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Robert Niles

Disney trades ABC sportscaster for Walt's original 'toon

Published: February 9, 2006 at 2:17 PM

Here's a bizarre story for Disney fans out there.

Disney's just traded sportscaster Al Michaels for the rights to, among other things, Walt's original character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Michaels, long the voice of ABC's "Monday Night Football" is leaving the network to join Universal-owned NBC's "Sunday Night Football" in the fall. But he was under contract to Disney-owned ABC, so the network extracted some concessions from Universal to release him.

Most of the deal involves Disney-owned ESPN getting the rights to air more highlights from NBC-covered sports events, such as Notre Dame football. But Universal also threw in the rights to Oswald, a character that Universal owned from back in the day before Walt Disney formed his own studio.

Walt drew Oswald for a series of cartoon shorts distributed by Universal. But Walt didn't own the character's rights. So when Walt decided to set out on his own, he created a new character by shortening Oswald's ears and putting shoes on his feet.

And thus, Mickey Mouse was born.

Replies (4)

Anthony Murphy

Published: February 9, 2006 at 4:49 PM

It is good that the Disney finally got back his cartoon. I hope to see these cartoons on the shelves. I really would like to see them!
Chris Walton

Published: February 9, 2006 at 6:59 PM

Personally, I would have kept Al Michaels, nothing against the cartoon, I just feel Michaels is such a great commentator, even better than his over-opinionated counterpart John Madden.
Jeff Krinock

Published: February 11, 2006 at 3:47 AM

Although ABC lost Al Michaels, I think it is great that Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is now with Disney. I get that Mickey Mouse was created because Walt lost the rights to Oswald.

I also think that letting Mr. Michaels out of the ESPN contract was the right thing to do. Mr. Michaels and John Madden, and the rest of the MNF team have always aired an excellent show. It would be wrong to break up the team (not just Al and John, but the whole MNF production).

I am happy that Mr. Iger seems to understand and respect tradition, loyalty, and history. He also seems to be able to strike the proper balance of the three.

I am looking forward to the future of the Walt Disney Company for the first time in a long time.

Anthony Murphy

Published: February 12, 2006 at 11:48 AM

I agree, this is a gamble, but it seems that both parties get something good out of this. ESPN is already such a force in Sports broadcasting so I don't think Disney will suffer. Also, Iger has proven that he knows his Disney history and is in the mood to keep tradition like Walt would have liked to do. I am suprised that Eisner or anybody else didn't try to get these cartoons before. I hope that we will all get to see these vintage cartoons!

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