Friday 10 March 2023

Playing My Theme Song

Lucky. Rabbit.
The Lucky Oswald Rabbit.
Nicest. Rabbit.
That You Ever Knew.

Those are the opening lyrics to Walter Lantz’s theme song for the Oswald cartoons, sung by Oswald himself in Mars 1930.

Oswald sings his song to, presumably, the King of Mars, and accompanies himself on an odd plant with hands growing out of the ground. I suspect Pinto Colvig and others are making the tooting sounds coming from it. The song and some of the artwork of Oswald come from animation an earlier 1930 cartoon, Africa.

The duck-billed, lion-maned king’s body bops up and down to the music, swings his hips (like Mickey Mouse in The Opry House), and then he dances left to right across the Martian landscape in a 12-drawing cycle, animated on ones.

The king’s body separates into three parts and the top and bottom kick around the ball-shaped middle part for a while before the body goes back together.

Cut to the next scene with a wonderfully-designed, musical-instrument character that strolls right to left playing “Yankee Doodle” (yes, on Mars).

Gerry Geronimi, Manny Moreno and Ray Abrams get animation credits, with Tex Avery, Pinto Colvig and Les Kline in smaller letters underneath. The always-helpful David Gerstein has found the Oswald lyrics are by Bernie Grossman and the melody by Walter Lantz’s composer Jimmy Dietrich. Lantz and Bill Nolan share the director credit. For a while in 1930 and 1931, they were going for single-word titles of their cartoons. This was one of three Oswalds released by Universal in December 1930 (Africa and Mexico were the others).

There is more on the cartoon in this old post.


  1. When Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising left Universal for Leon Schlesinger's studio, they decided to ensure that they legally owned the characters they owned. So when they had a falling out with Schlesinger in 1933, they took Bosko and Honey with them to their new studio in MGM. But after they went over budget, their studio was replaced by one run by Fred Quimby. Harmon and Ising went there, but didn't take Bosko with them.
    Likewise, Ubbe Iwwerks made no known attempt to preserve Flip the Frog or Willie Whopper after his studio folded in 1936. Beans the Cat was tossed aside, and even Betty Boop went over 45 years without new content.
    Walter Lantz was different. He never forgot about his biggest star of the 1930's. Even when the last Oswald short was released in 1943, he made sure the character had a career in comics for over two decades. Even when that ended, he kept using Oswald in merchandising and publicity images alongside his own characters, some material as late as 1992! As marginal as it was and as little Oswald then resembled his original Iwwerks design, surely it was better than nothing. I personally find that commendable, if not magnanimous.

    1. At the same time, maybe due to the bad blood between Walt Disney and Charles Mintz over Oswald earlier in the 1920s, Lantz wound up creating another "leading man" star, Andy Panda, who then took over till 1949. At the same time, Walter L.and crew redesigned Oswald, maybe due to the horrible tiff between Mintz/Disney, the era when Oswald had the classic black/white style of Mickey, Felix, etc.

  2. In this era, space travel was depicted as a fantastic endeavor. Imaginative artists invented all sorts of colorful creatures that one may encounter on a planet. Unfortunately, that all came to an end when man actually reached the moon. I am glad we have managed to take those giant steps into the vast unknown but the reality has largely ruined this type of science fiction.