Walt Disney Animation Studios debuted a newly restored digital print of the once-thought-lost 1928 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit animated short “Hungry Hobos” at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2. The film, which was found in a private film vault in England in 2011, was acquired by Disney that same year and has undergone extensive digital restoration.
“Hungry Hobos” re-debuted in Telluride, Colorado as part of a special animation shorts program presented by leading film historian and restoration expert Serge Bromberg. Also on the program (“Serge Bromberg’s Retour De Flamme”) was a sneak peek at Disney’s newest animated short “Paperman,” which premiered at this year’s Annecy International Animated Film Festival, generating excitement in the industry for its innovative hybrid use of computer animation and hand-drawn techniques.
“Hungry Hobos” was overseen by Walt Disney in 1928 as part of a distribution deal with Universal Pictures. It was the 20th short film (out of 26 made by Disney) starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a long-eared precursor to the more famous Mickey Mouse (who appeared for the first time later that year in “Steamboat Willie”). The film follows the misadventures of Oswald and his roughneck pal, Putrid Pete, as they ride a freight car loaded with animals and devise ways to cook a meal using the tools at hand. When a policeman chases them off the train, the duo poses as a hurdy-gurdy man and a monkey as part of their escape.
“We were so proud to be able to debut ‘Hungry Hobos’ at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival, and to have the world renowned film preservationist Serge Bromberg present it to the public for the first time in over half a century,” said Bossert. “Aside from creating innovative new state-of-the-art animated features like ‘Tangled’ and the upcoming ‘Wreck-It Ralph,’ and shorts like ‘Paperman,’ Walt Disney Animation Studios is dedicated to preserving and restoring our film legacy and the art of animation. In restoring ‘Hungry Hobos,’ we were able to address such issues as warpage, dirt removal, broken sprocket holes, light flicker and film weave. The end result is a highly entertaining and historically important film that is part of our Disney heritage.”
Bromberg added, “We are very grateful to Disney for letting us debut this newly restored Oswald short in Telluride. The film has some wonderful gags, and provides an excellent look at the early work of Walt Disney before he created Mickey Mouse. We salute Disney’s efforts to preserve its cinematic past, while moving forward with such exciting new efforts as ‘Paperman.’”
The Walt Disney Company reclaimed its rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in February 2006, when Disney CEO Bob Iger initiated a trade with NBC Universal in exchange for sending sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC Sports. Oswald has since been featured in Disney Interactive’s video game “Disney Epic Mickey” and the upcoming “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two,” scheduled for release on November 18.