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Connor Ratliff @connorratliff
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As a warm-up for my #Mickey90 megathread starting 11/18, I'm gonna watch as many of Disney's Oswald The Lucky Rabbit cartoons as I can get access to, since OTLR is basically Mickey Mouse 1.0

I mean, just look at him. Walt lost the rights to OTLR & then re-created him as MM!
I own this dvd collection from 2007 which I was SO excited to own but I still haven't gotten around to watching, over a decade later! This twitter thread will be my excuse to finally watch these films.
There are 26 Oswald shorts by Disney. 13 are on the DVD set. They have since found 6 more, and 7 are still "lost." I think I will be able to watch 16 of them?

Here is an awesome book by @dave_bossert that pretty much covers everything about OTLR:
This is the debut short, "Poor Papa." It is NOT on the OTLR DVD.

For a long time, it was considered "lost" but then 3 copies were discovered in the early 2000s. Disney apparently tried to buy one of these copies in time for the DVD release but failed!
They finally acquired it and put it out as a bonus feature on the Disney Singnature blu ray of Pinocchio. I'm watching it via my @movies_anywhere app since the blu-ray comes with a digital copy.
Apparently the studio execs HATED his cartoon and rejected it at first. They eventually released it, but they were disappointed that Oswald was too old and too sloppy & overweight.

I'm not surprised they disliked it-- it's a particularly charmless debut for this character.
For some reason, the version of this short playing on my @movies_anywhere app is glitchy-- it starts off with a minute of color bars, then a minute+ of a blank screen, then it plays it without the musical score that is credited. So I picked my own music to film the clips...
Oswald has fathered too many children and he is freaking out about it! I was not expecting this to be where things started. I wonder if the plan was for Oswald to always be this unhappy dad? So, was the "lucky" moniker always meant to be ironic and kind of cruel?
So, if the execs had loved this short, was the plan for Oswald The Lucky Rabbit to always be this aggressively beleaguered parent? Or a generally disappointed adult? It feels like it combines kind of violent slapstick w/a lead who resembles Chris Ware's most unhappy characters
Honestly, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in his debut seems like a character from @realDonaldTrump's America: angry, not taking responsibility for his own actions, shooting a gun, laughing cruelly and ultimately unsuccessful at anything he attempts
I don't really disagree with any of these studio notes for the 1st OTLR short (screenshots of @dave_bossert's excellent book):
September 5, 1927: "Trolley Troubles"

This was the first one released, while "Poor Papa" was shelved until the following summer. Oswald is no longer in the role of beleaguered parent but is now a beleaguered trolley operator.
For the purposes of this twitter thread & my own amusement, I am going to continue to re-score these shorts using @radiohead songs.

1) Are any of those little bunnies Oswald's kids?
2) How does this trolley work? Tickets? Oswalt assaults a passenger!
3) Cows on tracks, always?
Ok, so by now I feel confident that calling him "Oswald The Lucky Rabbit" is akin to "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth."

Maybe he gets lucky later on, but the original concept is that this bunny is put upon; bad luck at home, bad luck at work, occasionally ingenius
They were correct to lead with this cartoon, it's so much more impressive visually, especially this ending. There is something about realizing that you are just looking at drawings.

Also, the trolley track is insane. Whoever built this is at fault.
I was gonna ask whether George Herriman was an inspiration for OTLR based on the landscape of Trolley Troubles but this ad copy sort of confirms it, plus it prefigures Goofy's original name, Dippy Dawg.
I know that storks & crazy looking landscapes are not exclusive to Krazy Kat, but that's 2-for-2 with the OTLR shorts so far. I get the sense that Disney must have been a Herriman fan even though I have no quotes to back that up, it just seems obvious that he would've been.
Dippy Dawg, or course, wouldn't appear until like 5 years later. Goofy is only 86 years old now.
Confirmation of what I assumed to by true, from @m_tisserand, author of
Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White!
September 19, 1927: "Oh Teacher"

Oswald is no longer a sad sack adult, he is a kid with a girlfriend heading to school who gets into it with a cat who is a complete asshole. After a few reversals, the cat accidentally knocks himself out with a brick.
This is the first OTLR short where he feels like the hero, where "lucky" doesn't feel like a dig

• a panties joke
• a mama pig & her son sequence that feels unrelated to the main action
• public transportation in the Oswaldverse is insane, just like in the previous film
Impressive heroics but in the 2nd act Oswald is defeated. This could easily be a Mickey short.

