He only recently discovered that he was sitting on a piece of film history that was long thought lost after reading the book Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons, written by Disney animator David Bossert, which came out previous year.
Walt Disney made a total of 26 "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" short films, but only 19 have been recovered, Bossert wrote.
"I think it's a shame that it sometimes takes a lost film to be found to draw attention to the films that are there".
Released in 1928, Neck "n" Neck was a 5-minute black-and-white film starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as he and his girlfriend are pursued by a dog policeman up a steep mountain road. He suspected the reel he'd held onto for so many decades might be one of the lost Oswalds and contacted the Walt Disney Archives.
An anime historian had the cartoon for 70 years before he realised it was one of seven lost films. "As I've been a Disney fan for many years, I'm happy that I was able to play a role", Watanabe tells Ito.
In the wake of the discovery, Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, told The Telegraph, "We are absolutely delighted to learn that a copy of the lost film exists".
Llueve en desierto después de 500 años
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Labelled "Mickey Manga Spide" in Japanese - Mickey Cartoon Speedy in English - the film features a dog policeman on a motorbike chasing Oswald and his girlfriend in a vehicle.
As a result of Bossert's book, the Toy Film Museum in Kyoto also unearthed a 50-second clip of the same cartoon.
Oswald was the first character to star in his own series of films for Disney, with the cartoons distributed through Universal to great success. In 2014, a copy of the missing cartoon "Empty Socks" was found in the Norwegian National Library during an inventory, and in 2015, the British Film Archives discovered that it had a copy of a 6-minute 1927 Oswald short called "Sleigh Bells".
It was not until he read the book, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons, that Mr Watanabe realised the historical significance of his find.
As a replacement to compete with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created Mickey Mouse for the Walt Disney Studio in November 1928.