Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oswald Plays Dem Dry Bones


Universal and Their Lucky Rabbit Prosper in Hells Heels (1930)

Oswald was lucky for Universal, if not for Disney, being a nice and ongoing revenue stream from the time Laemmle and associates commissioned him in 1927 till the character's screen retirement in 1943. My impression, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that Universal wanted a cartoon character and subcontracted Charles Mintz to develop one, which he did by way of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Then Universal's publicity named the rabbit they came up with. Oswald was inarguably the studio's property. It was only a matter of hiring artists to draw him, and they'd prove interchangeable, from Disney at first, to Mintz after he euchred Walt, then Walter Lantz once Universal got done with Mintz. Lantz proved most durable of the lot where the Lucky Rabbit was concerned. His cartoons with Oswald maintained a fair standard throughout the thirties. I don't recall seeing them on TV growing up. Were they around much? Maybe it was just our NC stations that skipped them.


By Hells Heels, Oswald was talking and risen high among cartooned faces. Am I safe to say he was second only to Mickey Mouse in 1930 polling? (for that matter, were there cartoon popularity polls in 1930?) Felix seemed finished, Fleischer had not (yet) star characters of weight, and Bosko/Flip The Frog were just starting out of WB/MGM. Oswald was established and an object of intense promotion, Universal making with trade ads and merchandising that Disney surely envied, and would imitate, as he developed Mickey. The Oswalds copied Walt on screen, but the rabbit's selling arm was a strongest among cartoon contestants, which is why it mattered less if Hells Heels and other Oswalds fell short of emerging Disney's quality. Universal had well-tuned machinery, and the Rabbits were good enough to keep it greased. Oswald could more than get by for helping fill a Universal program and not antagonizing his audience, as Flip The Frog risked doing at Iwerks/MGM when that character proved so unappealing. Oswald pads six minutes of Hells Heels with song/dance and gags looted from betters so recent as Disney's Skeleton Dance. Lantz and his animator, Bill Nolan, seem infatuated with skeletal matters. At one point, Oswald's surprise is expressed by his bones leaping out of his body, which would be lots more disturbing had it not happened so fast. Hells Heels is part of the Woody Woodpecker and Friends --- Volume One DVD, along with other Oswalds and Lantz oddities.

More Oswald The Lucky Rabbit at Greenbriar Archive HERE.

4 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Walter Lantz was laid off from Bray Studios. Mr. Bray saw no future with animated cartoons in the sound era. Talk about a visionary. He was a poor one.

Lantz hung out in Hollywood. Carl Laemmle played cards a lot. Lantz hung out where his games were played

Laemmle mentioned he was not having luck with his animated cartoon division. Someone mentioned Lantz had made animated cartoons in New York.

Said Laemmle, "Well, when he is around I win. Lucky at cards, lucky at animation.'

That was how things were done in old Hollywood. Oh, for those days now.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

The Lantz OSWALDS were purchased by Motion Pictures For Television in December 1954, but that company lost its way after its chief, Matty Fox, left to organize U.M.& M. TV. So it's not surprising that distribution was sparse. I don't know if those cartoons ever wound up on TV in New York City, especially when LOONEY TUNES became available the following February.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

The Oswalds most assuredly ran in the NYC market in the late 1950's-early 1960's, Michael J. That's where I saw 'em all as a kid (not sure which station had the package though). John, love your observation about the preponderance of skeleton gags in the 'black' Oswald cartoons. Watch five or six of these early ones in a row and you'll be blown away at how many times the characters' bones depart from their skins!

HELL'S HEELS is a very pointed parody of William Wyler's HELL HEROES, a then recent Western that, despite a sentimental finish, is pretty grim stuff. Incredibly, the cartoon is even darker with an awful lot of gruesome humor. Track down the Warner Archives copy of the feature, then play the short as an animated coda. Way cool!

4:57 PM  
Blogger MikeD said...

Hi Dave,
I don't remember seeing Oswalds in NYC (doesn't mean they weren't on). My first memories of 50's cartoons on TV are Flip the Frog, Willie Whopper and those Pauk Terry's with the farmer and cat-killing mice.

8:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016