The "school" thread doesn't feel important in this one. The title feels off, too. The love triangle is all that matters

ALSO: Oswald's head comes off & he rides letters like a horse
Oswald plans to ambush the cat w/a brick but once the element of surprise is forfeited he loses his nerve & tries to talk his way out of a fight

• his girlfriend is fickle & easily impressed
• just like in the previous short, Oswald removes his own foot for luck
"which we are using as the comedy attraction"
Ok, buckle up because I think this next one is maybe the weirdest cartoon I have ever seen?

October 3, 1927: "The Mechanical Cow"

I am not sure I even know how to describe what this cartoon is about.
I think I want you to just read this plot synopsis from Wikipedia first.

Since it is (I think) unclear from this synopsis alone, when all references to "the cow" mean the titular mechanical cow, which is some kind of ROBOT COW.
Oswald & "the cow" are asleep, in separate beds.

The alarm clock goes off. OTLR fights with it. He then tries to wake up the cow

The fact that this cow is mechanical is a SLOW reveal & I'm not sure I would've known for sure without the title

They have a slide instead of stairs
OK, a LOT of process is squeezed into this 70 seconds & I have more Qs than As

Who built this mechanical cow? Oswald? Who chose to make him sentient? Have the makers of @WestworldHBO watched this?


Why a working tongue?

So many more questions...
I'm not sure why OTLR is suddenly so angry at Mechanical Cow. But I get it, emotional stuff is tricky and behavior can be erratic. Meanwhile, a taxi pulls up and any confusion I had previously is going to seem like NOTHING...
OTLR & Fanny sit

A hat FLOATS out of the taxi & reveals itself to be a weird monster hiding in the hat! Fanny & Oswald have switched places for some reason so it is confusing who he grabs at first, but it is Fanny. He kidnaps her! There are many monsters + gunfire

Cow returns
The Mechanical Cow was built with SO many features! Extendable neck! It can survive an explosion! Switch its parts mid-run & it can switch directions!

ALSO: Comedy rule of 3's in full effect when Oswald's pants get pulled down repeatedly
we never learn what the deal was with those evil top hat creatures but they fell off the cliff and got eaten by nightmare fish
The mechanical cow appears to experience genuine grief; is this just his programming, or are these emotions real?

This cow deserves its own series with full backstory but I fear this is the last we may see of this complicated sentient invention
The Mechanical Cow's desire for more sleep + emotional vulnerability are more than compensated for by its many useful features but most of all its COURAGE.

I would like to see TMC appear again in a later short but I'm not getting my hopes up
October 17, 1927: "Great Guns!"

Oswald goes to war! I have no idea what wartime cartoons existed before this one but this feels like it is setting the template for at least a few 1930s Warners Shorts in a similar setting.
First of all, the wikipedia plot descriptions for these shorts are terrific.
everyone is so excited to go to war!! ppl are literally driving their automobiles into the recruitment tent, that is how excited they are. (It looks like if u drive your personal vehicle in, they let you drive a tank!)
OTLR cannot wait to show off for his girlfriend how he is a soldier now.

He demonstrates killing and marching and it excites her. They kiss, and there is some sadness.
GREAT transition shot from Oswald kissing his gf to him smooching a large poster-sized photo of her face, in a trench, in the rain, in the middle of combat.

First impression: OTLR is not a good soldier. Then again, I have no idea if this is a just war. Maybe this is fine!
Machine Gun Mouse!
1) cannon ejaculation gag
2) double death gag
3) repeat cannon ejaculation gag
Combat becomes personal when annoyed mouse drops a bomb straight through Oswald's girlfriend poster.

Fantastic plane-to-plane slapfight ensues, leading to a double crash & fisticuffs on the ground:
I love this gag where Oswald punches mouse's head off and THEN punches his body.

