Disney’s long-lost Oswald set to return to the big screen after film from 1928 discovered in British Film Institute archive

Disney’s long-lost Oswald set to return to the big screen after film from 1928 discovered in British Film Institute archive
By Sam Creighton
4 November 2015

Move over, Mickey Mouse – a long-lost Disney character is set to take centre stage.

A short film called Sleigh Bells, starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit has not been screened since its release in 1928, with all prints thought to have been either lost or destroyed. But a copy has been found in the British Film Institute’s archives, and – 87 years after its debut – the six-minute silent film will get a second world premiere this Christmas.

Unearthed: Footage of an 87-year-old cartoon starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, right, has been found in the British Film Institute's archives

The black and white short sees Oswald play a hockey champion who is distracted and flirts with a white bunny. The head of Walt Disney studios said he is ‘thrilled’ by the find, while the BFI’s head curator called the film a ‘joyful treat’. The character of Oswald is the first ever to be created by Walt Disney in 1927 and the floppy-eared precursor to Mickey Mouse was marked out by his cheeky and rebellious nature.

The character has appeared in a total of almost 200 films, most recently in 2013’s Get a Horse! Sleigh Bells was animated by Disney himself and Ub Iwerks, who then went on to create Mickey Mouse. A number of other films starring Oswald survived but, until now, Sleigh Bells was thought lost to history.

Wintry find: Sleigh Bells, a short cartoon starring the cheeky precursor to Mickey Mouse, was chanced upon by a researcher

The rediscovered print was preserved in the collections of the BFI National Archive and was unearthed by a researcher who was browsing an online catalogue of holdings. Walt Disney Animation Studios have used the print to create a restored version of the film, as well as digital copies that can be kept for future generations. The restoration will be given its world premiere at the BFI Southbank on December 12 as part of It’s A Disney Christmas: Seasonal Shorts, a series of screenings of festive films from the studio dating from the 1920s and 1930s to the present day.

Andrew Millstein, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said: ’We’re thrilled to be collaborating with the BFI National Archives in the restoration of the “lost” Oswald short Sleigh Bells, and to be sharing this delightful animated discovery with audiences in the UK as part of this special Disney holiday programme.

Back in action: The film has been restored by Disney animators, and will be screened at the BFI in December

‘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'. Robin Baker, the BFI archive's head curator, said: ‘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. ‘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. We thank Walt Disney for working with us and are thrilled to present the world premiere of this restored version here in London at BFI Southbank.’

Source: Daily Mail UK.