Browsing the British Film Institute National Archive’s online catalog, a researcher rediscovered a Disney short thought lost since its 1928 debut, and now the restored six-minute film, “Sleigh Bells,” will be on view as part of the BFI Southbank’s program “It’s a Disney Christmas: Seasonal Shorts,” premiering Dec. 12. (No word yet on whether the film will be shown stateside.)
It’s an increasingly rare phenomenon now that curators, researchers, and the studios themselves have scoured archives and vaults for snippets of early Hollywood, but it’s not unheard of. As recently as 2013, another short, “Hungry Hoboes” (photo above)—which, like “Sleigh Bells,” stars the mischievous Disney favorite Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—turned up in the U.K. Such “lost cartoons” are a glimpse into Disney before the advent of Mickey Mouse, and the emergence of Walt Disney Animation Studios as a global media/entertainment concern.
Since its rediscovery, Disney has produced both a new preservation print and several digital copies of “Sleigh Bells,” animated by Walt Disney and collaborator Ub Iwerks after a dispute with Universal, for which they first created the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit films. The “Seasonal Shorts” program will also include “Mickey’s Good Deed” (1932), “Night Before Christmas” (1933), “The Art of Skiing” (1941), “Pluto’s Christmas Tree “(1952), “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983), “Prep and Landing: Operation Secret Santa” (2010), and “FrozenFever” (2015).