After this, some sort of authority figure shows up, and it feels like it shifts from a wartime scenario to a police concern. But before too long a cannon is in the mix, so definitely wartime.
A few thoughts:

1) OTLR rides a cannonball through the air and then uses an elephant AS a cannon
2) what happens to the elephant is horrifying
3) what happens to OTLR is horrifying
4) the ending surprised me, and gives the short a satisfying structure
This poster alone is unbelievably violent. That little mouse is trying to drill a hole in Oswald's head while he prepares to shoot another mouse in the face with a tiny cannon.
October 31, 1927: "All Wet"

This one is the first OTLR short not to have its own Wikipedia page! Why not? Someone (not me) should do something about it! Use info from @dave_bossert's book!
The first chunk of this cartoon is all about Oswald selling hot dogs & I kinda wish the whole cartoon was just about this bc the hot dogs are ALIVE & he is cruel to them & it is bonkers

He also removes his own ears & uses them as weapons to beat mice who try to steal hot dogs
AND THEN: this little marvel of a self-contained vignette, in which an unnamed dog buys a hot dog but cannot bring himself to eat it.
And that same segment but instead of re-scoring it with Radiohead, using The Smiths' "Meat Is Murder":
I need to be making more GIFs from these cartoons
Oswald punishes his hot dogs for attempting to escape.

Unbelievably, this short is about to start NOT being about hot dogs. I could've watched a lot more of this.
They seem to have made Oswald's love interest more overtly sexual, compared to the previous shorts; Oswald closes his hot dog stand seconds after seeing her walk by. Had The New Yorker's Anthony Lane been alive in 1927, there would've been popcorn flying everywhere.
She's seems interested but then is not interested; she likes lifeguards, he bribes the lifeguard to become a lifeguard
I think this kid wants to go to the bathroom but I am uncertain what the initial breakdown in communication could be
A sexy idea to go out in a rowboat, change into a swimsuit, ditch the boat and yell for help
What started out as a cartoon about Oswald selling hot dogs that are ALIVE has ended up with him pretending to be a lifeguard and saving a woman from a huge fish; I believe a lot of this part ends up being recycled in a Mickey Mouse cartoon a few years later
November 14, 1927: "The Ocean Hop"

This cartoon is about a transatlantic airplane race and is less insane than a few of the other Oswald shorts I've seen so far. Pretty much everything in this short would work ten years later in any, say, Warner Bros cartoon.
I like how the airplanes have personalities. That's fun.

Also, online descriptions of this short name the villain with the peg-leg "Pete." Is that a thing people have done retroactively, or did Disney actually just *take* Peg-Leg Pete with him after losing the rights to Oswald?
• these plane designs are fun
• pretty early example of the classic "walk past the edge of the cliff but don't experience gravity UNTIL u realize u are walking on air" gag
• those mice are just riding a weiner dog & jumping on him but are happy 2 help turn him into an airplane
• these mice are just so helpful. Good job, mice!
• it's interesting that they gave pete a peg-leg but then he spends the rest of the short sitting in the cockpit
• this short could easily be a Mickey. Or a Porky!
• I like it when Oswald takes off his ears & uses them as tools
• how did OTLR catch up after Pete switched the signs? I am claiming this as an example of his "luck."
• OTLR is shot down! He lands but we do not see his weiner dog airplane land. I assume (s)he/it is fine.
.@twitter keeps trying to break my long threads. Hopefully this will patch up one stupid break I found:

One of the fascinating things about these early animated shorts is how they are figuring this stuff out, film-by-film. This one feels pretty rock solid. Everything is fun and makes sense.
OK, now we enter a patch where the Oswald shorts are either "lost" (hopefully waiting to be discovered in some vault somewhere) or recently found and yet-to-be-released.

I wish that @Disney would just release these online as soon as they are restored so people could see them.
In the case of "Empty Socks," this is the first Disney XMAS cartoon! They found it a few years ago & it has already been digitally restored

@Disney, why not release it this holiday season? It's a silent short from 1927, I can't think of a single good reason not to release it now
Seriously, @Disney. Look at this. It is begging you to release it between now and 12/25. Or ON 12/25! Drop it on XMAS and get everyone watching the very first Disney XMAS cartoon.

