Could it that "American Dog" is about to get "fixed"?
Copyright 2008 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
For the past few months, there have been rumors that John Lasseter (I.E. The new ubermeister of Disney Feature Animation) hasn't exactly been thrilled with what he's seen (so far) of this new Chris Sanders film. That Lasseter reportedly thinks that this CG road picture may be a little bit too quirky for its own good. Which is why John has supposedly been asking Chris for some pretty significant story changes.
Which may explain why -- late last month -- the Walt Disney Company bought this particular domain name:
With the hope that -- if WDFA can persuade Sanders to change the name of his highly anticipated follow-up to "Lilo & Stitch" to something that better sums up the style & feel of this particular production ... Well, that might make it that much easier for audiences to embrace "American Dog" 's oddball assortment of characters when this CG feature finally hits theaters in 2008.
Mind you, this isn't the first time that Walt Disney Feature Animation has struggled to come up with an appropriate title for a still-in-production project. Back in the mid-1990s, the crew working on "Mulan" ...
Copyright 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
... went through at least four other titles (I.E. "China Doll," "Fa Mulan," "The Legend of Fa Mulan" and "The Legend of Mulan") before they finally settled on just "Mulan."
Of course, given that this was the Florida unit's very first full-blown feature, there was a lot of trial-and-error on this particular production. With crucial scenes like Fa Zhou's heartfelt talk with his daughter first happening as father & daughter walk back from town following Mulan's disastrous meeting with the matchmaker ...
... then being restaged as a quiet talk between these two characters in the Fa family garden.
Given that Disney Feature Animation had never really done a film like "Mulan" before, one that used such a huge event (I.E. The invasion of China by the Huns) as the backdrop for a small, rather personal story (I.E. One woman's discovery of what she's really capable of, the strength she has within) ... It took the story team quite a while to come up with an appropriate opening for this movie. One that properly established the setting of "Mulan," in addition to quickly giving audience members a sense of the style & the tone of the motion picture that was to follow.
Among the many ideas that were tried out was an opening sequence for the film that featured Chinese shadow puppets.
One that explained how the Chinese people were being continually attacked by the Huns. Which was why that nation's leaders ultimately decided to build the Great Wall of China. In order to keep these invaders out of their country.
Those who actually have seen this version of "Mulan" 's opening sequence say that it got this WDFA production off to a very stylish start. Which perhaps explains why it made it fairly far along in the production pipeline. To the point where CG versions of the shadow puppets that were to have been featured in these early scenes in "Mulan" had been actually constructed and preliminary animation had begun.
But -- in the end -- Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook, the film's directors, felt that the shadow puppets version of the opening (as elegant & stylish as it may have looked) still got "Mulan" off to a somewhat slow start. Which is why this longish opening sequence was ultimately cut in favor of a significantly shorter scene that got this animated feature off to a much quicker start.
Still, there were those folks at Disney Feature Animation who had really liked "Mulan" 's proposed shadow puppets opening. Which is why -- a few years later -- when the studio was struggling to come up with an approproriate opening sequence to its proposed sequel to "The Jungle Book" ...
Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Someone at the studio said: "Hey, do you remember that opening sequence that we almost used for 'Mulan'? Weren't shadow puppets also popular in India?"
Which is how "Jungle Book 2" wound up with such a stylish & fun title sequence.
Of course, this wasn't the first time that Disney Feature Animation had "borrowed" an idea or a character that had been used and/or proposed for an earlier film in order to help a later production along. I mean, how many of you remember "101 Dalmatians"?
Copyright 1961 Walt Disney Productions
More importantly, that animated feature's truly memorable villain, Cruella De Vil?
More than a decade later, the story team at Disney Feature Animation was really struggling to come up with an appropriate villain for their big screen adaptation of Margery Sharp's 1959 fantasy novel, "The Rescuers."
Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Production
Before Disney Legend Milt Kahl was able to do such a masterful job of animating the evil Madame Medusa ...
Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions
... among the many ideas that WDFA's story department toyed with for "The Rescuers" was resurrecting Cruella De Vil ...
Copyright 1973 Walt Disney Productions
... Relocating this "101 Dalmatians" villain from England to America, where Cruella had reportedly been been hiding out (appropriately enough) in Devil's Bayou ever since that puppy-napping scheme had blown up in her face.
Now basically penniless, Cruella hopes to return to the world of the wealthy by finding a long-lost family heirloom: The Devil's Eye. But in order to do this, she has to first gain access to an incredibly dangerous sea cave that has a very small opening. Which is where that diminutive orphan, Penny, comes in.
In the end, Kahl opted to go with his own creation, Madame Medusa, as "The Rescuers" 's main villain. Though -- that said -- a lot of the Cruella-based material (I.E. Devil's Bayou, the Devil's Eye, even Ms. De Vil's enthusiasm for bright red roadsters) still remains in the finished version of that film.
It's often been said that a good idea never really dies at the Walt Disney Company. Though it may sometimes take years for a great concept to finally make its way through the system, in order to find the proper venue.
Well, the same thing can sometimes be said about songs that have been written for Disney films. I mean, how many of you have heard about all the songs that Richard M. & Robert B. Sherman wrote for the studio's 1964 smash, "Mary Poppins" ...
Copyright 1964 Walt Disney Productions
... that didn't actually make it into the finished version of that film? Among the many ideas that the "Poppins" production team initially toyed with (before opting to go with that motion picture's popular "Jolly Holiday" sequence) ....
... was a fantasy sequence that was actually inspired by a chapter from P.L. Travers' 1953 book, "Mary Poppins Comes Back." Where Mary uses a compass to magically transport the Banks children from China to North America to the Caribbean and then to the North Pole.
Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Given the four different destinations that were supposed to be featured in "Mary Poppins" 's proposed magic compass sequence, the Sherman Brothers wrote four different songs: "The North Pole Polka" for the scenes set in the Arctic, "The Land of Sand" for those set in the desert, "Tiki Town" for those set in China and "The Beautiful Briny" for the sequence that was set in the Caribbean.
Well, when the magic compass sequence finally got cut from "Mary Poppins," all four of these songs went straight into the Sherman Brothers' trunk. Though "The Land of Sand" would emerge just three years later with a brand-new set of lyrics as "Trust in Me," Kaa the python's signature song in the studio's 1967 animated feature, "The Jungle Book."
Copyright 1967 Walt Disney Productions
While "The Beautiful Briny" was basically dropped (with all of its original lyrics intact) into Disney's 1971 release, "Bedknobs & Broomsticks."
Copyright 1971 Walt Disney Productions
Speaking of "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" ... Disney's recycling of old characters & concepts continues even today. Late last year, the trades reported that Pamela Pettler (I.E. The screenwriter of "Tim Burton's "The Corpse Bride") had been hired by Mouse House managers to write a "B & B" remake. One that would supposedly ditch the Sherman Brothers' score and then adopt the style & tone that was much more similar to that of the original Mary Norton book, "Bedkno & Broomstick" (Which -- truth be told -- actually combines two earlier Norton novels, "The Magic Bedknob" and "Bonfires & Broomsticks).
Now where this gets interesting is that Disney execs reportedly can't decide yet what to call this "Bedknobs" remake. Given that they're supposedly cutting the Sherman Brothers score out of this proposed revamp, it just doesn't seem fair to stick with the old "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" moniker. Which is why the studio is supposedly looking into using the titles of Norton's original Eglantine Price novels. Either "The Magic Bedknob," "Bonfires & Broomsticks" or some combination of these two that doesn't ultimately wind up sounding like "Bedknobs & Broomsticks."
When Disney finally decides what it's going call this film (Or -- for that matter -- when the studio decides if it's actually going to put Pettler's screenplay into production), I'll be sure and share that info with you.
But -- beyond that -- what do you think of Walt Disney Feature Animation's long-standing tradition of recycling old characters & concepts to use in its upcoming projects?