Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cancelled Projects

Empire creates a list of cancelled animation projects from the House of Mouse:

... What of the Disney films that never saw the light of day? We’ve gathered together the bare necessities about an unfortunate band of films that were never given the chance to be practically perfect in every way. ...

In an article of this type, there is always a pastiche of projects the studio dumped that gets detailed. Sadly, there are always projects that writer didn't list through either ignorance ... or lack of space.

One of the development projects not mentioned? The Abandoned by Paul Gallico. This was worked on by a succession of seasoned veterans. You can see one of Vance Gerry's story sketches for the feature that never was below ...

Then there was a Hans Christian Anderson project in the early eighties, supervised by Mel Shaw with contributions by John Lasseter (in his first Disney incarnation) that started, stopped, and finally expired of neglect ...

But the bald facts? Any number of projects get themselves a production number and are then worked on a few months, after which they tip into oblivion and the corporate parade moves on. This happens over and over again.

But allow me to correct (and/or expand on) a couple of the lost projects that Empire Online does mention:

Chanticleer -- ... Disney’s finances were needed for The Sword In The Stone and a growing theme park empire. But it wasn’t all bad news: much of the concept art was worked into 1973’s Robin Hood. ...

Chanticleer was a project top-lined by my man Ken Anderson, who developed and supervised storyboards, script, and songs for the story of the French rooster who believes his crowing causes the morning sun to rise. Vance Gerry was one of the board artists assisting Mr. Anderson, and he described what happened at the pitch to Walt:

It just didn't go over. Walt was iffy from the start. He'd picked up on scuttlebutt around the studio that people were cool on it. Woolie didn't like the thing, and called it "that chicken picture." Walt, I think, knew about that.

When we finished and the songs had been played, Walt said "I don't know guys, there's not much warmth. Take a few days and see if you can maybe come up with a better approach."

I was so dumb, I thought what he said was positive. And Ken and I spent the next week doing new boards, just working our butts off, but those went nowhere too. And Chanticleer died. ...

As happens all the time.

Larry Clemmons, who was also at the pitch (but made clear he didn't work on Chanticleer) told me: "Ken's presentation was awful. And the songs were awful. A guy banging on the piano singing "Cockadoodle Doo! Cockadoodle doo!" I wanted to crawl under my seat."

(Kindly note: Larry and Ken didn't get along, so Larry ... I'm guessing about this here ... might have had a wee bit of an axe to grind when he told me his version of events.)

Now the other film, the sequel that never was:

Dumbo II would begin a day after the 1941 original left off, finding the titular elephant and a cluster of other animals stranded in New York. This rather bland-sounding sequel was thankfully cancelled by John Lasseter (the original is his favourite film) in 2006. ...

This picture was developed at the DisneyToon Studios in the early oughts. Disney veteran Burny Mattinson was one of the artists working on it (that's his sketch at the link) told me the feature went through a lot of iterations before ultimately sputtering out.

Joe Grant, co-author of the original film, was back working at Disney Feature by this time, and though he wasn't on the new project, he was pushing for the movie to be made as a full-on CGI production. Some might some might find that sacrilegious, but that's what Mr. Grant wanted to do.


Grant said...

A Bug's Life and Newt weren't Disney projects. They were Pixar films. I know Pixar doesn't exist any more since Disney took over, but weren't those worked on before then? I think that lassiter thing before he got fired from Disney was a featurette--Mickey Mouse in the Nightingale story? Saw some pictures from it in a book. But wasn't there also that film Catfish Bend in the early 1970s?

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