Before there was Mickey, there was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Never heard of him? That's not surprising, but in his time Oswald was a big hit with his own merchandising.
Oswald was a character the Disney Studios created after Alice Comedies had run its course. The rabbit starred in a series of 26 animated black & white silent shorts (that were shown in major theaters with first-run movies) between 1927 and 1928. He also was the first Disney character to generate merchandise: a chocolate-covered marshmallow candy bar, a stencil set, and a pin-backed button.
The idea for this character came about when Disney's film distributor Charles Mintz (who was now married to Alice distributor Margaret Winkler) suggested a change in direction to keep his animated shorts fresh. Universal Studios was looking for a cartoon series featuring a rabbit and Mintz/Winkler suggested Walt Disney.You can read more about Oswald at Wikipedia, The Ultimate Disney, Disney Go Vault, and Lantz Golden Age Cartoons .
Oswald, created by Ub Iwerks and Walt, was a spunky & mischievous character with a personality and look that would later be reminiscent of a certain famous mouse. (In fact it's been said that Mickey Mouse is Oswald with round ears.)
The first Oswald cartoon Trolley Troubles, was released September 5, 1927. Oswald's clever gestures and amusing gags made him a favorite with moviegoers over the next 17 months.
Disney, constantly striving for a higher quality, began producing Oswald cartoons that were costly. In February 1928 Walt traveled to New York to speak with Mintz about an increase in pay. To Walt's surprise, Mintz wanted to cut his pay by some 20%! In addition, he learned that Mintz controlled the rights to Oswald. Rather than accept the cut, Walt gave up his creation, making Mintz the first of many who believed they could assume Disney's success. (Mintz and Winkler eventually lost the character as well and Walter Lantz went on to animate Oswald well into the 1930s. Ironically Oswald would return to Disney in February 2006!)
Walt learned from this loss and went on to create another successful character ... that no one would ever be able to take away. (SOURCE: This Day in Disney History)
Now, as to the ad shown below, it is from the November 1931 issue of Comfort. What can I say? Find the matching Oswalds and win $625 or a Ford Tudor Sedan. Where's the fine print? Oh, okay, the whole thing is the fine print. I especially love the line "We do not accept answers from people outside U.S.A. or in Chicago."
Click on image to see it larger.
Now sit back and enjoy a little bit of Oswald, including his first appearance in film, Trolley Troubles. I really love the music in each of these. Then after the shorts get back to work trying to match the Oswalds above. And no, I don't have a Ford sitting in my driveway waiting to be given away to the winner.