Anna Gragert
November 04, 2015 1:45 pm

A researcher at the British Film Institute was browsing through the archives when he, ya know, casually happened upon a Disney film that hasn’t been seen in 87 years. Just your average day at work.

The six-minute silent film (created in 1928!) is called Sleigh Bells and it stars Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This character may look very familiar, but that’s only because he was initially meant to be Disney’s staple persona. That’s right – Mickey Mouse may not have existed if it weren’t for a business deal that went downhill and brought Oswald down with it.

It turns out that Oswald was created by Disney and animation company Ub Iwerks in 1927, but Universal owned the rights to the character. Following a contract-related disagreement between Disney and Universal, they stopped designing the Oswald animations and moved on to Mickey Mouse.

“There’s a good argument to be made that had Walt Disney not fallen out with Universal over contracts, he would have gone on to make 100 more Oswald films and Mickey Mouse may never have been created,” BFI’s animation programmer Justin Johnson told CNN. “Oswald and Mickey clearly resemble each other in terms of physical characteristics. But, even more importantly, their characters have a lot in common. Before Oswald, cartoon characters were pretty generic, without much personality. However, Oswald is clearly a fun and mischievous character, just like Mickey.”

Let’s just take a moment to imagine a world with Mickey Mouse. Crazy, right?!

Now, the British Film Institute wants to show the world this hidden, cinematic gem. On December 12th, they will be screening the film at London’s BFI Southbank. (Considering that the clip is only 6 minutes long, this is going to be one speedy premiere!)

Here’s a sneak peek:

“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 BFI’s head curator Robin Baker. “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.”

Now, we have exactly 39 days (including today because we need all the time we can get) to figure out how we’re going to make it to London in time for the Sleigh Bells premiere.

[Image via YouTube]

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