A rare, long-lost, Walt Disney animated film Sleigh Bells (1928) has been rediscovered by the BFI National Archive.

Sleigh Bells features the first ever Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a long-eared precursor to Mickey Mouse.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was invented by Walt Disney in 1927 and was loved for his mischievous and rebellious personality. A number of other films do survive but Sleigh Bells has been, until now, a lost film, unseen since its original release.

The animation in the film was accomplished by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, both of whom went on to create the character of Mickey Mouse, following a contractual disagreement with Universal, for whom they had created the Oswald films.

The print of Sleigh Bells (1928) was preserved in the collections of the BFI National Archive. The discovery was made by a researcher browsing the online catalogue of the BFI National Archive’s holdings.

Walt Disney Animation Studios has taken the unique surviving film print and created both a new preservation print and digital copies. The film has a running time of approximately 6 minutes.

Andrew Millstein, President of Walt Disney Animation Studios, which oversaw the restoration, said, "We're thrilled to be collaborating with the BFI  National Archives in the restoration of the 'lost' Oswald short, Sleigh Bells. The Oswald shorts are an important part of our Studios' history, and we have been working with film archives and private collectors all around the world to research the missing titles.  We are grateful to Katrina Stokes, Robin Baker, and their associates at the BFI for helping us locate and preserve 'Sleigh Bells.'"

credit: © Walt Disney Animation Studios Ltd

Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said, “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. 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."

"We thank Walt Disney for working with us and are thrilled to present the world premiere of this restored version here in London at BFI Southbank.”

The world premiere will take place at BFI Southbank on 12 December 2015 as part of a programme It’s A Disney Christmas: Seasonal Shorts, screening other festive Disney gems from the 1930’s to the present day.