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Toon Tuesday: Recycling, Disney Feature Animation-style

Toon Tuesday: Recycling, Disney Feature Animation-style

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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:

hollywooddogmovie.com

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 ...


Copyright 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

... then being restaged as a quiet talk between these two characters in the Fa family garden.


Copyright 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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.


Copyright 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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.


Copyright 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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?"


Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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?


Copyright 1961 Walt Disney Productions

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.


Copyright 1973 Walt Disney Productions

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) ....


Copyright 1964 Walt Disney Productions

... 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?

Your thoughts?

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  • I'd love to know a bit more about American Dog. Is Lasseter dissatisfied with the quality of the film or is that he just finds it too odd? Oh and is Hollywood Dog Movie the proposed title or just a 'code name' so to speak. Cause it's one heck of a dodgy title.
  • So, Cruella was supposed to go from "101 Dalmatians" to "The Rescuers", and Penny was supposed to go from "The Rescuers" to "Oliver and Company".  That'd be confusing.  

    I had read that there was to be a remake of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks".  I really hope nothing ever comes of it.  Why not just re-release the original?  Are they going to remake "Mary Poppins" next?  Or how about "Snow White" in CGI?  Why bother?  It just makes me mad.  There's no need to remake any Disney movie.

    When I read the title of this article, I thought it was going to be about how Disney has reused animation from animated films (wasn't the snow from "Bambi" used elsewhere?  And wasn't the dancing in "Robin Hood" recycled from "Snow White"?).  

    Medusa has always reminded me of Cruella.  Their body types are similar, I guess, and they're both mean...
  • Actually, I like HD better (and no, Frank, it's not "Hollywood Dog Movie"):
    The unhelpful "American Dog" still conjures up that "Family Guy" character, not to mention "Family Dog" (which was a nice short to start Brad Bird's career, but became one of the most infamous flops of the post-Simpsons rush).
    Here, if they're just going for the Route 66 "Chris Sanders does 'Cars'" idea, I want to know that bit of safety going in, and be assured of a nice clear plot from the get-go.

    And while we're talking about "Rescuers" doing a lot of Ron Miller-era borrowing, wasn't the whole "Bayou critters to the rescue" section of the film basically salvaged from the old "Robin Hood in the South" idea for Disney's earlier film?
    (Along with much of the animation for the critters running across screen.)
  • If they're going to do a remake of "Bedknobs", let's give it an edgy, modern title, haha, you know, something along the lines of "Herbie Fully Loaded".
    I like "The Bedknobs Reloaded", "The Bedknobs Revolutions", or something else ridiculous like "Bedknobs Forever"!  
  • I like the idea of revisiting abandonded ideas.

    I "love" la_resistance28's proposed titles! LOL!
  • Bravo! This is the Jim we all know and love. Great article (among several recent great  articles). And great to see you back to form.
  • blackcauldron85 said:
    So, Cruella was supposed to go from "101 Dalmatians" to "The Rescuers", and Penny was supposed to go from "The Rescuers" to "Oliver and Company".  That'd be confusing.  

    "I had read that there was to be a remake of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks".  I really hope nothing ever comes of it.  Why not just re-release the original?  Are they going to remake 'Mary Poppins' next?"
    ----
    Well--back in the '88-'92's, when Disney honestly thought "But how will we ever make a sequel to anything??", there was a long-delayed "Mary Poppins II" on the boards, for Sarah Brightman and Robert ("Me and My Girl") Lindsay, which would've reportedly "been closer to the P.L. Travers".  (Er, hehh, yeah, like the stage musical?  ;)  )

    ===
    "Why bother?  It just makes me mad.  There's no need to remake any Disney movie."
    ---
    Probably because the original adaptation of the books was a mess--
    This was back during the Ron Miller days of "What would Walt do?...Of course, he'd make Jungle Book or Mary Poppins again!"
    There were no fish in the books, and no jungle soccer game (check out the DVD for Richard Sherman's story of how the soccer game got in there).

    Once in a while, someone will get on their high horse about how Disney or an old 70's kiddie-musical didn't do "the REAL book", and we get things like that Tim Burton "Chocolate Factory" (to bring it back to Pettler), or that live-action Disney "Jungle Book"...Just have to let the fever pass.

    =====
    "So, Cruella was supposed to go from '101 Dalmatians' to 'The Rescuers'
    Medusa has always reminded me of Cruella.  Their body types are similar, I guess, and they're both mean.."
    ----
    As long as Medusa was -intentionally- supposed to be Cruella, guess I can go a little easier on the Ron Miller era, in this one case--
    They've done a lot worse self-cribbing that WASN'T meant to be intentionally returning characters, and for years I'd always thought this was one of them.
    (Now, if there was just a plausible alibi for "The Aristocats"...)
  • "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" is a highly underrated film. Overall it's a bit darker than "Mary Poppins", but with so much going for it, including a wonderful score and that substantial animated sequence. I fondly recall seeing it 4 times at the theatre in 1971 just to experience that great Disney animation, though I find the whole film very satisfying the older I get and the more I understand its context within the wartime era in Britain.

