Lost pre-Mickey Mouse cartoon from Disney found in Japan

Brenda Watkins
November 18, 2018

What if I told you that Mickey Mouse was not a mouse, but a rabbit? But then he remembered the film he bought from his friend decades ago, according to AFP.

Watanabe realized the film was a lost Disney film after reading a book about the history of "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit", a Disney-created character from the 1920s. But an 84-year-old anime historian named Yasushi Watanabe in Osaka, Japan recently discovered that he had a 16mm copy of the film in his personal collection - after buying it almost 70 years ago from a toy wholesaler who sold it to him for the Japanese equivalent of $4.40. A two-minute clip of black and white film was found that features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character created by Walt Disney that laid the foundation for the animator's Mickey Mouse. After reading the book, which was published past year, Watanabe realized that his film was one of the lost cartoons.

It was labelled in Japanese "Mickey Manga Spide" - Mickey Cartoon Speedy in English - and featured a dog policeman on a motorbike chasing Oswald and his girlfriend in a vehicle. The 16mm copy of this Oswald cartoon is only two minutes long, though the original cut was five minutes. The film was given the Japanese title "Mickey cartoon speedy".

Watanabe, who is now 84 years old, then reached out to the author and Walt Disney Archives, informing them that he owns a copy of "Neck "n" Neck".

"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.

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Disney, in the meantime, took the opportunity to rework the Oswald concept into Mickey Mouse, which, at least in early versions, seems pretty similar to the Lucky Rabbit.

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

Mr Watanabe's childhood purchase is now being kept at the Kobe Planet Film Archive, and another film showing 50 seconds of the same cartoon has also been unearthed at the Toy Film Museum in Kyoto, the newspaper said.

In 2014, Norway's National Library announced it had discovered a copy of a Walt Disney cartoon featuring Oswald, which had been thought lost. However, producer Charles Mintz claimed the rights to Oswald in a dispute with Disney, taking the character in-house at Universal.

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