Only hardcore Disney fans, animation history die-hards, and some observant videogamers likely know about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The floppy-eared black-and-white character was a young Walt Disney’s first major success as an animator-for-hire at Universal. Disney created 26 cartoons featuring Oswald, before parting ways with the studio after realizing his contract meant he could not control the character. This year, Disney is celebrating the 85th anniversary of the character, releasing the earliest known animation by Walt Disney of Oswald to Yahoo! News.
After leaving Universal, the 27-year-old Disney went on to create Mickey Mouse, but it wasn’t until some crafty negotiation by Disney CEO Bob Iger in 2006 that Oswald was able to come back into the warm embrace of Disney’s corporate bosom. The character first popped up in a significant way as an antagonist in the 2010 videogame Disney Epic Mickey, but he figures as Mickey’s buddy in the sequel, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, out Nov. 18.
Check out the birth of Oswald below in a rough cartoon called “Harem Scarem,” and watch the seeds of one of the biggest and most successful media empires in the world: