Walt Disney’s pre-Mickey creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was recently found in an unexpected place — Osaka, Japan!

Hardcore Disney fans, the kind who may want to party 26 hours straight at Tokyo Disney Resort on New Year’s Eve, may know of the character “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.” Created by Walt Disney himself in his pre-Mickey years, Oswald is a rabbit with long ears who first appeared in a Walt Disney Animation Studios film in 1927.

However, the following year the rights for Oswald were claimed by Universal Studios, and it was later that year that Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse as a mascot character to replace Oswald.

▼ Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — the character who could have been Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney apparently produced 27 Oswald cartoons before he parted ways with the character. Partial footage from one of the cartoons, Neck ‘n’ Neck, which had long been lost, was recently found among the collection of Osaka-based anime historian Yasushi Watanabe. It has been confirmed by former Disney animator sources to be indeed from the missing film.

The 16mm film containing the Oswald footage was purchased by the 84-year-old Watanabe when he was in high school, which would have been roughly 70 years ago.

▼ A tweet from Japanese public broadcasting channel NHK shows the newly-discovered footage from the Oswald cartoon Neck ‘n’ Neck.

The original short film was five minutes long, but the footage found in Watanabe’s film has been edited down to two minutes. Nonetheless, it’s extraordinary for even an edited version to be discovered after all these years. The film has now been moved to the Kobe Planet Film Archive, and Watanabe has commented that he is delighted to have been part of the discovery.

Frankly, given the marketing potential, we’re surprised that Oswald the rabbit hasn’t been more heavily promoted and turned into merchandise ranging from seasonal cookies to summer yukatas.

There are evidently six more Oswald short films produced by Walt Disney that are missing, so hopefully they’ll be found too, even if from the least likely of places!

Source: NHK NEWS WEB via My Game News Flash
Top image: Flickr/ Sam Howzit
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