A lost Disney film featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the character that would lead to the creation of Mickey Mouse, has been found in Japan ahead of one of the most popular cartoons’ 90th birthday. The 16mm copy of Neck 'n' Neck was with of anime historian Yasushi Watanabe, who had bought it when he was in high school nearly 70 years ago.
The original Neck 'n' Neck was five minutes in length, but was cut to two minutes for the 16mm version sold for home projection use.
Watanabe, now 84, bought the film at a toy wholesaler near his home in Osaka, but only recently read Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons by David Bossert, a longtime animator at Disney who published the book last year.
The film was tagged "Mickey Manga Spide" (Mickey cartoon speedy) and cost Watanabe 500 Yen.
"As I've been a Disney fan for many years, I'm happy that I was able to play a role," Watanabe told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which contacted Bossert and the Walt Disney Archives to confirm it was one of seven of the 26 Oswald series thought to be permanently lost.
Watanabe's copy is currently being kept at Kobe Planet Film Archive, Japan.
Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 1927, and it was Disney Studios' first character to have its own show.
A total of 27 cartoons were made, but Oswald became the reason for intellectual property dispute, with Universal Studios wrestling the rights to the character in 1928.
In response, Disney started working on a new lead character, one that would eventually be known as Mickey Mouse. Oswald was left abandoned until Disney CEO Bob Iger bought back the rights in 2006.
Another of the lost Oswald films was discovered in the British Film Institute archives in 2015.
"Steamboat Willie", the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to get a full release, debuted on November 18, 1928.