A long lost short film of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who provided inspiration for iconic Disney character Mickey Mouse has been discovered in a film archive in England.

Once upon a time, in 1927 to be precise, Walt Disney and his cartoonist partner Ub Iwerk’s created a creature called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with Universal Pictures. After falling out over pay, Disney and Iwerk left to form their own studio and, not having the rights to their Oswald character, redesigned him too look like a mouse. They named him Mickey. Now a long lost short film of Oswald has been located in the Huntley Film Archives in Herefordshire, England.

The film titled, Hungry Hobos, is a five-minute short created by Disney and Iwerks in 1927. Missing for decades, simple curiosity led the Film Archive to stumble across it. “This has been in our collection for decades,” Amanda Huntley, director of the archives said.  “But my colleague took the film from the shelf and Googled it.” Quickly realising it was long lost, they immediately alerted film experts.

Hungry Hobos was first screened in 1928 with Mickey Mouse getting a trial run at the same time, unfortunately it went missing shortly afterwards. Nowadays very few of us know of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who was owned by Universal until 2006 when Walt Disney gained the rights, but people the world over have heard of Mickey, who remains Disney’s most iconic character.

Robert Dewar, commercial director of the archives said, “Oswald is a proto-Mickey … If you see him, you see the same shape of the head, the ears, the mannerisms.”

The silent film is one of 26 episodes created by Mr Disney and Iwerk during their time at Universal. The first of Oswald’s adventures, Trolley Troubles was premiered in 1927.  It features the rabbit trying to get his tram and passengers past lots of silly obstacles to the other end of the track over a charming five minutes. The short was a hit and more were commissioned. The newly found Hungry Hobos features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and his friend Peg Leg Pete as they try to steal an egg from a chicken on a train out of hunger.

The short is set to be auctioned at the Bonhams’ Entertainment Memorabilia auction in Los Angeles in December.

See Trolley Troubles, the first Disney cartoon here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qbXpIvD2dM

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