Multiple generations of viewers have enjoyed the storytelling of Walt Disney and the company that is his legacy. The production of an animated feature is a huge endeavor and takes years from beginning to end.
Here are some facts about Disney movies!
50. What’s in a name?
Mickey Mouse was named by Walt Disney’s wife. Walt originally named him Mortimer Mouse, but his wife Lily said that the name was “pompous.” She suggested “Mickey” because it was cuter.
Walt Disney with his wife, Lillian Disney.
49. Code Red!
Disney employees had a special codename for when Walt was approaching. They would say “man is in the forest” to warn animators to get back to work when he was coming into the stuido.
48. Through a different set of eyes
Fantasia flopped when it was released in 1940, but would gain popularity when the movie was rereleased in the 60’s. The movie would get a sequel in 1999 with new segments added to the most popular scenes.
Robin Williams ad-libbed so much during the recording sessions for the Genie in Aladdin (1992), that the producers ended up with 16 hours of recordings. Because of the many off script lines, the movie was rejected for the Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards.
46. Frosty labour
The production of Frozen (2013) took 600 people and 2,5 years of production, resulting in a total of more than 300 million hours to complete the movie.
The production of The Lion King (1994) was regarded as a B-film to keep the animators that weren’t working on Pocahontas (1995) occupied. Disney put their best animators on Pocahontas, but in the end, its box office performance didn’t even come close to that of The Lion King, which made $968.5 million. Pocahontas only made $346.1 million.
44. Beast or bust
Former CEO Michael Eisner threatened to close the animation studio if Beauty and the Beast (1991) wasn’t a success.
43. Out of the woods
James Woods was not the first choice to play Hades in Disney’s Hercules (1997). The producers originally hired John Lithgow to play the dark ruler of the underworld and even had him in the studio to record his lines, but the performance didn’t fit the character the producers envisioned.
42. Handy work
Although Moana (2016) is a computer animated film, Maui’s tattoos were hand drawn by legendary animator Eric Goldberg. This makes Moana the first animated Disney movie that features 2D animation since Winnie the Pooh (2011).
Rapunzel and Flynn from the movie Tangled (2010) visit Arendelle to be guests at Elsa’s coronation in Frozen (2013).
40. The Great Satchmogator
The alligator in The Princess and the Frog (2009) is named Louis as an homage to jazz legend Louis Armstrong.
39. Third time’s the charm
Walt Disney attempted to adapt Beauty and the Beast (1991, 2017) in the 1930’s and 1950’s, but failed to find a good way to translate the story into film. Decades after Walt’s passing, the company tried again and found the right story to make the film a success twice over.
38. It’s a me-a… Ralphio!
Nintendo’s Mario was considered for a cameo in Wreck-it Ralph (2012), but the writers couldn’t find a good way to incorporate him in the story.
37. Tlaw Yensid
The Sorcerers’ Apprentice segment in Fantasia (1940) was inspired by Walt Disney himself. The animators put a lot of his facial features in the old wizard and even named him Yen Sid, which is Disney spelled backwards.
36. Everybody wants to be a fat cat
The story of The Aristocats (1970) was inspired by the true story that took place in the beginning of the 20th Century of a Parisian family of cats that inherited their owner’s fortune.
35. Shelf Space for the Seven Dwarves
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1938) received a special Academy Award consisting of an Oscar and seven smaller sized awards.
34. The bigger they get… the cuter they are
In early stages of development, the large snow monster in Frozen (2013) was designed to be a bigger version of Olaf, being in fact, his brother. The producers deemed the monster too cute and not scary at all, so they opted for a real monstrosity.
33. …with a rocky sense of humor
Two of the Gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) were named after the writer of the original novel, Victor Hugo. The third gargoyle, Laverne, was named after the director’s wife.
32. Building blocks
Early on in the production of Wreck-it Ralph (2012), the producers considered keeping the characters in their native graphic quality. However, keeping Ralph as an 8-bit character throughout the movie made him less appealing and harder to make him a lovable and sympathetic character.
31. Sleeping who?
The Disneyland castle was modeled after the castle in the movie Sleeping Beauty (1959). Although the park opened four years prior to the release of the movie, the imagineers worked with the designs that were used during production. Visitors hadn’t seen the movie yet and the people who were not familiar with the fairy tale were left in the dark to the castles’ origins.
30. Growing pains
Bambi (1942) was supposed to be Walt Disney’s second animated feature film, but his quest for perfection resulted in Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Dumbo (1941) being finished and released before Bambi.
29. Little Orphan Ali
Composer Howard Ashman originally developed the story of Aladdin (1992) as a fast-paced action adventure film about a boy trying to prove his worth to his mother. After Ashman passed away, the story was reworked, cutting out the family and the songs that were written for that version of the story.
28. The video king
The Lion King (1994) is the best-selling home video of all time, having sold over 55 million copies worldwide.
