Missing Disney film which predates Mickey Mouse resurfaces in Japan

Lawrence Kim
November 17, 2018

It may be Mickey's 90th birthday this weekend, but his predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is also in the spotlight this week.

It wasn't until Watanabe read a book released a year ago called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons by Disney animator David Bossert that he realized several of the shorts were missing. For decades, the now 84-year-old Watanabe didn't realize the treasure he had in his hands, until he recently read David Bossert's book Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons, which chronicled the many lost films of the Mickey Mouse precursor.

Originally called Neck & Neck, the 16mm cartoon was tagged with the name Mickey Manga Spide (Mickey Cartoon Speedy), and remained in Mr Watanabe's personal collection for 70 years. The reel contained a 2-minute version of the Oswald cartoon called "Neck n' Neck", produced for 16-mm home movie projectors (the original was cut at 5 minutes). During the chase, the vehicles comically stretch and contract around steep turns.

Suspecting that his copy may be one of the missing films, Watanabe worked with the Asahi Shimbun to contact Bossert and the Walt Disney Archives, which confirmed that the film was indeed one of the missing works.

In the wake of the discovery, Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, told The Telegraph, "We are absolutely delighted to learn that a copy of the lost film exists".

The book claimed that seven of the 26 short films drawn by Walt had gone missing and one of them turned out to be Mr Watanabe's. Over the years, a few other previously-lost cartoons in the series have been rediscovered.

A 1928 Disney animation, which predates the creation of Mickey Mouse, has been unearthed in Japan, according to Japanese media.

Oswald was phased out by Disney after legal wrangling over the character's rights led to another company gaining control over the creation - described in Disney archives as a "brazen theft" - leading the famed cartoonist to devise another animal-based character - Mickey Mouse in 1928. As for Oswald, it was left in animation purgatory until Disney CEO Bob Iger bought back the rights in 2006. In exchange for minor assets, including the rights to the lucky rabbit, Disney allowed sportscaster Al Michaels to move from Disney-owned ABC and ESPN to NBC Sports.

Disney, in the meantime, took the opportunity to rework the Oswald concept into Mickey Mouse, which, at least in early versions, seems pretty similar to the Lucky Rabbit.

Gavin J. Blair at The Hollywood Reporter reports that Oswald was the first recurring cartoon character created by Disney.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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