Lost 1927 Disney Film Found Near Arctic Circle

'Empty Socks,' first Disney Christmas film, uncovered in Norway library
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2014 12:14 PM CST
Lost 1927 Disney Film Found Near Arctic Circle
In this animation drawing released by Disney, an image from the 1928 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short "Sky Scrappers" is shown.   (AP Photo/Disney)

Before Mickey Mouse, there was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—and that guy's been hiding out for a long time in a Norwegian library near the Arctic Circle. That's what archivists at the National Library of Norway in Mo i Rana recently discovered during a digitization project, stumbling across two reels of a long-lost 1927 Walt Disney movie that was the company's first Christmas film, the Huffington Post reports. Empty Socks stars Oswald, a precursor to Mickey whose relation is obvious once you see the character is basically Mickey with rabbit ears. The only other footage that's known to exist of this film is a 25-second scrap of footage housed at NYC's Museum of Modern Art. The newly discovered reels had been kept all this time in a special room with controlled temps and humidity, AFP reports.

"At the beginning, we didn't know it was a lost cinematographic treasure," an archivist says in a statement. In fact, library staff thought the five-minute, 30-second flick (with one minute missing in the middle) was a Felix the Cat oldie. But after weighing in with an animation historian, they realized they had one of the earliest movies with Oswald, created by Disney himself and partner Ub Iwerks. The library has the original—which was provided by the Norwegian Film Institute and probably originated with a private collector—and sent a copy to the Walt Disney Company. But why did Oswald fall out of favor with Disney? Universal wrested rights to the character away during a contract dispute, forcing Walt and Ub to come up with someone else who stuck around a little longer: the most famous mouse in the world. (Walt Disney ranks as one of the 10 most popular Americans.)

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