It was more than ninety years ago in 1923 that Walter E. and Roy O. Disney founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in their uncle’s garage in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. In early 1924, they would quickly get a distribution deal through Winkler Pictures to distribute their Alice Comedies which were a live action/animation combination that initially starred a young Virginia Davis.
The Alice Comedies popularity, though, started to wane by 1927. The films were becoming too costly and Walt decided to stop production. He and his top animator Ub Iwerks were encouraged by their distributor Winkler Pictures producer Charles Mintz to create the all-animated Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts. Mintz felt that the animated characters in the Alice series were more popular than the live action. These new Oswald cartoons were to be distributed by Winkler Pictures.
Poor Papa was the first Oswald cartoon, made in 1927 at the Disney Bros. Studios. However, producer Charles Mintz rejected it because he felt Oswald looked too old. Walt corrected the issue and the second Oswald cartoon, Trolley Troubles, was accepted and released to theaters. Oswald went on to be the first major success for the Disney brothers and Poor Papa was eventually released in 1928 as Oswald grew in popularity.
Africa Before Dark, released in 1928, is the thirteenth Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short. In our search for the lost Oswald cartoons, this print surfaced at the Austrian Film Museum as a 35mm nitrate film with German titles. With their cooperation we were able to secure high resolution scans of that film which then received a digital restoration and preservation so that it will be enjoyed at LACO @ The Movies and well into the future.
By David A. Bossert
Walt Disney Animation Studios