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“Lt. Norakuro and Mickey Mouse” ?

Disney fans like to look for “hidden Mickeys” – but here’s one they may have missed. When Disney’s mouse became an overnight sensation in 1928, almost every competing studio included a Mickey-like mouse (or a Mickey-like fox or Mickey-like bear) in their films. Now it turns out that these ersatz Mickey’s weren’t confined to Hollywood cartoons.

The frame above is from a 1930s Japanese short called (roughly translated) 2nd Class Lt. Norakuro and Mickey Mouse Play Disturbance. It was recently revealed on the Japanese site, Toy Film Project, which is documenting Japanese home movie films.

Norakuro is a Japanese comic series created by cartoonist Suiho Tagawa (1899-1989), which ran from 1931 up until the early ’40s, about a black dog in a canine Army, very much inspired by the Imperial Japanese army at the time. The comic stopped when World War II broke out, but the cartoons remained popular. It was animated several times – a series of short-films in the ’30s, two TV series (1970-71 and 1987-88). This cartoon is believed to be in public domain (if you can find it) – Mickey Mouse is still protected by international trademark.

(Thanks, Nicholas Pozega and Charles Brubaker)

  • Rey

    That’s not Mickey Mouse. That’s Myckey Mouse, his drunk and looser cousin who traveled the world looking for the fountain of youth.

  • Jonathan Hohensee

    …Disney lawsuit in 5…4…3…2…

  • Charlie Judkins

    Wow, that is a great website! If you scroll down you can see what I guess are dubbed versions of Betty in Blunderland, an IFS Bray Happy Hooligan, a Raoul Barre Bunkum’s Boarding House, another Betty Boop, a Mickey Mouse, and an early Porky Pig. I’ve heard rumors from collector friends that the Japanese had their own home made Betty Boop series going in the 30s, but no one’s actually been able to find any yet…I think.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I suppose this was the stuff Osamu Tezuka got to see in his home too, having heard his dad had a 16mm projector or such.

    • The Happy Hooligan (pre-Bray) and Barre subjects look authentic to me. Seems the Japanese duped and excerpted old stuff laying around.

  • Whofan

    They also have their own “Star Wars” ripoff: It’s called Gundam.

    • Garagehero

      Well….to be fair…Star Blazers did preceed Star Wars by 5 years….

  • Justin Delbert

    I see Disney lawsuits all around

  • The Scarlet Pumpernickel

    “I yam me an’ just me,
    An’ there’s no other me, ‘cos
    I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!”
    (toot toot!)

  • Willow Ufgood

    If I’m reading this right, this was only about 29 seconds long. It and the other shorts listed on that site are reels from children’s movie projector toys. Some of these may have been made especially for the toys, or just be excerpts from full shorts.

  • What a wonderful find. I’m amused by the lawsuit comments…this stuff is too ancient to be worried about!