Empty Socks…

“Lost” film lost no more… After the Break…

Empty Socks…

We don’t respect our media. That’s just reality. We’re not malicious; There are few incidents where we willfully destroy our media with the intent of losing it forever. A lot of times, the loss is unintentional – A basement floods here, Grandma dies there (and her collection of poetry books is bought by a book dealer for bulk who then sells it piecemeal and the person who buys the very last copy of whatever decides that it’s just an OK book and gives it to his teenage daughter who loses it on a school field trip…), a company orders material destroyed to satisfy tax rules without even realizing what they have…

Let’s be honest with ourselves: Not every book is a great novel. Not every movie is a Best Picture. Not every painting is a classic. Not every song is a generational anthem. In fact, a lot of media is just “eh,” it’s average. A lot of it might even be lousy. But it’s ours; Someone took a lot of time and effort to create. Often times, this media represents the hard work of a lot of people, from the sound board engineers to the lighting to the editor that recommends cuts ‘here’ and ‘there’ to make the book’s pace feel faster. And this media represents who we were at that time; Our media is a mirror of what we liked and how we talked and how we acted. It represents the techniques that were used at the time; The paper that the books were printed on or the film stock to print the movie on or the pigments that the painting used.

Our media is us and when we lose our media, we lose a bit of us in the process. We lose one more jigsaw puzzle piece to the grand picture of where we were, where we are and where we will be. Yes, we still have a whole lot of picture left but losing a piece here and a piece there eventually yields a lot less picture.

There are many famous examples of lost media: The original cut of “The Magnificent Ambersons,” the book “Meanderings of Memory” (which has been cited as the original source for many English words), “Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale” (a computer game expansion pack that was completely made but never released), the telecast of the American Football title game Super Bowl II… The list could extend indefinitely.

We often do not get this media back. There is a reason why we, collectively, call it lost media: Because there is a very low likelihood that a copy has survived elsewhere. Media, after all, is not printed on stone. Film stock degrades, VHS tape degrades… Your CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs degrade. A copy might have well existed but if it is not identified and professional restoration techniques performed on it… Well, it is lost. The film stock degrades past the point of uselessness. Grandpa may well have had the last remaining copy of Super Bowl II up in his attic but, because all that it did was sit in some dusty old box for 50 some-odd years, it rotted away until the picture became worthless.

Sometimes, though, we do find the media. There are success stories. Ask a fan of the television series “Doctor Who” about finding lost episodes as there has been a massive hunt for missing episodes that has yielded the recovery of a certain amount of that television series. The letter that inspired an entire genre, called “The Joan Anderson letter,” was recently recovered. On occasion, we find our lost media. It’s not often but it does happen.

And just the other day, it happened again.

The world has only a few truly famous cartoon characters. Yes, there are cartoon characters that are momentarily popular but there isn’t a lot of cartoon characters that transcend generations, to the point where the grandfather knows the character as well as the grandson. Near the top of that list is the character Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse is the iconic cartoon character, created by animator and visionary Walt Disney. Yet Mickey Mouse was not Walt Disney’s first character and is, in fact, a copy of an earlier character that he had made: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was Walt Disney’s creation but he didn’t own the character; He made the character while employed at a company and it was the company that owned the character. Yet when Disney left to start his own company, his creation floundered under different writers and animators. Oswald’s fortunes would be made even worse when Mickey Mouse skyrocketed to fame. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit fell into disuse and the property eventually became abandoned. As a result, a lot of the early cartoons of the character were lost.

But one of them was recently found.

“Empty Socks” was an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon where only a small fragment of film still existed. But not anymore because someone going through an archive of films in Norway recently found most of the cartoon intact. It is said to be missing about a minute of footage but it is far more footage than was thought to have existed before.

There are no time machines that we know of. Once a particular piece of media is destroyed, it is destroyed forever. Gone. Fini. “Empty Socks” may not be a lost Rembrandt or missing Sherlock Holmes mystery… But it is important nonetheless. It is another jigsaw puzzle piece to put into the jigsaw puzzle.

Our media is important to us, all of us. It is always nice to hear that another piece of that media has been recovered so that it is experienced and appreciated by us and our future generations. We may not live forever but our works of art can and should… and now another piece does. That’s a holiday gift that everyone can appreciate.

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