(Or, if anyone out there has it, send me a copy!)
Another recently discovered & restored & still-unreleased film is "The Ol' Swimmin' Hole"

I think this poster was in one of the @Disney books I pored over as a kid (The Art Of Disney by Finch, maybe?) so I spent a lot of time staring at this image, wondering.

Release it please!
February 20, 1928: "Africa Before Dark"

Normally, when I see the word "Africa" in the title of an animated cartoon from the 20s/30s/40s, I brace myself for a ton of offensive stereotypes & gags.

Amazingly, this cartoon from 1928 avoids this entirely!
This short was still "lost" when the Disney Treasures OTLR dvd came out, so it can be found as a bonus feature on the Bambi blu-ray.

The last time Oswald was with an elephant it ended up exploding so all that was left was 4 legs which ran away together.
The animation in this one is so lively & inventive! This is a really good short; you are basically watching the precursor to what will eventually become the Elmer Fudd/Bugs Bunny dynamic.
• so many great gags involve OTLR distorting his body, removing his own body parts & using them as tools; here a lion pulls his tail & it sucks his head down into his body
• great naked running w/his short pants running to catch up
• 3 lions chasing an elephant is scary to me
March 19, 1928: "Rival Romeos"

Another solid short that could just as easily work as a Mickey.
In some ways, the Oswald shorts are L.A. Takedown to Mickey Mouse's HEAT.
OTLR & Pete are both heading to Ortensia/Sadie's house to woo her.

• These are the character names I see online, they are not used in the short itself
• Pete EATS his cigar, the main reason to root against him
• I like how their cars are alive but I miss The Mechanical Cow
• problems caused by fly & then goat
• song selections include "Hot Lips" & "Hot Mama"
• secret surprise pig! Can you guess what is a pig before it reveals itself?
• Oswald's titular rival is MIA for most of this film
• grumpy old cat throws away all of his possessions in an attempt to stop Oswald's music
• rival finally shows up
• they pull her arms and what happens is upsetting
• some nice dog shows up; OTLR & Pete both fail, volunteer to kick one other in the ass, forever
Cronenbergian body horror
March 19, 1928: "Bright Lights"

Oswald falls in love, tries to sneak into a show without paying, and then some wild animals get loose and the theater is destroyed. This one has a stream-of-consciousness flow to it that is sort of dreamlike.
This short spends a big chunk of its first two minutes setting up what the show is, and Oswald's attraction to Mlle. Zulu, Shimmy Queen.
This is the 1st part of her routine:
The most impressive part might be when she does the actual splits, more than once:
Oswald tries to sneak in through the stage door. There is no VIP "list," this tall dog seems to have it all committed to memory. Impressive!

• Oswald's ears are secretly the tops of his legs!
• if you smash Oswald, he turns into several smaller Oswalds!
More Cronenbergian body horror
Oswald The Lucky Rabbit.
The mixture of continuity errors + the flexible rules of a cartoon universe make some of the action here a little confusing. It *seems* as if we are meant to think that OTLR let these animals loose & caused all this mayhem. But did he???
OTLR hides in this box, using the opening at the top. He didn't open it, but it turns out that detail doesn't even matter-- it will vanish in the next shot!
Tall security dog either doesn't notice the open top or seems unconcerned.
See? The opening on top is gone!

A jaguar appears through the side opening. What is this little box for? Whose job is it to guard this? Not tall security dog! He works the stage door! None of what follows is Oswald's fault.
Oswald gets out of the cage by physically shrinking in fear, but this jaguar simply slips through the bars!

This was a disaster just waiting to happen.
I'll admit that my random use of @radiohead music to re-score these shorts is sometimes strange, but I really like how it compliments this nightmare ending.

