A researcher has rediscovered a "lost" Disney film starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the character long thought to be the inspiration for Mickey Mouse. The film, with a running time of about six minutes, will be shown in early December as part of a programme including other Disney shorts from the 1930s to the present day, the British Film Institute (BFI) National Archive said on 3 November.

"Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was invented by Walt Disney in 1927 and was loved for his mischievous and rebellious personality. A number of other films do survive but Sleigh Bells has been, until now, a lost film, unseen since its original release," the BFI said in a statement.

It said a print of Sleigh Bells had been discovered in the BFI National Archive by a researcher browsing the online catalogue of the archive's holdings. Walt Disney Animation Studios used what is thought to be the sole surviving print to make a new preservation masterprint and digital copies.

"We're thrilled to be collaborating with the BFI National Archives in the restoration of the 'lost' Oswald short, Sleigh Bells, and to be sharing this delightful animated discovery with audiences in the UK as part of this special Disney holiday programme," Andrew Millstein, president of Disney animation studios, said.

Walt Disney and his colleague Ub Iwerks drew the animations for the Oswald character, and later went on to create Mickey Mouse following a contractual disagreement with Universal, for whom they had created the Oswald films.