Lost Disney Film of Character Before Mickey Mouse Found in Japan

Joann Johnston
November 18, 2018

According to The Hollywood Reporter, an anime historian in Japan has been in the possession of one of Disney's Oswald cartoons for nearly 70 years. For decades, the now 84-year-old Watanabe didn't realize the treasure he had in his hands, until he recently read David Bossert's book Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons, which chronicled the many lost films of the Mickey Mouse precursor. It was only after he lost control of the character during a legal dispute in 1928 that Disney morphed Oswald into the character that came to be known as Mickey Mouse.

It wasn't until Watanabe read a book released a year ago called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons by Disney animator David Bossert that he realized several of the shorts were missing. A handful of copies made their way to Japan, where one was purchased by a high school student named Yasushi Watanabe at a toy wholesaler near his home in Osaka.

The book said seven of the 26 short films featuring Oswald that Walt Disney produced were missing, and Watanabe remembered his childhood reel.

The 16 mm reel was labeled Mickey Manga Spide - which translates as Mickey Cartoon Speedy.

According to the book, collectors and the film studio itself have always been searching for the missing copies of the remaining seven for the last 90 years.

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As for Neck "n" Neck, it's now at the Kobe Planet Film Archive in Japan, one of that country's largest film collections, and David Bossert hopes to bring to Los Angeles and screen it for animation scholars.

"I've been a Disney fan for many years and I'm happy that I have been able to play a role in this discovery", Watanabe was quoted as saying.

A year later, another short film featuring Oswald was uncovered in Britain and screened for the first time in 87 years.

"We're absolutely delighted to learn that a copy of the lost film exists", Becky Cline, director of the archives, told the paper.

After that, Walt went on to create a new character called Mickey Mouse. When Walt Disney first got into cartoons, his signature creation was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Another of the missing Oswald cartoons was discovered in the British Film Institute archives in 2015.

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