If you ask me, OTLR inadvertently exposed multiple security weaknesses AND architectural flaws & possibly saved lives.
GIF of lions attacking you 4ever:
This theater was unsafe even if the lions hadn't escaped. The building collapses just because everyone left quickly. Someone should be in prison for this.
April 30, 1928: "Ozzie Of The Mounted"

It's Oswald vs. Peg Leg Pete again! Fighting and chasing in the snow!
I still don't understand how Disney lost the rights to Oswald but was able to keep using "Peg Leg Pete" as a character. He apparently continues to be a villain in post-Disney OTLR shorts. I guess no one cared enough to put up a fight? Does this mean copyright doesn't matter?
A lot of surprises packed into the first 2 minutes & 20 seconds of this film. This must have been super exciting to a 1928 audience, right? Lots of derring-do and so forth:
No sign of The Mechanical Cow, but here we have Oswald's Mechanical Horse! This is just a basic part of the OTLRverse, there are "real" animals, humanoid animals like Oswald & Pete and also robot animals. Also, cars and planes are alive.
Peg Leg Pete no longer has a peg leg! Was he faking? Is that just a higher quality prosthetic foot? I mean, if you can make a mechinical cow that self-repairs & experience emotions, it stands to reason that the prosthetic foot technology would be equally advanced...
Oswald always has a surprisingly large gun
Pete is unafraid and laughs at Oswald's big gun and for good reason
One of the most disturbing images I have ever seen in a cartoon: Pete strangles Oswald and his startlingly large tongue unfurls from his mouth like a pile of large intestines
Something fun and/or inventive in every single shot of this cartoon
More Cronenbergian body horror
And THAT'S why they call him Oswald The Lucky Rabbit!
Like The Mechanical Cow before it, The Mechanical Horse has a remarkable ability to repair itself even when it seems like it has been completely destroyed
A fun loop that you can just watch forever if you feel like it:
LOOK at what happens when 3 dogs smash into a tree at the same time: THEY BECOME ONE WEIRD MULTI-DOG
Watch as Peg Leg Pete loses his dignity & his freedom in quick succession, and is ALSO mauled by a bear. Oswald laughs, he is a sick bunny.
One of the "lost" Oswald shorts, "Neck 'n' Neck," has been found in Japan!

Who knows how many years until we can see it-- @Disney still has a few fully restored "found" Oswald shorts that it is holding onto for reasons unknown...…
May 14, 1928: "Hungry Hoboes"

Oswald & Peg Leg Pete (now with a peg leg, again!) ride the rails together and evade the law. They seem to be friends now, but it's complicated
Pete & Oswald play chess and have what seems to be a mean-spirited kind of friendship but then a chicken appears and when it fails to lay eggs Oswald finds a horrifying workaround:
No matches, so Pete uses the friction of the fast-moving train to create an ASS FIRE by holding Oswald's body down against the tracks. He then cooks eggs using Oswald's ASS FIRE

The train stops, a weiner dog cop chases them. Eventually, Pete puts out the ass fire with his spit
I don't think enough people saw the clip in the previous tweet, so I am gonna show part of it again.

I am just gonna tweet this GIF at the president all the time and say "this is you" with no further explanation.
I am genuinely baffled by Pete's plan to evade police capture

1) dismantle car
2) make an organ by stuffing a dog & a cat & a pig into a box
3) transform Oswald into a monkey
4) pretend to be an organ grinder w/monkey while abusing dog & cat & pig

The plan works for 30 seconds.
I mean, it's horrifying
And then this weiner dog police officer shoots at two unarmed hungry hobos as they run away from him
The cartoon ends with Oswald being dragged behind the train while being shot at:
May 28, 1928: "Oh, What A Knight"
Wikipedia's description of the plot:
Some music, then some horrifying business involving either alligators or crocodiles in a moat, then more music:
Climbing then kissing then fighting then kissing then fighting then kissing then fighting
Oswald's thing is he likes to pull a woman's arm and make it really long
He wears himself out on that long arm and while he catches his breath it snaps back to normal size
Fun stuff
It would be so frustrating to swordfight with Oswald The Lucky Rabbit
Here he is alternating between kissing her and stabbing his sword directly into her dad's asshole
Bowling & spitting are Oswald's two final moves to achieve victory.

