Book Review: “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons” is a Must-Have for Oswald Fans

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons by Dave Bossert releases on August 29th, 2017 and is timed for Oswald’s 90th anniversary. I’ve been looking forward to this book for many months, and was delighted to be able to receive a copy a little early for a review. Before talking about what is within the pages, I just want to say that the book delivers in EVERY way. As a casual Oswald fan with some knowledge of the character’s history, I was blown away by how much detail is in the book. At 176 pages, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons doesn’t feel hefty like some books – it is nicely sized, but the writing is exhaustive and so well researched and detailed. Few words feel extraneous. If you’ve read my book reviews in the past, I tend to have some sort of criticism on many, but I really have none here.


Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons is nicely presented with artwork of Oswald on the cover. There is no dust cover, which I don’t personally care about. Bossert has written other books that we have purchased, including the fantastic Dali & Disney: Destino and Remembering Roy E. Disney that we interviewed him about a number of years ago. Bossert is a terrific writer and researcher.
The book starts with a few pages detailing the 26 Oswald cartoons from 1927-1928 and whether they are lost or have been found. For example, 1928’s Africa Before Dark was recently found, and is now on on the Bambi 70th Anniversary Blu-ray release. All of the Oswald shorts have their own “chapters” within the book. Some of them are longer than others, depending on what information was available.
There are review quotes from a variety of people including author Didier Ghez, whose upcoming “They Drew as they Pleased Vol.  3″ will be my next book review, I have that in hand.
Film historian and author J.B. Kaufman writes the introduction, quickly mentioning the “historic recovery” of Oswald by the Walt Disney Studios (it is hard to believe it has been over 10 years since then). Kaufman talks about how Oswald mirrored some of Walt’s optimism and ingenuity, and that some gags and storylines eventually made their way into Mickey cartoons. After just 26 Oswald shorts, Walt lost the rights to Oswald (the character continued without him and Ub Iwerks). And so many years later, Dave Bossert suggested to the Walt Disney Studios that they should search for the lost Oswald cartoons. This has led to the collection of history that was thought to have been lost.


The book begins before Oswald was created – with the origins of the Alice Comedies, which helped Walt and Roy establish the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Their good fortune started to turn when Margaret Winkler of Winkler Productions married Charles Mintz – eventually he took over Oswald in an underhanded way. Before that, Mintz was a thorn in Walt’s side, and Bossert discusses that in detail. Oswald was created because Mintz and Universal wanted a new character – and specifically not a cat, since Felix and other cats were already popular. Walt and Ub Iwerks created Oswald in 1927. Until reading the book, I hadn’t considered how quickly Mickey came to life after they lost Oswald – between 1927 and 1928 there were 26 Oswald cartoons, and Plane Crazy was created in 1928. There is also discussion in the book on the similarities between Mickey and Oswald.
Back to Oswald – Universal and Mintz were disappointed in the first cartoon, “Poor Papa” and there are Western Union telegrams between Mintz and Walt Disney and then Walt with Roy. After 26 cartoons, Mintz didn’t only take Oswald, but much of Walt’s staff. And yet, even though Walt knew he was losing Oswald near the end of 26 shorts, he fulfilled that agreement.
Fast forward many years, and Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller tells Disney CEO Bob Iger that Oswald should return to the Walt Disney Company. And the book discusses the trade that was made possible through ESPN and Al Michaels.
It is interesting to see the different Oswald versions in ads in the book. Oswald didn’t always look the same in them. And remember the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series? In 2007, Disney had released Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which archival editor David Gerstein consulted on. That included 13 of 26 Oswald shorts. But beginning in 2011, more shorts started being recovered by Bossert and Gerstein. Dave Bossert began that with a bid and win at an auction (funded by the Walt Disney Company) of Hungry Hoboes.
A large portion of the book is dedicated to the films, beginning with the first created film though it wasn’t the first released – Poor Papa. It took the Walt Disney Company until 2014 to acquire a copy of it. Throughout the pages of all 26 films, there is artwork and promotional images – sometimes scenes from the films. And occasionally there will be a full script, which is fun. One fact I thought was interesting is that Ortensia – Oswald’s wife – only received that name in 2010 due to Epic Mickey (which I wasn’t playing). I also didn’t realize she was a cat.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons is a well crafted book with a wealth of information. Dave Bossert not only helped bring Oswald films back into the company fold, but now extends that to a thoughtfully written volume that will be a treat for Oswald and Disney history fans.

David A. Bossert is an award-winning artist, filmmaker and author. He is a thirty-two year veteran of The Walt Disney Company and expert on Disney animation and history. He co-authored Disney Animated, which was named iPad App of 2013 by Apple and won a prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award. Connect with him at or on social media.

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