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Why For: The Disney Princess royal processional that you almost got to see

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Why For: The Disney Princess royal processional that you almost got to see

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In honor of William & Kate's wedding today, I thought that it might be fun to circle back on a royal-related story that I briefly mentioned on this site back in November of last year. As part of a Why For column that  talked about a sequence that was originally considered for "Fantasia 2000" which was to have starred ALL of the Disney Princesses.

Over the past 15 years, I've talked with a number of folks who had been actively involved in this project, among them Disney Legends Marc Davis & Ward Kimball. But to get the definitive account of this abandoned "Fantasia 2000" sequence, I recently reached out to David A. Bossert. Who's currently the Creative Director for Special Projects at Disney Animation. But back in the early 1990s, David was the artistic coordinator and special effects supervisor of what was then known as "Fantasia Continued."

Now before we get to Bossert's portion of today's story ... You first need a crucial piece of this puzzle. Which is that it was then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner who initially came up with the idea that Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" should be included in the Studio's revamped version of "Fantasia."

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Why For? As animation historian John Culhane explains in his excellent making-of book, "Fantasia 2000 : Visions of Hope" (Disney Editions, January 2000), it was ..

... a college graduation ceremony (that inspired)  the choice of music (for this sequence in the film). The Walt Disney Company Chairman Michael Eisner listened as graduates received their degrees. " 'Pomp and Circumstance' probably has more pleasant associations in people's minds than any other piece of music, because it is always being played when you or someone you love are achieving something," reflects Eisner.

So obviously when Disney's Big Cheese comes in and says "I think that you should consider using 'Pomp and Circumstance' as part of 'Fantasia Continued,' ' the people who were then working on this ambitious animated feature immediately gave Eisner's suggestion some very serious thought. Because - as an employee of a massive multi-national corporation - it always pays to try & make the guy who signs your paycheck happy.

Michael Eisner and the Disney Princess that started it all, Snow White.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But that said ... It was the second half of Eisner's "Pomp and Circumstance" suggestion (i.e. that this number in "Fantasia Continued" be built around a stately procession of Disney Princesses and their princes) that gave this film's production team pause.

"You have to understand that every other sequence that we were considering for 'Fantasia Continued' at that time was art for art's sake. We were always looking to marry a great piece of music with stunning visuals to then create this memorable movie-going experience," Bossert explained. "And what Michael was asking us to do with 'Pomp and Circumstance' was kind of out of step with the rest of this film. His Disney Princess procession idea was almost nakedly commercial."

But - again -- because it was their then-Boss who suggested this idea, the "Fantasia Continued" production team gave it the old college try. George Scribner (best known as the director of Disney's 1988 animated feature, "Oliver and Company") was assigned to develop a story of the Disney Princess version of "Pomp and Circumstance." And from what David tells me, George did the very best that he could with this concept. Creating a pretty entertaining storyreel.

Disney Animation veteran George Scribner

"As I recall, this sequence was set outside. And the Disney Princesses that were supposed to appear in 'Pomp and Circumstance' started with Snow White and then went all the way up to Princess Jasmine in 'Aladdin (Disney Special Platinum Edition) ,' " Bossert continued. "And as they all marched along with their princes and their children, you'd then get these quick cameo appearances by other famous Disney characters."

Which brings us to the other gimmick that was supposed to have been associated with this Disney Princess-based version of "Pomp and Circumstance." In that this proposed sequence was going to be the part of "Fantasia Continued" which would have featured scenes that were animated by genuine Disney Legends.

To be specific, Disney wanted to recruit the surviving members of the Nine Old Men (which - at that time - were Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball and Frank Thomas) to come work on "Pomp and Circumstance." With the idea that each of these legendary animators would animate one short scene which starred their signature Disney character.

Ward Kimball draws Jiminy Cricket during the production of "Pinocchio."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"As I recall, Marc was going to animate a scene featuring Tinker Bell. Ward was supposed to animate a scene with Jiminy Cricket. They wanted Frank to do something with the Fairies from 'Sleeping Beauty.  And I don't remember what Ollie was supposed to have done," Dave continued.

Now these scenes that were to be animated by the surviving Nine Old Men were then supposed to be folded in with footage that had been created by the modern masters of Disney hand-drawn animation. We're talking about super-talented people like Glen Keane and Andreas Deja, who'd create cameos for the most famous Disney characters that they'd ever worked on, like Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" and Scar from "The Lion King."

"A lot of the comedy in this version of 'Pomp and Circumstance' was to have come from Donald Duck. Who was wreaking havoc behind-the-scenes because he was attempting to get his hands on that magic hat that Mickey wears in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' " Bossert said. "But if I'm remembering this storyreel correctly, there was a quick scene where you got to see the Fab Five all standing together. And another one where you saw a number of the Villains observing this Disney Princess processional from a distance."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now you have to admit that the idea of a musical number -- which was supposed to be animated by the very best animators, past and present -- that featured every animated Disney character ever created does sound kind of cool. So why didn't this version of "Pomp and Circumstance" actually go into production?

To answer that part of the question ... I must now launch into a somewhat adult story. Which I want to stress that I DID NOT hear from David Bossert. But - rather - from someone who was actually in the room when the Disney Princess version of 'Pomp and Circumstance' hit the skids.

To explain: When the folks at Walt Disney Animation Studios decided that they seriously wanted to pursue this idea of having the surviving Nine Old Men come in & work on "Fantasia Continued," they then staged this elaborate pitch meeting. Where Marc, Ollie, Ward and Frank were all limoed onto the Disney Lot and then taken into this room that was loaded with concept art for the "Fantasia" follow-up.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And given that Michael Eisner had come up with the original Disney Princess / "Pomp and Circumstance" concept ... Well, he made a point of sitting in on this particular pitch meeting as well.