27. Silly, Goopy, Gloomy and Weepy
Twenty-five original songs were written for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), but only eight were used in the final film.
The Princess and the Frog (2009) features the first African-American Disney princes.
25. aaaand…. Action!
The first trailer that was released for The Lion King (1994) showed the complete opening scene of the movie, featuring the song The Circle of Life. This was the first trailer to ever show the complete first scene.
24. Spice up your life
At one point during the development of Hercules (1997), the Spice Girls were considered for the roles of the muses.
23. Kung-Fu Beast
The speaking and singing part of the Beast in the original Beauty and the Beast (1991) movie were performed by Jackie Chan in the Mandarin dub of the film.
22. What would Walt do?
The Jungle Book (1967) was the last movie Walt Disney worked on before he died in 1966. After his passing a lot of studio employees were wondering if the studio would survive, but when The Jungle Book performed well at the box office, its future was secured.
21. Strangers like him
Phil Collins was asked to write the music for Tarzan (1999) to get away from the familiar Disney song formula.
20. The Lion’s share
Until Frozen (2013) was released, The Lion King (1994) was the highest grossing Disney animated movie of all time.
19. Box office down under
The Rescuers was the first Disney animated movie to inspire a sequel, The Rescuers Down Under in 1990. The latter did not perform nearly as well as the original with the viewers.
Early on in the development of Zootopia, the story revolved around Nick Wilde instead of Judy Hopps. Early audiences reacted better to her story, convincing the writers to expand on her story. This happened in November 2014, less than a year and a half before release.
Over one million bubbles were hand inked and painted for The Little Mermaid. This workload was so big, that the resulted in the inking and painting of the bubbles to be outsourced to a studio in China, called Pacific Rim.
16. Vive La France!
In 1995 Disney opened a feature animation studio in Paris, France. The studio was formerly part of the studios that produced television animation for Disney. The Paris studio worked on such movies as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan and many others.
15. Big ears, but a little short
Although Dumbo is considered a Disney feature, it’s running length is only 64 minutes, a lot shorter than a regular feature film.
14. The Fabulous Fowl
The vultures in The Jungle Book (1967) were based upon The Beatles. Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles, approached Disney to have the band featured in a movie. The story department modeled the vultures to the members of the band, but when John Lennon saw the designs, he vetoed the idea. The vultures still have mop-top haircuts and a Liverpool accent as a homage to the band.
13. Paying through the nose
Problems during the development of Pinocchio (1940) made the film go over budget. The projected $500.000 quickly went up to $2.5 million, making it one of the most expensive movies made at that time.
12. It’s all in the details
Walt Disney was not happy with how Pinocchio (1940) progressed and halted production halfway to redesign the characters and rewrite the story. Among the late story changes in Pinocchio is the addition of Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s mentor.
11. The new golden standard
The success of The Little Mermaid kicked off a new era in animation, often referred to as the Disney Renaissance. This fruitful period in Disney history would produce many blockbusters, such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.
10. The Ice Queen cometh
In early development of the movie Frozen (2013), Elsa was intended to be the villain with a design inspired by Bette Midler.
9. First one in, last one out
The wildebeest stampede in The Lion King (1994) took three years to animate using computer animation. The scene was one of the first to go into production and one of the last to be finished.
8. House of Mouse
Walt Disney built his studios in Burbank with the profits from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938). The film is the highest grossing animated feature of all time, adjusted for inflation.
7. Queen Béy
Beyoncé was considered to play the role of Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, but refused to audition, making her lose the role.
6. A long time to wake
It took eight years from start to finish to produce Sleeping Beauty (1959). Story development began in 1951, while voice recording was finished in 1953. From that point on it took animators five years to finish the film, releasing the movie the next year.
5. Fortune favors the loyal.
Walt’s live-in housekeeper, Thelma Howard, served his family for 30 years. He gave her Disney shares as holiday bonuses, and when she died in 1994, her estate was worth more than $9 million. She donated half of it to help homeless and disadvantaged children.
4. Shave that beard!
Walt had a strict no facial hair policy. Disney employees weren’t allowed to grow facial hair until 2012. Even now, they must keep their facial hair shorter than a quarter inch.
The policy used to extend even to guests. Until 1970, you could actually get kicked out of Disneyland Park for having a beard, mustache, or long hair. Even stranger? Walt himself had a mustache since the age of 25.
3. Known by any other name
Moana (2016) was released under the name Vaiana in some countries for different reasons. In the Netherlands, the name ‘Moana’ is a registered trademark, while in Italy, the name had a bad connotation because of a famous Italian adult film actress.
2. The original plot
This may seem silly now, given how great the film turned out, but originally Disney planned The Lion King to focus on a conflict between lions and baboons. Scar was planned as the leader of the baboons and Rafiki was going to be a cheetah.
1. Chip ahoy
Chip originally had just one line in Beauty and the Beast (1991), but the producers deemed actor Bradley Pierce’s voice so cute that they expanded his part in the script.
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