You would think that after actually okaying “The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” that there wasn’t a single animated movie idea Disney wasn’t willing to foist on a public already wondering how the hell it got suckered into seeing “Cars 2.” But some ideas proved so troublesome or outright disastrous that even the studio had to pass on them, but only after wasting millions in preproduction…
It’s only natural that when a baby deer is born in a Disney cartoon the first reaction is “Oh crap, when is a parent going to get shot?" And when the parent in this case is Bambi himself, everyone is already sobbing hysterically before even a single frame of animation is drawn. But this would have been based on an actual book sequel by the author of "Bambi" and focused on the happy-go-lucky adventures of our hero’s adorable twin fawns…and all the animals who die over the course of their particular story. But Disney eventually passed on the idea and instead opted to wait 64 years before releasing the 2006 direct-to-DVD, much lower body count sequel "Bambi II, " which takes place almost immediately after Bambi’s mom dies and tells the story of the woodland creatures great anxiety…over celebrating Groundhog Day.
Yellow Submarine (Remake)
When director Robert Zemeckis announced/threatened that he was going to do a 3-D remake of the classic 1968 Beatles cartoon "Yellow Submarine, " the first question people asked was "How can you do the film when half The Beatles aren’t even around to voice the characters anymore? " Well, that wouldn’t have mattered because The Beatles didn’t even do their own voices in the original version (though obviously they did sing their own songs). The second question people asked was “WHY would you even remake the film?!?” That one proved harder to answer, especially when Zemeckis promised to use the same motion-capture animation that helped make the dead-eyed characters in his “The Polar Express” look like “The Walking Dead Christmas Spectacular.” Fortunately, saner heads—and the failure of the mo-cap cartoon “Mars Needs Moms” (which contrary to initial reports was not based on NASA findings)—put an end to a potential disaster that would have caused people to endure such pathetic movie critics’ headlines as “Submarine Cartoon Sinks to New Depths” or “Submarine Movie Torpedoed by Own Incompetence. "
This cancelled cartoon was to feature a poor kitty who is a nervous wreck because he’s already lost three of his nine lives. (Though it was never specified how he lost them, perhaps one time he owed a lot of money to the mob.) If “cat fears impending—and repeated—mortality” doesn’t already feel like the “feel-good family film of the year” (but does make you wonder just how many children’s animal cartoons are obsessed with death), the movie would have also featured countless references to Hitchcock films that no one under the age of 45 would have gotten without having a parent whisper to them in the theater “Why would a children’s cartoon pay homage to ‘Psycho’?” (Or Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” as seen in the above image.) Add to that a plot about a cat accused of a crime he didn’t commit (no word on the crime but my guess is embezzlement) and Disney decided the movie wouldn’t sell as many toys as one about talking cars.
Where the Wild Things Are
Shortly after its first foray into computer animation with “Tron” (which was denied an Oscar nomination for special effects because the Academy Awards thought the use of computers was “cheating”), Disney decided to try making a computer animated cartoon. The result is the test reel you see above, which used Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” with a combination of traditional character animation and computer-designed backgrounds to create a whole new form of storytelling. Alas, this new take on cartoons so confused the older Disney executives (who most likely screamed “This be the work of witches, ‘tis is!” and then commenced a burning in the corporate break room) that they swiftly fired the head animator on the project, John Lasseter. Lasseter then went on to head up Pixar, win several Academy Awards, and ultimately become the head of all of Disney animation.
A Few Good Ghosts
One look at the above storyboard art featuring a very stereotypical Native American and you would have every right to wonder what the hell people were thinking back in the 1940’s. But that sketch is from a 2003 preproduction storyboard for “A Few Good Ghosts,” which was also known as “My Peoples,” “Elgin’s People,” “Angel and Her No Good Sister,” “Once in a Blue Moon,” and “If a Movie Has to Go Through This Many Title Changes Maybe It’s a Warning Sign of Sorts.’ Of course, the reason for that look is the movie was about ghosts who inhabit 1940’s folk art dolls carved from tree stumps who help an Appalachian Romeo and Juliet find true love with the guidance of a toy wooden Abraham Lincoln which is all set to bluegrass music. And by “of course” naturally I mean “WTF,” which is eventually what Disney thought and so the production was shut down.
Roger Rabbit Two: The Toon Platoon
How do you follow up a critical and commercial smash about cartoon characters interacting with live-action humans that was beloved by all? Apparently Disney’s response was “Nazis and lots of ‘em.” This prequel to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” was set in 1941 and centered on Roger Rabbit’s search of his true birth parents, only to discover that Bugs Bunny is his dad (and maybe also his mom, given how often Bugs liked to dress in women’s clothing). Meanwhile, the future Mrs. Jessica Rabbit, a struggling Hollywood actress, is kidnapped by the Germans and forced to make pro-Nazi radio broadcasts in a deep, sexy voice. Then Roger gathers a group of beloved cartoon characters to fight the Nazis in a comedy-musical that ultimately caused producer Steven Spielberg—who had just completed “Schindler’s List”—to more or less say “Are you f***ing kidding me?!?” And so the project was mercifully stopped before we all had a chance to stare slack-jawed at the movie screen in wide-eyed horror.
What do you think the plot of the 'Tangled' Sequel should be? Let me know in the comments!