Top 5: Animated Films Abandoned by Disney

Disney has been making classic animated films since 1939. Roy O. Disney famously said that the company would always put it’s animated films at the forefront or else it would become a museum. Walt Disney started a legacy and there have been 52 “Animated Classics” along with many direct to video movies, and with the attachments to Studio Ghibli, Pixar, and others, the studio has definitely had it’s share of animation at the box office and on the home television. With so many releases, there had to have been a few ideas that slipped through the cracks right? Correct! For as many films that have been released, there are just as many, if not more, that never made it past the storyboards or even the napkins they were originally written on. So what films could have been a big miss for the company? Here are my top 5 animated films abandoned by Disney.

Senoritas. Cuba. Dancing birds. What's not to love?

Senoritas. Cuba. Dancing birds. What’s not to love?

#5-Cuban Carnival. During World War II, Disney’s Goodwill trip to South America led to two films funded by the U.S. government that ended up becoming classics starring Donald Duck. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros are some of my personal favorites and are a great glimpse into South and Central American culture. A third film was also slated to be made and funded by the American government called Cuban Carnical which would add another star to the trio of birds. (Donald, Jose, and Panchito.) In the film, we would learn about a pre-Castro Cuba along with scenes from Mexico and Brazil. The combo of shorts spliced together in one package film ran out of steam due to World War II ending. South and Central America no longer needed to be saved from possible Nazism and the U.S. government no longer wanted to fund films at the Disney animation studio.

#4-Chanticleer. An 1800s story of a rooster originally spawned from Reynard the Fox and his French fables. The film was discussed to be made after the success of Snow White but was shelved due to the onset of World War II. The idea was brought the the table again in the 1960s by legendary animators Marc Davis and Ken Anderson but Walt favored the more likeable Sword and the Stone instead. The project again shelved, did not see the light of day until Don Bluth, an outside animator who had worked on Roger Rabbit, took the idea and ran with it, taking the idea to the Samuel Goldwynn Company instead of Disney. The film became the lackluster Rock-a-Doodle and was released in 1991, the same year of Beauty and the Beast and we all know which film was much more popular.

A human version of the classic tale from La Mancha.

A human version of the classic tale from La Mancha.

#3-Don Quixote. There have been many attempts of turning Cervantes’ famous character into an animated film. Since the 1940s there have been several attempts but all have come to a screeching halt due to several reasons. The stories are too episodic and not narrative enough. The material may be too adult. The film would be too dark. These are all good reasons not to make a Quixote film, despite that they’ve made dark Grimm tales into bright, fun family films. Quixote, Disney made or not, has always been doomed, and Disney is no exception. In recent news, Johnny Depp and Disney have agreed to try and make a live action version of the film. Can it be made? Can it succeed? We will find out.

#2-Roger Rabbit 2. There doesn’t need to be much research into why a second Roger Rabbit film was never made. Roger was a unique film which had too many cooks in the kitchen but came out beautifully. For a sequel to be made, all of those cooks have to return to the kitchen, but have never agreed to do so. Steven Spielberg went on to produce animated cartoons like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs with Warner Brothers and Disney went on with making some of it’s more classic animated films during the early 1990s. Don Bluth went on to make animated films independently. For Roger Rabbit to come back to life, the character needs Spielberg, Bluth, Disney, and Warner Brothers to join forces once again, but it doesn’t seem like that’s happening anytime soon. Everyone has their own projects right now.

A mix of computer and hand drawn animation in Where the Wild Things Are

A mix of computer and hand drawn animation in Where the Wild Things Are

#1-Where the Wild Things Are. After seeing Tron, John Lasseter, with help from Glen Keane and others at Disney animation in the 1980s, joined together to make a computer animated film and jumpstart the CGI animation medium. Subsequently, Disney was not fond of the idea and let Lasseter go. Of course his story ends with Pixar and the eventual CGI film we all know and love as Toy Story, but while at Disney Animation, his first CGI film proposal would have been a film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. One of the most popular children’s books from recent history, Lasseter had the right ideas, and with Glen Keane’s beautiful hand drawn storyboards to run off of, the possibilities were endless. I guess this film had to hit the cutting room floor in order for Pixar to succeed and “To Infinity and Beyond” to become a worldwide saying. It’s just unfortunate that we never saw a beautiful Disney animated version and would get the eventual live action/CGI made by Spike Jonze which was not nearly as good as it could have been.

What are your thoughts on these films or are there any others that you would have rather liked to have seen make it to the screen? Animation is the heart of the Disney company and there are so many possibilities for the company. Give your ideas and thoughts below!

Josh Taylor


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Posted on November 23, 2013, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “Don Quixote” would’ve been a horribly hard novel to make into an animated film.

    One of my favorite films that Disney never made was one in which a blind Catholic priest went to Antarctica and accidentally baptized some penguins. I’ve read it somewhere, and find the premise to be hilarious!

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