'Lost' 90-year-old Disney film found in Japan

Lawrence Kim
November 17, 2018

The film features Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, a long-eared character created by Disney in the '20s that led to his most famous work: Mickey Mouse.

Watanabe's copy is now being held at Kobe Planet Film Archive, one of the largest private film collections in Japan. It sat in Yasushi Watanabe's collection all these years, and he has just learned that it happens to be one of Walt Disney's first films, reports the BBC.

Seven of the 26 short films featuring Oswald were missing, the book said - and Watanabe remembered his childhood reel.

It was not until he read the book, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons, that Mr Watanabe realised the historical significance of his find.

A cartoon film bought by a teenager in Japan 70 years ago has been revealed as a rare lost work produced by Walt Disney. Of course, any animations Disney did of Oswald are now incredibly valuable, and several have always been thought to be lost.

The original runtime of "Neck "n" Neck" was five minutes, but it was cut down to two minutes for the 16mm release.

Title: The film was later identified as "Neck "n" Neck".

Mr Watanabe's childhood purchase is now being kept at the Kobe Planet Film Archive, and another film showing 50 seconds of the same cartoon has also been unearthed at the Toy Film Museum in Kyoto, the newspaper said.

This is not the first Oswald cartoon to resurface in recent years. In 2014, a copy of the missing cartoon "Empty Socks" was found in the Norwegian National Library during an inventory, and in 2015, the British Film Archives discovered that it had a copy of a 6-minute 1927 Oswald short called "Sleigh Bells".

Gavin J. Blair at The Hollywood Reporter reports that Oswald was the first recurring cartoon character created by Disney. Disney asked for a budget increase, but Mintz balked, countering for a decrease in the production budget instead. This time, Disney retained the rights to his creation. Oswald continued on under the Universal banner, but eventually was twilighted.

While Mickey Mouse is the character on which Walt Disney built his empire, the creator had an even earlier iteration of the cartoon that many fans tend to forget about. At the same time as Oswald was being made in the U.S., for example, Bonzo the dog was having surreal adventures on United Kingdom screens. Or experience the uncanny valley of Mickey and Oswald together on the same screen. In 2006, Disney regained the rights to Oswald in a deal with Universal, where CEO Bob Iger essentially sent Al Michaels to Sunday Night Football on NBC in exchange for the return of the character and its films.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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