Disney Pulls Rabbit Out Of A Hat

We know that you've been unable to sleep since you first heard the news. You pace the floor, gnash your teeth and go over it in your head, exclaiming "Why? Why was Al Michaels traded for a cartoon rabbit?" We first told you about it last week. But until now, you didn't know the entire story.

As you know, Michaels was released from his ESPN/ABC contract and allowed to move to NBC in part because the latter network agreed to fork over the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a Walt Disney creation from the 1920s (when Disney was forced to sell off Oswald, he just shortened the character's ears and created Mickey Mouse). So why would Disney want Oswald back? Was it simply, as Disney CEO Bob Iger claimed, so that a "beloved character could return home?" If you believe that, we have some swamp property in Adventure Land we'd like to sell you. Here's what really happened, according to Jim Hill Media (found via the Tony Isabella message board):

The story that I've heard from a number of Disney insiders is that it was actually an article that ran on Jerry Beck & Amid Amidi's excellent Cartoon Brew website back in January 2005 that reportedly put Oswald the Lucky Rabbit on Iger's radar. You see, Jerry & Amid had just done a story about how Oswald merchandise was (for some inexplicable reason) suddenly selling like hotcakes in Japan. And Bob — while doing his standard every morning routine of trolling-around-the-Internet-while-strolling-on-his-treadmill — [saw it and] allegedly just filed this factoid away.

Iger, say the insiders, started making inquiries about Oswald and found that whoever owned the licensing rights would be sitting on a potential gold mine. After discovering that Universal still owned the rights, Iger just kicked back and waited for the right moment to strike — which happened as soon as ESPN/ABC/Disney had something that NBC/Universal wanted: Michaels. More from Jim Hill Media:

As for Oswald's first gig as a newly reacquired Disney character ... Well, this lucky rabbit is about to go hi-tech. Given that Oswald-related merchandise is still very popular in Japan, Disney's reportedly looking into creating some brand-new animation of this classic cartoon character as he appeared back in the 1920s. So that this lucky rabbit can then make appearances on cellular phones and/or on other handheld devices.

You see, this is why some people make the big bucks. From now on whenever we see Al Michaels, we'll remember the day that NBC got outsmarted by a cartoon bunny.

A Special "Lucky Rabbit" Edition Of Why For [Jim Hill Media]