A cartoon featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney’s pre-Mickey Mouse character, is to be screened for the first time in 87 years.
Made in 1928, the “long lost” film Sleigh Bells will be shown at the London BFI next month, after its rediscovery in the BFI archive.
Animators Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney came up with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit while working at Universal Studios in the 1920s. A slapstick, happy go lucky fellow, he starred in a successful series of shorts between 1927-1928. However, faced with a massive pay cut, Disney decided to leave Universal – and Oswald – behind. Not long afterward, he invented Mickey, who shares a fashion sense and general aesthetic with Oswald. The ears are different though. The ears are key.
Universal kept making films with Oswald through to the 1940s, but these eventually dried up. A comic book starring the rabbit survived for a few more years, albeit with a radically redesigned Oswald.
In 2006 Disney managed to buy the rights to Oswald. Since then he has starred in archive collections, cartoons, video games and even made appearances in the theme parks.
Sleigh Bells will be shown as part of a collection of Disney Christmas shorts on 12th December. Watch a clip at the BBC.