    I am aghast that they would be looking to remake the film in any form. It seems like a blatant attempt to cash in on the ongoing success of the similar "Harry Potter" films. I hope Disney does not follow through with such a dumb idea - it smacks of "Eisner-think" and is not worthy of the creative staff who are capable of bringing new and equally exciting ideas to the screen if given the chance.
  • "Your thoughts?"

    My thoughts are that there is nothing in this article that people who own the DVDs for Mulan, The Rescuers, and Mary Poppins don't already know. Nice pot shot at John Lasseter yet again.
  • Recylcing good ideas, the ones originally rejected from previous films, is a good practice, especially to appease the story artists and directors who worked so hard on those sequences.

    Just as long as they don't:

    Overuse good ideas. We all know how this became a Disney tradition during the 70's when they were taking notes from Walt's grave. I mean, people probably got sick of seeing Phil Harris in all of Disney's animated films beyond The Jungle Book. David Koeing describes this as "reusing the same tea bag for the seventh time."

    or...

    Make those lousy sequels that we've seen on video for the past decade.

    Having just recently seen the Alice in Wonderland DVD, there is an overflow of rejected concepts from that film that could probably find, or COULD HAVE FOUND their way into subsequent films. NOBODY thought of using the Cheshire Cat's "Im Odd" in The Aristocats. ;)

    Also, I don't have a problem with remakes, as long as they're GOOD and have a purpose BESIDES making money. That said, I enjoyed the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, as well as Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They both serve the purpose of improving their pre-existing films.
  • I think Bedknobs and Broomsticks is RIPE for a remake, seeing as how the original was so flat-footed and awkward when it should have soared. Same thing with Pete's Dragon. Both of these Disney musicals deserve a talented director to realize their potential. They're an example of greatness waiting to be realized -- greatness in limbo, as it were. So bring on the remakes -- and let these properties flower.  
  • "Late last year, the trades reported that Pamela Pettler had been hired by Mouse House managers to write a "B & B" remake."

    John Lasseter has shown some real promise keeping with Walt's idea of no unnecessary sequel... he should really apply that same principle to no unnecessary remake. Or better yet.... no remakes.
  • If they remake Pete's Dragon, they have to use the Disney's Dragons version.

    And here's another reused idea: Originally, The Prince in Snow White was put in the dungeon. That idea ended up in Sleeping Beauty.
  • I still feel that the ultimate Disney "recycle" is "Golieth II" for using not just characters, but the original animation drawings re-shot "Xerox-style" for the film.  A cute enough featurette with an early Roger Rabbit-type "reunion" of jungle approprate characters including Jungle Book's Col. Hathi and Tick-Tock the Croc from Peter Pan.
  • Ponsonby Britt said:
    "I am aghast that they would be looking to remake the film in any form. It seems like a blatant attempt to cash in on the ongoing success of the similar "Harry Potter" films. I hope Disney does not follow through with such a dumb idea - it smacks of "Eisner-think" and is not worthy of the creative staff who are capable of bringing new and equally exciting ideas to the screen if given the chance."
    I completely agree.  What's done has been done, and they should move on.  I've always loved "B&B", and it's a great movie.  Kids of today would like it.  I love owning the movies on VHS and DVD, but I miss the re-release days.  I wonder if Disney will ever re-release another film (If "The Nightmare Before Christmas" does well in theaters, I wonder if they'll consider it.  Although I'm not sure if I'm ready for a 3D "Snow White".).

    semaj86 said:
    "I mean, people probably got sick of seeing Phil Harris in all of Disney's animated films beyond The Jungle Book"
    Disney has always reused voice actors- not only Phil Harris, but, one of my favorites, Sterling Holloway (Mr. Stork, Pooh, Roquefort, just to name a few), and Paul Winchell (Tigger, Boomer), and I'm sure many more.

    semaj86 also said:
    "NOBODY thought of using the Cheshire Cat's "Im Odd" in The Aristocats. ;)"
    Sorry that I'm gullable, but are you kidding?  No one is that odd in that film, except for maybe Edgar.

    Aunt Eye Bias said:
    "Same thing with Pete's Dragon."
    I don't think you're kidding?  People need to give these films a chance!  I love "B&B", but I absolutely love "Pete's Dragon".  I do not want to see a CGI Elliott, except in maybe Philharmagic II (hey, it could happen).  The original has been made.  It is out there for people to see.  It exists already.  This discussion topic reminds me of Robert Benchley (sp?) in "The Reluctant Dragon" (*spoilers*)-
    he has a book, "The Reluctant Dragon" and he brings it over to the Disney Studios to show Walt, since Robert (and his wife) think that it'll make a good Disney film, but, before he gets to tell Walt his idea, the lights go down and Walt, his crew, and Robert watch a screening of the new Disney cartoon, "The Reluctant Dragon".  
    These movies already exist- get over it.

    Original 19 said:
    "John Lasseter has shown some real promise keeping with Walt's idea of no unnecessary sequel... he should really apply that same principle to no unnecessary remake. Or better yet.... no remakes."
    I hope Mr. Lasseter understands that remakes are not necessary.  Please let him understand!!!


    Sorry if this is long, but I really care about this subject!!!
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