September 5, 1927
“Trolley Troubles,” a transportation-themed cartoon short produced and directed by Walt Disney and distributed by Universal Pictures, made its debut. The film, which is about six minutes in length, is notable because it marked the first appearance of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This character would serve as the basis for Disney’s better-known cartoon creation Mickey Mouse, whose own first couple of films made the following year likewise involved transportation storylines: “Plane Crazy” and “Steamboat Willie.”
“Trolley Troubles” was not the first Oswald cartoon; that distinction belongs to one entitled “Poor Papa,” which Disney had completed earlier in the year. The executives at Universal, however, did not like “Poor Papa” — they were hoping that Oswald could be younger, thinner, and more of a Chaplinesque character – so the film was not shown at theatres at that time.
Disney subsequently made some changes to the animated rabbit’s appearance and personality and his second-produced film, “Trolley Troubles,” was given the green light by Universal to be released. This cartoon short showed up in theatres during a time when trolleys were still very much a popular means of public transportation across the United States.
The film’s plot involves Oswald operating a trolley with his children and various other animal characters as the passengers. During the course of the ride, he finds himself encountering such challenges as a cow that wanders onto the tracks and a steep hill that needs to be surmounted. “Trolley Troubles” was a hit with the press and theatre audiences alike, and Oswald became a big star.
After Disney left the franchise to come up with a new animated star, production of the Oswald films was taken over by Charles Mintz. He was eventually succeeded in this role by Walter Lantz, who is best remembered today for creating the similarly iconic cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.
Additional information on “Trolley Troubles” is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_Troubles.
“Trolley Troubles” can be viewed below.