LOS ANGELES - One of Walt Disney's oldest drawings is seeing the light of day after being locked away for nearly 40 years.
A rough 1928 image of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the wacky predecessor to Mickey Mouse, was brought out of the Walt Disney Co. archive this week and showcased at an event unveiling "Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two," an upcoming action-adventure game for the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that allows players to control both Mickey and Oswald.
The mischievous Oswald was co-created by Disney before Mickey, but he was lost in a 1928 contract dispute with Universal Studios. Oswald hopped back to Disney in 2006 when CEO Bob Iger brokered a deal that sent sportscaster Al Michaels to Universal-NBC. Oswald's first appearance since his return came in 2010's "Epic Mickey" as the ruler of a forgotten realm.
"We've always known about the character and loved him and wished that we could do things with him, but he wasn't a character that belonged to us," said Walt Disney Co. archive director Becky Cline. "In 2006, we were over the moon when Bob Iger made (the deal)."
Cline noted that most of the drawings from Disney's early Oswald cartoons were destroyed, likely because there was a lack of storage when his studio moved to a new facility in Burbank, California, in 1939. She said the image of Oswald comes from a box of drawings that was found in the 1970s and has been preserved in the Disney archives for the past 40 years.
The image, drawn on paper in graphite, comes from the 1928 animated short film "Sky Scrappers." It shows Oswald shielding himself from falling bricks with an umbrella. Warren Spector, the creative director at "Epic Mickey 2" developer Junction Point Studios in Austin, Texas, said he's aiming to include the image of Oswald somewhere within the sequel.
"It's amazing," said Spector. "Everybody at Disney is so proud that he's back. I'm no different. It's just so exciting to be a part of bringing that character back into the world and to see people respond so affectionately toward him. Now, to have Mickey and Oswald brothers united to save the world, it's unbelievable. I feel really privileged."