Anyway ... After everyone was served a light lunch, the formal pitch for this proposed "Fantasia Continued" sequence began. And at some point, the lights were turned down and the Disney Princess "Pomp and Circumstance" storyreel was shown. Afterwards, the room was deadly silent. Marc, Frank and Ollie shot each other sidelong glances, wondering what they should say.

But leave it to the always bombastic Ward Kimball to break the silence. Who reportedly said to the entire room: "That's the stupidest f*cking idea I've ever heard."

Ward Kimball and his train collection. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Needless to say, the idea of bringing the surviving Nine Old Men back on the Lot to work on this project died that afternoon. And shortly after this infamous story pitch, the "Fantasia Continued" production team began casting around for an entirely new story concept for this film's "Pomp and Circumstance" sequence.

"But you have to understand that this is how the development process at Disney Animation works. Not every idea that we come up with works. But we keep refining things, trying different ideas, different combinations of characters until we eventually do come up with something that works," Bossert stated. "I honestly don't know if we would have come up with the idea of making Donald Duck Noah's assistant - which is the concept that we eventually used for 'Pomp and Circumstance" in the final version of 'Fantasia 2000' - if we hadn't first explored that idea of Donald being the character who was causing all of those problems behind-the-scenes during the Disney Princess processional version of this sequence."

The other thing that's great about Disney is that - while an idea may not always work out for feature animation - it can eventually find new life in another part of the Company. Do you recall that Donald-trying-to-get-his-hands-on-the-magic-hat-from-the-Sorcerer's-Apprentice story thread? Does that concept sound familiar? It should. WDI took that idea and ran with it while it was developing "Mickey's PhilharMagic" for the Parks in the early 2000s.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And - yes - just in case you're wondering. It was George Scribner who not only developed the storyreel for "Mickey's PhilharMagic," but he also wound up directing this 3D Theme Park Productions  film.

So - in the end - things all worked out. Michael Eisner got what he wanted. Which was "Pomp and Circumstances" in "Fantasia 2000." And Bossert & the production team of this ambitious animated feature got what they wanted. Which was a version of "Pomp and Circumstance" that was much more in sync with all of the other new sequences that WDFA had created for this "Fantasia" follow-up. Which weren't crassly commercial. But -- rather -- married stunning visuals with memorable music to create a truly memorable movie-going experience.

But that said ... You still have to wonder how this Disney Princess processional sequence would have been received by the public. Well, David actually found out. Sort of. You see, as part of a "Fantasia" - themed presentation that Bossert gave on the Disney Cruise Line back in 2009, he screened this version of the "Pomp and Circumstance" storyreel. And the results were ... Well, mixed.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Some people in the audience laughed because they were really enjoying what they were watching. But then there were these laughs that came in very weird places. Which meant that there were people out in the audience who were laughing AT the movie. Rather than laughing with it," David said.

But this is why you should always go out of your way to try & catch a David Bossert presentation. He always screens the most amazing things. Which David usually uncovers while digging deep down into the vaunted Disney Vault.

Speaking of which ... This Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., David Bossert and Don Hahn will be presenting their fourth annual Disney Rarities screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival. And if you're an animation history buff, then you really owe it to yourself to get to the Lido Theatre. Where you can then enjoy a 90-minute-long presentation where David & Don will be screening some of the stranger animated featurettes that Walt Disney Productions created back in the 1940s, 1950s & 1960s.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway ... That's the story of the Disney Princess royal processional that hit the skids. Mostly because Ward Kimball supposedly told Michael Eisner & Co. that he thought this proposed "Fantasia" addition was " ... the stupidest f*cking idea that I ever heard."

But even so ... As you sit there later today and watch the hours & hours of coverage coming out of Westminster Abbey, I bet you'll be wondering: Instead of William & Kate, would it have been more entertaining to watch Snow White & her prince, Cinderella & her prince, Aurora & her prince, Ariel & her prince, Belle & her prince as well as Jasmine & Aladdin - along with all of their royal offspring - strolling down the aisle in an animated royal procession.

Your thoughts?

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  • See, mentioning "royal offspring" is what interests me most about this article.  You're telling me that someone at Disney actually developed looks for the children of the princesses?  Beyond just Melody, who imho is a great idea put in a bad movie?  I want to know more about this.  What can you tell me about that?  Or better yet, what can you show me about that?

  • I watched Fantasia 2000 for the first time the other day. Was only mildly entertained. Then I watched the original Fantasia, which I hadn't seen since I was a teen...oh my god. NO comparison. The update might have had CGI, but the original had absolutely stunning animation/art/backgrounds/stories/music.

    If WDAS would strive to produce animation as stunning as the animation in, say, "The Nutcracker" sequence in the original Fantasia, then 2D wouldn't have to worry about competition from CGI. Walt-Disney-quality animation still kicks CGI's butt.


  • YUCK.

    This is why Michael Eisner was fired.

  • Oh, Gigglesock, Gigglesock, Gigglesock. You do realize that not all CGI films are bad, right?

    By your comment, it seems as if you're slamming the always-brilliant Pixar films, along with Tangled, as well. Shame on you! And shame on you for slamming "Fantasia 2000" as well!

  • "David & Don will be screening some of the stranger animated featurettes that Walt Disney Productions created back in the 1940s, 1950s & 1960s" - what were they exactly? were any ever discussed outside these screenings in books, blogs or websites or presented on screen or video anywhere else?

  • hola disculpen que les escriba en espaƱol mi ingles es pesimo donde soy fan de las princesas disney donde puedo ver ese storyreel de las princesas de disney porfavor me interesa muchisimo gracia

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