If you had to come up with a name for a cartoon that parodied the 20s shorts, you’d probably come with something like “Trolley Troubles.” Sounds like a short. Sounds wacky and slapsticky. It wasn’t the first Oswald - the distributor turned down the first one; wasn’t too good. They went back to work and produced something that must have clicked right away: not only did they make a bunch of Oswald shorts, there were lawsuits and tears and bitterness and hatred and eventually a deal that brought Oswald home and sent sportscaster Al Michaels to work at NBC with John Madden . . . but we’re getting ahead of the story.

It’s a trolley in the middle of nowhere:

 

 

. . . operated by a cheerful rabbit.

 

 

The art is polished and clean; it just looks fun. And hey, a fat guy! Let's have fat jokes!

 

 

Gets a little sloppy soon enough, though. Here's a gag that must have wowed 'em in the story conference: Oswald loads up the trolley by pouring in all the passengers who are, for some reason, sitting in a water tank.

 

 

But here's the problem: This isn't Oswald's solution. He didn't figure this out as a solution to loading everyone into the trolley; it's just how things are done. The ingenuity that would characterize the Mouse fellow isn't in evidence. But heck, give him time.

There's a long sequence where the vehicle adapts to the shape of the road. You'd think they'd realize wide roads had this effect, and build accordingly.

 

 

. . . aaaand the obligatory scene of the cow on the tracks.

The cow is wearing glasses.

 

 

As the trolley goes up and down the hills, it sheds passengers, who fall to what must be terrifying deaths.

 

 

Eventually the trolley is out of control, and Oswald must detatch a limb, remind himself that he is a Rabbit, and thus his limb has the power of Luck. This does not appear to hurt in any way:

 

 

Finally, a butt shot:

 

 

 

The tale's been well-told in the last few years, but here's the basic story: Walt Disney lost control of the Oswald character, and the company didn't get the rights back until 2006. A fellow named Charles Mintz - boo! hiss! - took the rights, hired away some of Disney's animators, and opened up his own studio, where they produced forgettable shorts. (Walter Lantz, who would give the world Woody Woodpecker, was one of the new animators.) Disney and Ub Iwerks came up with Mickey Mouse as a replacement, and the rest was history, et cetera, et cetera.

Here's Mintz:

His role as the Villain in the early days of Disney isn't known by all, since most people don't follow these things in great detail, or concern themselves with the legal problems and frustrations of the early Disney years. But if you knew the story, you got a big wide smile when you saw Pixar's "Up."

This guy? The villain?

Charles Muntz.