Animation giant Disney has regained the rights to cartoon character OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT, the forerunner to MICKEY MOUSE.

Late animator WALT DISNEY created the black-eared bunny in 1927, but after the rights were given to Universal, Disney decided to create his most famous animation, Mickey Mouse, which looked similar to Oswald.

Disney has managed to regain the rights in a deal which allows sports commentator AL MICHAELS to leave their ESPN channel for NBC Universal.

Michaels will now host NBC's Sunday Night National Football League (NFL) games as part of the deal, which also included the broadcasting rights to the Ryder Cup golf tournament and Olympic highlights.

NBC Sports chairman DICK EBERSOL explains, "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."

Disney's daughter DIANE DISNEY MILLER adds, "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. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."