Wednesday 19 September 2012

That’s Oswald, 1928

Oswald the Rabbit started 1928 being produced by Winkler Pictures, Inc. for Universal. Oswald finished 1928 being produced by Winkler Pictures, Inc. for Universal. But something happened in between. At the start of the year, the cartoons had been drawn by a crew headed by a chap named Walt Disney. By the end of the year, almost all of Walt’s staff had deserted him and went to work for Winkler himself. Walt, as history shows, got the last laugh.

Oswald went through a few more changes, but the other one in 1928 was that he became a sound character. Exhibitors Daily Review announced on November 19 that the first Oswald in Movietone sound would be “Oswald’s Ragtime Band.” Theatres not wired for sound would get the silent print.

Winkler, or perhaps his boss Charlie Mintz, pushed Oswald in the pagers of Film Daily. Between July and December 1928, there are 28 box ads for Oswald, all with the same layout and typeface as the ads for Mintz’ studio’s Krazy Kat. They’re pretty cute. Oswald has long ears in some, and stubbier, tongue-depressor shaped ones in others. There’s one with some pigs that looks like it could have been in a Harman-Ising cartoon at Warners in the early ‘30s. All but one of the ads (which is mutilated) have been posted below, interspersed with reviews of the Oswald cartoons. The dates are publication dates, not release dates.

Anyone familiar with animation around 1930 should be familiar with the future careers of the names in the clippings. Roland (Ham) Hamilton was a top animator for Harman-Ising. Tom Palmer went to Disney, had a disasterous career with Leon Schlesinger and high-tailed it to the other side of the U.S. to work for the Van Beuren studio. Walter Lantz ended up producing the Oswald cartoons for Universal in 1929, leaving Mintz, Winkler and Disney’s former animators looking for work.

July 29, 1928
"Hot Dog"—Oswald
Circus Fun
Type of production....1 reel cartoon
The circus comes to town, and Oswald the rabbit tries all sorts of schemes to get into the big top without paying. He experiences a series of exciting adventures as the cop chases him. He takes refuge in the lion's cage without realizing what he has done, but when the lion sees his membership card in the Lion's Club he treats him like an honored guest. Finally as the cop chases him he gets a hitch on a wagon—but it turns out to be the patrol wagon, and poor Oswald is pinched anyway. The kids will like this one.

August 5, 1928
Type of production..1 reel animated
Oswald gets a chance to show his skill as a construction hand on a new building. Walt Disney has worked up some exceptionally clever cartoon material with a steam shovel and a donkey engine that are almost human. In fact they look like live creatures, and their expressions and actions are highly amusing. This Oswald cartoon is a good number featuring some fine cartoon ingenuity.

August 26, 1928
"Mississippi Mud"
Type of production. . . .1 reel cartoon
Oswald is deck steward on a Mississippi river boat, and when the villain kidnaps the beautiful heroine and takes her away on the boat, then the fun begins for all hands. The cartoonist has evolved some very clever cartoon gags and sketches for showing the antics of the animated rabbit, and of course it winds up with the hero rescuing the girl and proving his right to her love. Well up to the high standard of this series.

September 9, 1928
"Panicky Pancakes"
Oswald Winkler
Type of production. .1 reel animated
Oswald is running a concession at the county fair, when various animals start to interfere with his business. First the elephant drains his lemonade bowl through his trunk, and then a pup steals his pancakes as he flips them in the air. Finally the bandit mice steal his cash register and Oswald has some exciting time before he recovers it. Good gags put over at a lively pace. Hamilton and Palmer are now handling the work on this cartoon series.

September 17, 1928
Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, has made a departure in his amusement program. Heretofore there has been nothing topical in the cartoons in which Oswald is depicted. But the imagination of Oswald's creator, the Winkler Company, was so fired by Commander Byrd's determination to reach the South Pole, that they have made and will release in a very short time a picture entitled "The South Pole Flight."

September 23, 1928
"Fiery Firemen"—Winkler
Type of production..1 reel animated
Oswald, the funny rabbit, turns fireman, and proves himself a hero when he tries to save Miss Hippo, but she falls on him and flattens him out. Some tricky stuff is worked in by having the firemen sleep or mechanical beds that are almost human and answer the fire alarm and do almost everything that the firemen do.

