An animated short film by Walt Disney has just been found by the British Film Institute (BFI) after being lost for nearly 90 years.
The footage stars Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, one of Ub Iwerks and Disney’s first cartoon animals in 1927, one year before the duo created Mickey Mouse in 1928.
The resurfaced footage is six minutes long and called “Sleigh Bells” with lots of cartoon animals playing winter sports like hockey, skiing, and sledding.
It was developed in 1928, a year after Oswald’s creation. Watch a clip of the recovered short below:
The animated short was found by a researcher at the BFI National Archive, and will now be preserved by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“What a joyful treat to discover a long-lost Walt Disney film in the BFI National Archive and to be able to show Sleigh Bells to a whole new audience 87 years after it was made,” Robin Baker, the head curator for the BFI National Archive, said in a press statement about the find. “The restoration of this film will introduce many audiences to Disney’s work in the silent period — it clearly demonstrates the vitality and imagination of his animation at a key point in his early career.
The film entered the BFI archives over three decades ago and the footage was labelled with the incorrect date and no mention of Oswald, according to The Guardian. The BFI researcher recognised the title “Sleigh Bells” and guessed correctly it could be the lost short film footage by the same name.
Oswald has a special place in the Disney franchise. Disney and Iwerks created him as a part of Universal Studio’s first cartoon series and eventually abandoned the Universal project as well as the character they created to form their own studio.
Oswald stayed under Universal control for nearly 80 years until current Disney CEO Bob Iger became interested in getting the beloved rabbit character back. The deal eventually went down with NBC Universal when the two companies struck an agreement to trade sport announcer Al Michaels from the Disney-owned ABC and ESPN to NBC Sports and sign the rights of Oswald back to Disney.
The new restoration of “Sleigh Bells” will be debuted by Walt Disney Animation Studios at BFI Southbank in mid-December as a part of the “Disney Christmas: Seasonal Shorts” program in London.
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