| The church fresco (left) in Malta, Austria, shows a mythical creature at the feet of St Christopher, the saint of travellers. The present-day Mickey Mouse (right) accompanied by Minnie Mouse. (AFP)
Vienna, Nov. 15: A medieval fresco featuring a rodent with an uncanny resemblance to Mickey Mouse has been uncovered in an Austrian church.
As word of the 700-year-old image spread, the minds of local tourism officials began working overtime.
“This fresco proves that Mickey Mouse is a true Austrian and was not born in Hollywood,” said Siggi Neuschitzer, the manager of the tourism office in the village of Malta, in the south of the country, where the painting was found.
The official said he was planning to refer the painting to lawyers. “The similarity to Mickey Mouse is so astounding that Disney could lose its world-wide copyright.”
The modern Mickey, with large round ears and an upturned button nose, was first sketched by Walt Disney in 1928. The 14th century version is shown kneeling at the feet of St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers.
Eduard Mahlknecht, the art historian and restorer who uncovered it, said that St Christopher was often portrayed surrounded by animals.
The extra large ears on the rodent could be attributed to a myth that says the weasel was fertilised through the mouth and gave birth from its ears.
The discovery has generated an unusual thrill of excitement in the small Carinthian community. Shopkeepers hoped that the fresco would turn the village into a shrine for Mickey Mouse fans from around the world.
The Disney Company refused to comment. (Disney has exclusive rights to its franchise icon until January 1, 2024. But a suit has been filed in the US to limit the rights to January 1, 2004.)