September 30, 1928
Animal Fun
Type of production..1 reel animated
This time Oswald, the rabbit finds himself a trainer for the bull that is picked to do his stuff in the bull ring. Before Oswald realizes what has happened, the bull has him in the center of the ring, and a real scrap is staged that the crowd didn't expect. Oswald finally escaped by a narrow margin. The audience consists of all the various animals, who arrive for the fight by transportation methods and vehicle sthat are laughable and original. Cleverly animated, and with lots of comdey action.

October 14, 1928
"Rocks and Socks"—Winkler
Type of production..1 reel animated
Oswald, the rabbit starts out for a day's shooting. He tackles a little tiger, and is lambasting it when the mother conies along and makes things hot for Oswald. Escaping finally from the tiger, he encounters other strange monsters of the jungle, and is glad to call it a day. The cartoon work is very unique and some clever technique is employed. It carries the laughs also.

October 28, 1928
"The South Pole Flight"
Winkler Cartoon—Universal
Type of production. . 1 reel cartoon comedy
These lucky Oswald rabbit cartoons provide a real kick for any kind of audiences. They are exceedingly clever, and some of their exaggerated silliness is good for real guffaws. This one shows Oswald making a dirigible flight to the South Pole, and the difficulties he encounters, only to land at the desired spot, to place an American flag at the Pole.

December 2, 1928
"Farmyard Follies"—Oswald Cartoon
Type of production. . .1 reel animated
Artists Hamilton and Lantz put a lot of clever animation into this one. They show in their work that they are striking out along new lines, and the line of gags they develop for the funny rabbit Oswald are amusing. Oswald attempts to take charge of
things on the farm. He washes the little pig, and tries to milk the cow, but with poor success. His chief trouble is with a sassy young chicken that insists on mixing things up generally till Oswald applies the ax to her neck. A very enjoyable cartoon comic for old and young.

December 23, 1928
"The Yankee Clipper"—Oswald
Type of production. . 1 reel comedy
Oswald, the funny rabbit goes through his cartoonatics in great form. This time he is a barber with a very up-to-date establishment. The animated barber pole picks up pedestrians off the street and shoots them into the barber chair. This helps trade a lot. The climax shows Oswald made up as a manicurist in order to please the villain wolf whom he has kept waiting. Wolf takes him for a necking party in his car, and when he discovers that Oswald ain't that kind of a gal, he throws him out with a pair of roller skates.

1928 was a watershed year for animated shorts. I’ll have a timeline post encompassing studio highlights from the pages of The Film Daily in the future.


  1. Interesting to see the Palmer-Hamilton credit so early in the non-Disney run. I had thought the time-line for his Disney career was the lone stint in the early 30s -- was Tom part of the Harman-led group that sided with Mintz when he scuttled Walt's contract to produce the Oswald films? Or did he just happen to arrive at the wrong place at the wrong time? (Hamilton was definitely part of the group that broke away from Walt; if Palmer was as well, it would be surprising that Disney would take him back just a short time later, before he skedaddled to Leon's new studio to annoy Jack Warner, and then would take him back a third time in the late 1930s).

  2. Some Disney expert can no doubt weigh in. Palmer directed "Alpine Antics" in 1929 (copyright in Feb.). The Copyright catalogue lists the following Palmer cartoons: "Bull-Oney" (with Lantz in Oct. 28), "A Horse's Tail" (with Hamilton, Nov. '28) and "Yanky Clippers" (with Lantz, Dec. '28).
    The Catalogue says the pancake cartoon was by Harman and Clopton; no mention of Palmer. I suspect Film Daily must have received some kind of news release listing the artists who would be part of the Winkler studio.

    Disney copyrighted "Plane Crazy" on May 26, 1928 but he has his name on the copyright of "Hot Dog", dated August 3 & 7, 1928.

  3. There's a July 14, 1928 news release describing the Winkler studio and showing all the artists in a group photo. It appears in Universal Weekly—but only a few staffers are named. From details of the review description on Yanky Clippers I can tell that the Daily had access to Universal's copyright synopses, which starting with the post-Disney titles often listed a few staffers. (On Clippers, the synopsis inaccurately describes the end of the cartoon, and the Daily review matches the synopsis, not the cartoon.)

    1. Rama, I know it's almost Nine years late but Derek S. has unhearthed that Winklr Studio photo from 1928