10 Lost Disney Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen
Making movies isn’t easy. Every studio in Hollywood has piles of films that never made it to theaters. Disney is no exception. Here are 10 films that the House of Mouse started on, but never finished.
Disney made numerous attempts to turn the French play about a rooster who believes his crowing makes the sun rise into an animated feature. Various story ideas were tossed around, the most complete one pitting local hero Chanticleer against sly trickster Reynard the fox.
Sadly, the film was shot down over concerns about the likability of a chicken protagonist and the source material -- well known in France, but obscure in the US. No animation was ever produced, but tantalizingly beautiful artwork survives.
Hans Christian Andersen
Individual shorts, a feature-length collection of animated stories and a combination of live-action and animated sequences based on the life and stories of Hans Christian Andersen were all proposed as Disney projects. At one point, a coproduction with Samuel Goldwyn was in the works, with Goldwyn handling the biography portions and Disney taking on the writer’s tales.
Andersen’s often unsympathetic or tragic characters and financial troubles brought on by WWII caused the production to stall out. Goldwyn produced a musical film of Andersen’s life story starring Danny Kaye and Disney eventually made animated versions of several Andersen tales, including the upcoming computer animated adaptation of 'The Snow Queen,' 'Frozen.'
A collaboration between Disney and author Roald Dahl, 'The Gremlins' was the story of creatures that sabotage British planes after their home is destroyed to make way for an aircraft factory. One pilot convinces the gremlins to turn their talents towards repairing aircraft in order to stop the Nazis.
Due to a number of factors, including the possibility that WWII would end before the film could be finished, Disney stopped production. Dahl’s book was recently republished by Dark Horse Comics and the gremlins themselves are all over Epic Mickey, a video game celebrating lost and forgotten Disney characters.
After releasing 'Saludos Amigos' and 'The Three Caballeros,' Disney had plans for a third film set in South America. Like its predecessors, 'Cuban Carnival' was planned as a "package" film -- a collection of short sequences with a common theme -- and would feature a mix of live-action and animation.
Donald and his friends would've been joined by a pint-sized rooster eager to show his pals the wonders of pre-Castro Cuba. The project fizzled when the end of WWII reopened the European market and ended the government’s push to keep Nazism out of South America, which funded the goodwill tour that inspired the films.
'Destino' is a short rather than a film and it was eventually completed. Still, it did spend decades as a lost Disney project and it is a collaboration between Disney and Salvador Dali.
Full storyboards and 17 seconds of animation were produced, but financial problems at the studio led Disney to shelve the short. Over 50 years later, Walt’s nephew Roy Disney revived the project. A new group of artists used the original storyboards and snippet of animation to finish 'Destino.' The short played theatrically before the film 'Calendar Girls' and was nominated for a 2003 Best Animation Short Oscar. It is also a special feature on the 'Fantastia' and 'Fantasia 2000' Blu-ray.
Walt Disney thought Longfellow’s epic 'Song of Hiawatha' would make a good...something. Early on, he encouraged his artists to consider a performance or attraction, possibly in a real forest setting.
Most of the work on the project, however, was focused on turning 'Hiawatha' into an animated film. Striking concept art was produced, but concerns about animating so many realistic human characters and the fear that the film would be "too highbrow" for audiences killed the project.
The 'Roger Rabbit' Sequel
The success of 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' spawned three shorts, but no full-length sequel. Well, it wasn’t for lack of trying. The first attempt was a prequel called 'Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon.' Roger joined the army and rescued his future wife from Nazi propaganda producers, all while searching for his long-lost mother. When Steven Spielberg, co-producer of the original film, expressed concerns about the less-than-serious depiction of Nazis, the premise was reworked to focus on Roger’s rise to stardom and retitled 'Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?'
Unsuccessful early tests and an estimated budget topping $100 million led to the project’s cancellation. But whispers of a sequel continue and 'The Stooge,' a buddy picture starring Roger and Mickey Mouse, has just been pitched to Disney.
'Kingdom of the Sun'
Before 'The Emperor’s New Groove' was an Incan roadtrip buddy comedy, it was an Incan 'Prince and the Pauper.' In 'Kingdom of the Sun,' a bored prince trades places with a young llama herder who looks exactly like him. The evil sorceress Yzma changes the prince into a llama, stranding both prince and pauper in unfamiliar territory. 'Kingdom of the Sun' failed to wow test audiences and production lagged. Eventually, the film was totally overhauled, ditching tons of work and several songs from musical collaborator Sting.
'Elgin’s Peoples,' 'Angel and Her No Good Sister,' 'Once in a Blue Moon' and 'A Few Good Ghosts' were all titles for the film that began life as 'My Peoples.' The "peoples" of the title were folk dolls made of found objects, common in the rural Appalachians where the film was set.
In the film, the dolls come to life and help unite two young lovers from feuding families. The movie promised a low budget, a killer bluegrass soundtrack and a mix of computer and traditional animation that would help Disney’s Florida animators learn computer animation. Sadly, the closing of the Florida studio ended production on the film.
Planned as the first computer animated project from directors Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Aladdin,' 'Fraidy Cat' was about a nervous feline caught up in a life of intrigue and suspense.
The film would've mixed comedy and adventure for the kids with mystery and nods to the films of Alfred Hitchcock for the adults. Despite the fun premise and artwork suggesting how the Hitchcock references could work, 'Fraidy Cat' never got the go-ahead. Musker and Clements returned to traditional animation for their next Disney film: 'The Princess and the Frog.'