A handout photo released on December 11, 2014 by the National Library of Norway shows a restored copy of the animated short film dated 1927 "Empty Socks" from Walt Disney Christmas series Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Picture: AFP PHOTO / NASJONALBIBLIOTEKET / MARTIN WEISS

 A 1928 Disney animation, which predates the creation of Mickey Mouse, has resurfaced in Japan, the media reported on Friday.

The Asahi Shimbun daily said that the cartoon short, entitled "Neck n' Neck", was part of the collection of an anime history researcher, Yasushi Watanabe, who bought it in Osaka while still a high school student some 70 years ago, reports CNN.

At the time the film, which had been given the Japanese title "Mickey Manga Spide", or "Mickey cartoon speedy", cost 500 yen ($4).

It features a character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who, in the two-minute consumer version owned by the researcher, is chased by a dog traffic cop while on a date. 

A longer version of five minutes was also produced.

The find came about after Watanabe read "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons", by former Disney animator David Bossert, which details the history of the character and notes that a number of the early animations had disappeared.

Suspecting that his copy may be one of the missing films, Watanabe worked with the Asahi Shimbun to contact Bossert and the Walt Disney Archives, which confirmed that the film was indeed one of the missing works.

"As I've been a Disney fan for many years, I'm happy that I was able to play a role (in the discovery)," Watanabe said.

"We're absolutely delighted to learn that a copy of the lost film exists," Becky Cline, director of Walt Disney Archives, told the newspaper.

Oswald was phased out by Disney after legal wrangling over the character's rights led to another company gaining control over the creation - described in Disney archives as a "brazen theft" -- leading the famed cartoonist to devise another animal-based character - Mickey Mouse in 1928, CNN said.

November 18 marks the 90th anniversary of the premiere of "Steamboat Willie", the first public appearance of arguably the most famous cartoon character in the world, and the mainstay of what would become one of the world's largest entertainment companies.

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