maintained the look of his two rounded black ears throughout his long history. By being consistent with that look, his ears now have become a brand that is recognized around the globe as the ears of Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney certainly gave the world something to remember him by for years to come. I wonder if Universal Studios ever regretted not renewing Walt Disney's contract in 1928 after Disney and Mickey Mouse became such so successful.

I hope you enjoy celebrating his 86th birthday with him. Share this with your children/grandchildren so the joy Walt Disney wanted to pass on continues down through the generations.

Information taken from Mickey Mouse - Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Playing Kat and Mouse

by Connie Cortright

For the past twenty years this antique has rested on my husband's dresser. The wooden toy, in the shape of a mouse, is held together by elastic strings allowing it's arms and legs to move in any direction. He told me his father played with this toy when he was a boy, which means that it is from the 1930s. I recently learned that this is Ignatz Mouse, a cartoon character from the 20s and 30s.

Krazy Kat and his sidekick Ignatz Mouse were created by George Herriman around the year 1910 after he had an accident, leaving him unable to continue his job as a house painter. Switching careers, he tried his hand at cartooning and became successful with the creation of Krazy Kat, drawing 3,000 cartoon strips over the next thirty years.

The basic plot of Krazy Kat was rather elemental. A simple-minded, innocent Krazy Kat was in love with Ignatz Mouse, trying to show her love to Ignatz in many ways. However, the mouse would have none of it. During most cartoon strips, Ignatz Mouse ended up throwing a brick at the head of Krazy Kat to try to knock some sense into the cat. Krazy took this brick-throwing as a sign of returned love by Ignatz so did not try to escape the thrown brick.

Herriman added another character to come to the rescue of Krazy Kat. Offissa Pup often arrested Ignatz Mouse, leading him off to jail by the end of the strip. In the latter years of the strip, Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse became more friendly, even ganging up against Offissa Pupp to keep him off their track.

Krazy Kat cartoon strip was first published in the William Randolph Hearst papers in 1913 and ran continuously until the mid-40s. In the last couple years, the cartoon was published in the Sunday edition in full color.

The comic strip was animated several times in shorts starting in 1916. During the 1930s another animator worked with Krazy Kat cartoons changing them significantly from Herriman's original plot line and mimicking the Mickey Mouse plot that had also started about that time. When Herriman died in 1944, Hearst also stopped the newspaper comic strip to honor the original creator.

I now have more respect for the little toy mouse sitting on my husband's dresser. I'll watch my back when I walk past him just in case he tries to throw a brick at my head.

Information taken from Wikipedia: Krazy Kat