Do you believe in miracles? … Yes!

Oswald posterThat’s sportcaster Al Michael’s famous call during the 1980 Winter Olympics, but it might as well apply to today’s events. The Associated press has two stories – HERE and HERE – with more details on the incredibly shrewd business deal that the Disney Co. has engineered: today Disney traded sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC in return for, among other things, the 1920s character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It’s hard to even wrap my head around how cool this deal is; Disney is using their ESPN division as leverage to further their cartoon holdings. For a company that has shown so little regard and appreciation in recent years for its primary business – animation – this is a particularly meaningful gesture. From one of the AP articles comes this quote from Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller: “When Bob [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. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun.”

Despite the fact that Oswald has been a largely forgotten character here in the US for many decades, there is currently a lot of appealing Oswald merchandise coming out of Japan. Combine the merchandising potential of the character along with the old Oswald shorts likely coming out on dvd and other ways that Disney will exploit the character, and I think in a couple years NBC Universal will be kicking themselves that they gave away a valuable animation character to Disney…for Al Michaels.