Oswald the lucky rabbit was Walt Disney’s first marketed cartoon character creation. In 1927 Walt produced a series of animated shorts featuring Oswald for Charles Mintz, who contracted for universal studios and was scouting for an all-animated cartoon. Disney’s first attempted short was poorly received by universal, however after enlisting the assistance of animator Ub Ilwerks to give the rabbit a slicker image, the second short ‘Trolley Troubles’ gained universals approval. From there Oswald went on to feature in a series of 26 silent cartoons, between 1927 and 1928 that would run in theatres preceding feature films. Disney, persistently striving for perfection and quality began producing cartoons that were more and more costly to produce. Walt travelled to New York in order to discuss a pay rise with Mintz. Much to Disney’s dismay Mintz had other ideas, wanting to cut Disney’s pay by 20% and also informing Disney that he controlled the rights to Oswald. It was this meeting that inspired Disney to scrap the cartoon and begin work with Ub Ilwerks on another character that would go by the name of Mickey Mouse.
Disney’s original versions of Oswald were dismissed as to old and rough looking; it wasn’t until Ilwerks sharpened up Disney’s ideas with sharper lines and quirky and cute expressions that his Disney animation style became widely popular. The simple black and white animated characters with big beaming eyes laid the foundations for a bold animation style that is still replicated today. The characters were rendered without using shading, hatching or stippling and the bold lines used really made the animations pop off the screen. The legendary Mickey Mouse bears an uncanny resemblance to Oswald and along with other Disney animation has created a unique minimalist style that has been heavily imitated and is now being pushed in Japan, with characters such as Hello Kitty emerging and becoming exceedingly popular.