There are some who might think they get killed by that big lion and that the final moments are a death hallucination while they are being mauled
June 11, 1928: "Sky Scrappers"

Cosntruction sites for tall buildings are among the most iconic settings for animated cartoons that I see in real life all the time without thinking, "oh, that thing us where a lot of cartoons are set."
Everything is alive in an Oswald cartoon. The characters are alive and the machines are alive and the food is alive.
1928 and this short is already predicting that automation is a threat to the American worker.
I love that there is consistency in the Oswaldverse-- that hot dogs are alive and have little legs and OTLR DGAF he just wants to eat them without a moment's hesitation. There shoulda been more cartoons about these little hot dogs!
The tropes of 19th century/early 20th century melodrama are horrific. And also, even when it's just cartoon characters, these construction sites always feel so dangerous. Steel I-beams make me nervous.
terrifying but also beautiful
this is what life is
A happy ending, unless you stop to ask: who is raising that final I-beam, and to where?
June 25, 1928: "The Fox Chase"

"In this Oswald comic, the animated bunny goes in for fox hunting, thereby giving cartoonist Walt Disney the opportunity to create rather clever pen burlesque on society's great outdoor sport." - George J. Reddy, Motion Picture News
"Much humor has been compiled into this short reel, the animated 'gags' of which are nearly all original." - George J. Reddy, Motion Picture News
A strong argument for the existence of mechanical horses in the Oswaldverse. This non-mechanical flesh horse is a nightmare:
Flying fox with slapping tail
this dumb dog is bouncy
Oswald The Lucky Rabbit getting his crotch dragged during a fox chase
Oswald is sort of getting sidelined by the fox and all these dogs as they take up more and more of the cartoon
oh no not another tongue unfurling via strangulation
OH NO it turns out this big dog was all tongue inside
I don't know how many hunting cartoons existed before this one but this final move feels like they are establishing the template for all future hunting cartoons
June 25, 1928: "Tall Timber"

This is it! The last film available for my Oswald thread, unless I've missed one. There are several more that have been found/restored by @Disney but remain unavailable to the public & quite a few that are "lost" which will hopefully be found soon!
A harrowing ride down the rapids in a canoe, followed by failed attempts to shoot a duck
So many humiliations for OTLR in this short and yet on balance I still think he is pretty lucky to be alive
u ever experience a surprise moose?
flippin moose
never forget that if you smash Oswald he may temporarily split into multiple tiny Oswalds
This short is called "Tall Timber" but so far it has mostly been river and boulder stuff and the trees are very much background players
This move has been ruined by Who Frame Roger Rabbit, it can only be horrifying now
Enter a family of bears to change things up. No more river rapids and duck hunting, this cartoon is all about BEARS now!
our dad is the coolest he squeezes the trees when we want SAP
btw, papa bear double fisting these trees is the most tree action we are gonna get in this short, which I would've called "woods u really?"
what is this fresh hell
these baby bears is basically little mickey mouse bears
Oswald angers the big bear, runs away from him then (off camera) tears off his pelt to make himself a coat.

No idea why this film was called "Tall Timber."
Oswald playing the big shot with bear pelt, top hat & cigar. I think around this time Walt Disney is about to lose the rights to this character and have to start from scratch!
Gee, I wonder how Walt Disney will ever come up with a new character
I wish this wasn't the end of this thread. I will return to it if/when @Disney ever decides to release its restored versions of shorts like "Sleigh Bells" or "Empty Socks."

I'm pretty sure if they wanted to, they could release the remaining ones TODAY. Do it, Disney!!
They kept making Oswald cartoons, without Walt & Ub Iwerks. Maybe I'll watch 'em someday. But now, I gotta move on to the Mouse.
Even though in 2018, they are 2 distinct Disney characters, I truly do believe that in 1928, Oswald essentially BECAME Mickey Mouse; the early MM shorts basically pick up where OTLR left off. In that way, Disney's Oswald lived on.
This was the last we would ever see if this elephant, however. And whatever this is, it is definitely a sex thing.
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