A 1927 film created by Walt Disney, entitled Empty Socks and starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was found in the National Library of Norway in Mo i Rana.
This was the first Christmas film ever produced by the company, and it had been thought lost. The only other known footage is a 25-second clip at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so finding a complete version is considered a treasure to both film and animation buffs.
Staffers at the library had been digitizing films and documents from its collection when they discovered two unlabeled reels. Upon playing them, they initially thought it was footage for Felix the Cat, but writer/animation historian David Gerstein confirmed that a missing Disney film may be in the collection. After recognizing that the main character was actually Oswald, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks’ creation before Mickey Mouse, they realized what they’d found.
In addition to Empty Socks (1927), the library also found a copy of Tall Timber (1928), which was one of the last Oswald films made by Disney and Iwerks.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created when Carl Laemmle approached Disney to create an all-animated series featuring a rabbit. Producer Charles Mintz didn’t like the original version, but after some changes the project was greenlit. As the story goes:
In 1928, with the series going strong, Disney demanded an increased budget from Mintz, which he refused. Mintz instead told Disney that he was going to cut the budget and if Disney did not agree to the cut, Mintz would take over Oswald for himself. Disney refused and most of Disney’s employees left for Mintz. Only Ub Iwerks remained, who, along with Walt, secretly created a new cartoon character to replace Oswald — Mickey Mouse.
In 2006, The Walt Disney Company regained the rights to Oswald from Universal. It happened through a deal that allowed sportscaster Al Michaels, then under contract with Disney-owned ABC, to be released from his deal so that he could join Universal-owned NBC. In exchange, Disney got Oswald back along with a number of other considerations.