Before Walt Disney came up with the iconic Mickey Mouse, he had another animated star. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit starred in 26 short films. However, some of them went missing and only 19 had survived the years since Disney created them.

A Japanese high school student bought one of them, but only recently realised just what he had. Now 84, it was Yasushi Watanabe bought one of a few Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s films.

Japanese man has a rare Walt Disney film

Released by Walt Disney Studios in the US in 1927, “Neck ‘n’ Neck” was one of a few copies of the Film ending up in Japan.

Watanabe was still at school when he bought the film at a toy wholesaler’s market in Osaka. While at the time he obviously enjoyed watching the film, it was only recently that Watanabe understood the significance of his purchase from so long ago.

The BBC quotes the Japanese Asahi Shimbun newspaper as reporting on the story. Watanabe had recently read a book with the title “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons.” The book was published last year by David Bossert, one of many people who have worked on Walt Disney animated movies over the years.

Bossert wrote that the Walt Disney Studios had created 26 animated films starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but that they only had 19 of them.

Collectors had joined the film studio in searching for the missing films over the last 90 years. After Watanabe read the book, he got in touch with the author about his precious find, which is now confirmed to be “Neck ‘n’ Neck”.

‘Neck ‘n’ Neck’ starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

As noted by Uproxx, the short film tells a story about a police chase, where a dogged policeman on a motorbike, pursues Oswald and his girlfriend, travelling in a car.

The chase follows a steep mountain road, showing the motorbike and car stretching to round the steep bends in the road. This was a device used frequently by Walt Disney in a lot of his later films.

The following is an example of one of Oswald's stories.

Japanese Disney fan

Watanabe told the Japanese media that he has been a Disney fan for many years.

He said he is happy to have played a role in the discovery of the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit film. Meanwhile, the director of the Walt Disney Archives, Becky Cline, said they were delighted to discover a copy of the film still exists.

Bossert said the discovery of the Walt Disney film was “very exciting,” adding that he is hoping to screen the film at a Los Angeles event for animation scholars.