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Oswald the Lucky Rabbitt, Al Michaels, Disney and NBC Universal

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This strange bit of trivia goes way back to the silent era, back when Walt Disney made a series of cartoons with a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Universal.




In short Disney always felt Oswald, a character he created had been stolen from him.


Then in February 2006, a number of minor assets including the rights to Oswald were acquired by the Walt Disney Company from NBC Universal as part of a deal that sent sportscaster Al Michaels from Disney?s ABC and ESPN to NBC Sports. At the time, ABC had lost its contract for NFL broadcast rights, and despite recently signing a long-term contract with ESPN, Michaels was interested in rejoining broadcast partner John Madden at NBC for the Sunday night package. Universal transferred the copyright in a cartoon character to Disney, and in exchange, Disney released Michaels from his employment contract, allowing him to sign with NBC.


The deal includes the rights to the character and the original 26 short films made by Disney (namely, most of the Oswald films produced from 1927 to 1928). Rights to the Lantz/Universal-produced Oswald films and other related products were not included, and therefore Oswald appears in both Disney releases and in Universal?s Woody Woodpecker and Friends collection.


This has to be the only case where the rights of a cartoon character was traded for a sportscaster.

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From what I've read about it, Walt was really heartbroken when they "stole" the rights to Oswald from him; obviously he vowed nothing like that would happen again and ever since then, the Disney Co. has fiercely protected all its copyrights - a bit ironic, since so many of Disney's animated classics were based on fairy tales in the public domain.


I knew Disney Co. had gotten the rights to Oswald back not too long ago, but I didn't remember the details - thanks for sharing the story.


I've a little Oswald pin that Disney made not too long ago, it's very cute.

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