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An email came over the transom today that normally wouldn't have sparked my attention except it raised an interesting question: Could the Oscars' all-time champion, Walt Disney, figure into the 86th annual Academy Awards in a big way with the animated short "Mickey Mouse in 'Get a Horse?'"
The interesting thing about the film is that no one quite knows whether it's a long lost restoration or a new film done in a throwback style. Disney himself provides the voice of Mickey Mouse in the short, and the studio is billing it as a "never-before-seen" film, which would lead you to believe it's something Walt Disney Animation has found covered in dust on a shelf.
But who are we kidding? Shelved projects from the Mouse House, and certainly long lost films we've never heard anything about, are a bit rare. Everything Disney did or tried to do is well-documented and has been dragged out into the light of day. And trotting out a long-lost hand-drawn classic might be a little awkward in the wake of the studio's dismantling of its hand-drawn animation division, wouldn't it? This is surely something new. But to keep the air of mystery going, the studio hasn't been forthcoming on answers.
Accompanying the film's world premiere at the Annecy Animation Festival in Annecy, France next week will be director Lauren MacMullan ("Avatar: The Last Airbender," "The Simpsons"), producer Dorothy McKim ("The Ballad of Nessie," "Meet the Robinsons") and animation legend Eric Goldberg ("Aladdin," "Pocahontas," "The Princess and the Frog").
Here's the official synopsis:
Starring the one and only Mickey Mouse and featuring Walt Disney himself as the voice of the iconic character, this black-and-white, hand-drawn short follows Mickey, his favorite gal pal Minnie Mouse and their friends Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow as they delight in a musical wagon ride—until Peg-Leg Pete shows up and tries to run them off the road.
Disney himself wouldn't be receiving any posthumous recognition for the film or anything if it were nominated for Best Animated Short, but it's worth pointing out that he is the Oscars' all-time champion, having amassed 22 competitive awards throughout his career, all of them in the shorts categories. He even holds the record for most wins in a single year, having picked up four in 1954. Additionally, he's received an Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1942 as well as three Honorary Oscars, for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1939, "Fantasia" in 1942 and for the creation of Mickey Mouse (his very first Oscar) in 1932.
And one more thing: He received a single nomination for Best Picture in his lifetime, and that was for 1964's "Mary Poppins," which adds another level of intrigue to this potentially being a very Disney Oscars.
The studio has John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks" on the way, from a very well-regarded original screenplay by Kelly Marcel. The film tells the story of Walt Disney's struggle to get the rights to P.L. Travers's 1934 book "Mary Poppins" and produce the classic musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Travers famously detested the outcome and swore to never again allow a Disney adaptation of her work.
In the film, Hollywood golden boy Tom Hanks will star as Disney and Emma Thompson as Travers. It will be interesting to see how it turns out but you can bet Hanks and Thompson will be in the thick of the Best Actor (or perhaps Best Supporting Actor) and Best Actress discussion at the end of the year, as it promises to be a big-time awards hopeful for the studio.
Bringing it back to "Get a Horse," if the film is in fact an old classic that has been dusted off and revamped, I don't see anything in the official AMPAS rules for animated shorts that would preclude it from being eligible. It is, after all, receiving its world premiere at Annecy. But, again, it's surely a fully original piece, so indeed, it will likely be in the awards fray. And who wouldn't like to see Mickey Mouse at the Oscars for the first time since 1995's "Runaway Brain?" Only one of the nine Academy Award-nominated Mickey Mouse shorts has ever won, 1942's "Lend a Paw." No one would call Walt Disney overdue for a 23rd Oscar, but maybe poor Mickey could use another?
Stay tuned for more as it happens, and check out the poster for the new short below.
"Mickey Mouse in 'Get a Horse!'" premieres at the Annecy Film Festival on June 11. It will be play in front of Disney's feature-length film "Frozen," which opens November 27.
"Saving Mr. Banks" opens in theaters just in time for the holidays on December 20, 2013.
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