Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the original famous Disney character before Mickey Mouse came along, appears in a long-lost six-minute cartoon recently found in the British Film Institute's archives, the Telegraph reports. "Sleigh Bells" was broadcast in 1928, but all copies were thought to have been lost and it has not been viewed since. This copy is thought to have been donated to the archive in the 1980s; apparently, no one realized it was the only surviving copy and it was thus overlooked until a researcher recently typed its name into the BFI's new online database while hunting down long-lost titles. It will be fully restored and screened at a BFI facility in London on Dec. 12.
An animation programmer at BFI tells CNN this cartoon is "the holy grail of Disney films," seeing as it was the second-to-last Oswald cartoon made before Walt Disney split with Universal (which owned the rights to Oswald) and created Mickey Mouse. "The restoration of this film will introduce many audiences to Disney’s work in the silent period," BFI's head curator says. "It clearly demonstrates the vitality and imagination of his animation at a key point in his early career." Adds the president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, "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." (Another, even older Oswald cartoon was re-discovered recently.)