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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 17:38 GMT
Oswald cartoon returns to Disney
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Oswald's return was part of a sports deal
Disney has regained the rights to cartoon Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the forerunner to Mickey Mouse.

The character was created in 1927 at Disney but the rights were given to Universal, which created 26 cartoons.

A deal to allow sports commentator Al Michaels to leave Disney-owned ESPN for NBC Universal included the return of Oswald to his original home.

When Walt Disney realised he had lost the rights to Oswald he is said to have created the similar-looking Mickey.

Oswald continued to appear in films until 1938 and in comic books until 1962.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said: "He (Walt) told me this incredible story that Walt's first really big production as a cartoonist for the cinema had been a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was before Mickey.

"And for reasons that aren't still totally clear to me, Walt lost those rights. He didn't have the money to hold onto them."

'Man of his word'

Michaels had been due to transfer to ESPN when Monday Night Football switched from Disney-owned ABC to the cable channel but asked to be released to join NBC's Sunday night NFL games.

The deal between the two corporations also included rights to the Ryder Cup and Olympic highlights, as well as the return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

It is not yet known if there any plans for Oswald but his return is being seen as retrieving some of Disney's early history.

"When Robert Iger was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word," said Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller.

"Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."

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