Secret Talks

 
 

Secret Talks

 

It looked as if the Oswald films would bring the Disney brothers the kind of success they had, so far, just dreamed about. Reviewers wrote that the films were “exceptionally clever” and exhibited “fine cartoon ingenuity.” Stores were soon carrying Oswald Candy Bars, Oswald Stencil Sets and Oswald buttons, generating welcome additional publicity. In September 1927, Oswald cartoons began to appear at New York City’s prestigious Colony Theater.
 
For the first time, Walt and Roy appeared to have a studio that was financially sound. In fact, they even purchased adjoining lots in June 1927 and began building new prefabricated homes in August. By December 1927, the Disney brothers and their wives had moved into their new homes. Lilly and Walt were also joined by Lilly’s mother, who moved in with them.
 
But Walt didn’t know that Charles Mintz was scheming behind his back. He had offered Walt’s staff more money and freedom if they came to work for him instead of Walt. Significantly, Walt didn’t realize he had never really owned the legal rights to his Oswald character. No, the rights were the property of Universal Pictures -- and, effectively, of Charlie Mintz.
 
All this gave Mintz the opportunity to betray Walt. The only glimmering Walt had that anything was brewing came from his longtime collaborator and star animator, Ubbe Iwwerks. In January 1928, Ubbe told Walt that the visits from Charlie Mintz’s brother-in-law to the studio -- which were supposed to be used for picking up completed films and lobby posters -- were dangerous. Ubbe told Walt he worried about all the secret little chats Mintz’s brother-in-law was having with the staff.
 
But Walt’s naturally trusting nature didn’t permit much in the way of suspicion, and so he pretty much ignored Ubbe as he headed off to New York City to meet with Mintz in February 1928 to ask for more money.