Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny's long-lost, long-eared ancestor has been discovered in the National archive of the British Film Institute.
'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit' starred in the 77-year-old film "Sleigh Bells," which just found at the BFI's National Archive in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, by a Disney researcher who spotted the title while searching the online catalogue. The film has long been considered the 'holy grail' of Disney's lost rarities.
The last known copy of the 6-minute animated short made its way to the BFI from a Soho film lab that folded. The stock was dated 1931, and there was no marking on the physical object or casing to indicate that it contained the treasure it did.
Walt Disney and Ubi Iwerks created the Oswald character in 1927 for Universal, and they left that studio after a contractual dispute. The floppy-eared bunny is a bit of a rebel, and is married to a cat named Ortensia. And those ridiculous ears are a sign of what would follow at Disney: Mickey, Minnie, and the characters whose names we all know today.
From the Guardian:
The film features Oswald in an ice hockey game against a winter wonderland backdrop and has surreal touches with the rabbit at one point removing his ear to make a balloon. There's also an elephant and a laughing donkey, who gets the puck stuck in his mouth.
Andrew Millstein, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said the company was thrilled to be collaborating with the BFI on restoration of the short Oswald film. "The Oswald shorts are an important part of our studios' history and we have been working with film archives and private collectors all around the world to research the missing titles," he said.
Sleigh Bells will get its world premiere as part of a programme, called It's a Disney Christmas: Seasonal Shorts, on 12 December.
[HT: Jason Weisberger]