What would Walt do to follow up on the Alice Comedies? The answer dropped into his lap. Universal Pictures had turned to Charles Mintz to inquire about the creation of a new cartoon series starring a rabbit. In January 1927, Walt and his team sent Mintz a bunch of rabbit sketches for approval. On January 31, 1927, Mintz wrote Walt requesting sketches, which Walt and his team quickly submitted. Universal liked them and a new series was launched.
The first Oswald the Lucky Rabbit film, Poor Papa, was finished in early April, but the response from both Mintz and Universal was disappointing, and it wasn’t actually shown until August 8, 1928. The studio’s second Oswald film was the first to be released. Called Trolley Troubles, it premiered on July 4, 1927.
If you look at photos or film of Oswald, you’ll discover that he didn’t look dramatically different than a number of the other cartoon characters of the day, including Felix the Cat. But that didn’t really matter. Walt and his team had developed a refined technique, compared with much of the competition, and Walt’s instinct for story and gags was another major plus. What’s more, Walt’s ideas for Oswald’s character -- mischievous and physical -- gave Disney animators plenty to work with.
As a piece in Film Daily put it, “Oswald looks like a real contender. Walt Disney is doing this new series. Funny how the cartoon artists never hit on a rabbit before. Oswald, with his long ears, has a chance for a lot of new comedy gags and makes the most of them. Universal has been looking for a good animal subject for the past year. They’ve found it.”