June 18, 2012 4:54pm PT by Seth Abramovitch
Watch the Earliest Disney Cartoon, Starring Mickey Precursor 'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit'
Long before Mickey Mouse let out his first, squeaky "Oh boy!" another Walt Disney creation was capturing hearts. His name was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character Disney dreamed up while working as an animator at Universal, before setting out on his own. Now, a never-before-seen Oswald animation -- the product of dozens of drawings from Disney's personal sketchbook running together sequentially -- has resurfaced as part of the character's 85th anniversary.
The Oswald series featured the first cartoons produced by Universal, who released 26 shorts starring the happy hare throughout the 1920s and '30s. His oversized ears, big, friendly eyes and red shorts were clear precursors to the rodent that would become the most recognizable American symbol the world over.
Disney eventually had to relinquish control of the character to Universal, who pushed to cut corners in the animation process, against its creator's wishes. That led Disney, then 27, to leave Universal -- and with him, take the idea for Mickey, inspired by a mouse who would visit his drawing board.
Years later, in 2006, a friendly deal between Disney CEO Bob Iger and NBC Universal saw Oswald return to the Disney fold, and the company has been steadily re-introducing him to fans, like a long-lost relative, ever since. He was already a character in Epic Mickey, the Disney video game, and is rumored to be featured more predominantly in the game's ambitious sequel.
In honor of his 85th birthday this year, Disney archivists unearthed the original Oswald sketches, and transformed them into an animation, titled, "Harem Scarem," which was unveiled at special events across the country held for members of Disney fanclub D23. (Watch the animation at Yahoo.)
The rough animation -- featuring Oswald riding, then kicking, a two-humped camel -- is the earliest existing Disney cartoon. Even in its very rudimentary form, the beginnings of the Disney magic are still undeniably there.