Just in time for the holiday season, Disney's first ever Christmas film has been unexpectedly unearthed—near the Arctic Circle no less!
Empty Socks, which dates all the way back to 1927, turned up in a Norwegian library facility (still no word on whether or not Anna and Elsa were there to lend a hand). The archivist there claims that the film reels were not labeled properly, and the team had no idea that they were just sitting on a "cinematic treasure."
Here's what we know about the elusive short that's almost 90 years old:
It stars Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is the predecessor to the more familiar Mickey Mouse. The pair, who were often referred to as Walt Disney's children, have a sibling-like relationship. Two years after the release of Empty Socks, Disney allowed Oswald's character rights to stay with Universal, which explains why we haven't seen nearly as much of him as his popular "brother."
However, in 2006, Disney regained the rights to the friendly little rabbit, so we may just see a modern-day release of Empty Socks soon.
Under a minute of footage is still missing
Of the total running time of five minutes and thirty seconds, only 30 to 60 seconds worth of film reel is missing. While this may seem like a lot, before this discovery, the only vestige of the short was a 25-second sequence that was preserved in New York.
Most films from this era (especially if they were not considered especially noteworthy) were destroyed or degraded due to the the flammable and unstable nature of nitrocellulose film. In short, it's amazing that so much of Empty Socks was able to survive despite the fact that film can literally BLOW UP if you're not careful. Further proof that Oswald is a trooper.
It's been fully digitized
The library has used the old-fashioned celluloid reel to make a digital copy (a little more appropriate for modern audiences). They have sent this digital short to the Walt Disney Company, which, again, raises the question: how will Disney go about releasing it?
Back in 2003, Disney animators completed a long-sidelined project, Destino, with surrealist artist Salvador Dalí that reached an abrupt halt in 1946. The results were outstanding: a hybrid of traditional animation from the original footage and some dazzling computer animation.
Disney could easily just implant a thirty second scene that matches the original style, but I think Oswald's Christmas feature deserves a grander entrance into the twenty-first century. Maybe with Mickey and the rest of the gang added in digitally for a holiday reunion? If I were in charge, I would get a team on this ASAP for a Christmas 2014 release.
This wonderful discovery also begs the question: how many more classic Disney films are hidden, lost, or just waiting to be found?