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Lost Disney Animated Film From 1928 Discovered in BFI National Archive

Lost Disney Animated Film From 1928 Discovered in BFI National Archive

In honor of the holidays, Walt Disney Animation Studios Restoration and the British Film Institute have teamed up to deliver a stellar present to London cinephiles in the form of “Sleigh Bells,” a 1928 animated film that is one of Disney’s first movies and features the first-ever company character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (a long-eared precursor to Mickey Mouse). The film will be screened for the first time since 1928 at the BFI Southbank on December 12.

READ MORE: Anthony Asquith’s ‘Shooting Stars’ Selected as BFI London Film Festival Archive Gala

Oswald was drawn up by Walt Disney and Ub Iwers in 1927 and is marked for his “mischievous and rebellious personality,” a definite departure from the character we would all come to love as Mickey Mouse. It wasn’t until a few years later that both Disney and Iwers broke away from Universal Studios, for whom they had developed Oswald films, that they dreamt up the character of Mickey Mouse. 

The six-minute “Sleigh Bells” was preserved in the collections of the BFI National Archive. The re-discovery was recently made by a researcher who stumbled upon the forgotten piece of history while browsing the BFI National Archive’s holdings. As a result, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ attention turned towards taking surviving film prints and reviving them in active cinemas, as well as preserving new print and digital copies.

“What a joyful treat to discover a long-lost Walt Disney film in the BFI National Archive and to be able to show ‘Sleigh Bells’ to a whole new audience 87 years after it was made,” said Robin Baker, Head Curator for the BFI National Archive. “The restoration of this film will introduce many audiences to Disney’s work in the silent period – it clearly demonstrates the vitality and imagination of his animation at a key point in his early career.”

The movie will screen as part of the program “It’s a Disney Christmas: Seasonal Shorts,” which includes other festive Disney works from the 1930s to today’s new animated flicks. Some of the other classics that will be featured in the program 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).

READ MORE: BFI Offers 600 Romantic Films This Autumn Through ‘Films to Fall in Love With, Film to Break Your Heart’ Series

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