Okay, real talk time: if you’ve never seen a single Disney movie, you must have spent your life so far living under the world’s biggest rock. For decades now, Walt Disney Pictures has released hit after hit, totally changing the game in the animation industry multiple times. Admittedly, not every Disney movie was created equal. You can’t really compare a direct-to-DVD disaster like Cinderella II to a masterpiece like Mulan! Generally, though, Disney movies hit the mark again and again.
Still, even the most successful of movie studios drops the ball sometimes. Not every idea that Disney has come up with has been good enough to get the green light. Some movie pitches were rejected straight off the bat; others were dragged out until they quietly got canceled years down the line. While some of these failed projects deserved to get the chop, others really should’ve seen the light of day. Here are just some of the canceled Disney movies that definitely should have made the cut.
17. Snow White Returns
Just a year after Snow White‘s 1937 release, plans were put into motion to produce a sequel. Snow White Returns would presumably have covered the life of this pallid princess following her marriage to Prince Philip. However, it’s something we sadly never got to see. Producers shelved the movie for unknown reasons. To be honest, Snow does deserve a bit more coverage: all she did in her first movie was clean up after seven dudes then fall asleep for a while. She needs her chance to prove she’s not just a pretty face and become a badass, feminist queen. Come on, Disney: make it happen!
16. Bambi’s Children
Remember the little foals born at the end of the original Bambi movie? Well, the children of the eponymous deer were originally going to get their own film! Bambi’s Children would have been a direct adaptation of Felix Salten’s novel of the same name. The book is basically a coming-of-age tale focusing on Bambi’s twin foals Geno and Gurri. Another hunter shows up, there’s a turf war between Bambi’s family and that of a rival stag… It’s all action! In fact, some of the violence and gore present in the original German text had to be toned down in the English version. If that’s not the mark of an exciting story, I don’t know what is. In the end, though, Bambi’s Children never got the big-screen treatment: it was just made into a comic strip instead.
15. Hansel and Gretel
Considering Disney’s love of adapting fairy tales from the big screen, it’s a surprise that Hansel and Gretel was never actually added to its repertoire. Back in the 1960s, planning began for an animated version of this Brothers Grimm classic. However, it was shelved after the death of Walt Disney in 1967. While the company did eventually adapt this tale in 1983, it became a TV special rather than a feature-length piece. This obscure 30-minute piece was directed by Tim Burton and was only ever aired once. Burton was obsessed with Japanese culture when he made Hansel and Gretel, meaning the end result is possibly even stranger than his better-known works. Yep, it’s possible.
14. Where The Wild Things Are
In the mid-1980s, animators Glen Keane and John Lasseter pitched a pretty forward-thinking idea to Disney executives. They wanted to adapt classic children’s book Where The Wild Things Are for the screen – but with an innovative twist. Keane and Lasseter wanted to combine traditionally animated characters with computer-generated settings. This was pretty much unheard of at the time. Despite actually completing a test version of the film, Keane and Lasseter eventually abandoned the project for unknown reasons. Shortly afterward, they quit Disney to move to Pixar! They’ve gone on to produce some of the most popular animated movies in history with their new studio. Unfortunately, they never quite got around to finishing Where The Wild Things Are.
13. Mistress Masham’s Repose
Of all of the canceled projects mentioned here, Mistress Masham’s Repose ended in the most dramatic fashion. An adaptation of this T.H. White was in the works in the mid-1980s, just before the release of The Black Cauldron. Set in the same fictional universe as Gulliver’s Travels, the story followed a young, lonely girl called Maria and her adventures with the Lilliputians (aka super tiny people). The project apparently polarized Disney executives: Roy E. Hale was a huge fan of producer Joe Hale’s ideas, while Jeffrey Katzenberg hated it. It’s pretty clear which of these industry bigwigs won that argument. Hale’s film didn’t just get scrapped – he and his entire team were fired from the company! Nobody else dared to pick up this apparently cursed project. Can you really blame them?
12. Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?
After its release in 1988, the part-animated, part-live action movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? quickly became a cult classic. It had everything: an original story, innovative technology, and constant humor made the film a firm favorite among fans. Initially, Disney wanted to capitalize on this success by producing both prequels and sequels to the original movie. Who Discovered Roger Rabbit? would have been the second movie in the series, but a precursor to the events of the first film. Producers had it all planned out. Who Discovered was going to be a direct-to-VHS musical set in World War II. The plot saw Roger and Herman navigating the perils of war while trying to find Roger’s parents. Despite this pretty strong concept, the movie was eventually abandoned, as were all of the other planned sequels.
11. Swan Lake
There are plenty of animated adaptations of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake. Who can forget the direct-to-DVD masterpiece starring everyone’s favorite plastic princess, Barbie of Swan Lake? Then there’s The Swan Princess, the delightfully weird but cult classic movie produced by former Disney animator Richard Rich. Question is, why didn’t Disney themselves throw a version of this much-loved tale into the mix? One was planned back in 1992; however, Rich’s development of The Swan Princess threw a spanner in the works. The planned Disney version was so similar to Rich’s movie that copyright issues got in the way of its production. An agreement with Rich couldn’t be made, and the project was eventually dropped.
10. Wild Life
Okay, someone REALLY needs to make the movie Wild Life happen because it sounds incredible. In a story (very) loosely based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a zoo elephant, Ella, undergoes a huge visual and personal transformation. She becomes a performer and a massive hit in the club circuit in 1970s New York City. The movie would have ruthlessly mocked that decade’s pop culture, parodying figures like Andy Warhol, Anna Wintour, and Diana Vreeland. The entire concept sounds brilliant! However, Roy Disney was apparently so appalled by the movie’s “adult humor” that he demanded the project be scrapped. Can we please find a way to change his mind? The world needs to see Wild Life, and it needs to see it now!
Around the same time that Wild Life was in production, Disney’s animators came up with another elephant-based concept for a feature film. Bitsy would have followed the eponymous elephant in her journey of a lifetime from India to Hollywood. Bitsy’s dream is to become a star, but this gets derailed when she can’t find any acting work. She ends up working in a used-car lot and falls in love, presumably with another elephant. Story artists Joe Grant and Burny Mattinson planned out the entirety of the film’s first act, but their pitch was ultimately dismissed by Disney executives. Grant was a pretty impressive guy, all things considered: when he pitched Bitsy, he was a 92-year-old determined to work on his craft until the very end of his life. He got his wish: Grant was still animating when he passed away in 2005 aged 96.
8. Hercules II: The Trojan War
The original Hercules was one of the most glorious movies of the Disney Renaissance era. It had Meg, a heroine who actually had a personality. It had the sassy Muses and their gospel-singing antics. Even Hades, the villain of the whole thing, was oddly relatable in his “I’m done with these idiots” moments. It’s no surprise that Disney wanted to capitalize on the film’s success and throw a sequel into the works. Hercules II: The Trojan War was planned to be a direct-to-video follow-up to the events of the first film. Hercules and Meg would be happily married, living in Athens with their daughter, Hebe. However, when Herc’s old friend Helen is kidnapped by the evil Paris, the hero has to go on another huge adventure. Sadly, this pretty great-sounding movie was scrapped and replaced with the inferior TV show Hercules: The Animated Series.
7. My Peoples
In the late 1990s, Mulan director Barry Cook pitched the Romeo and Juliet-esque movie My Peoples to Disney executives. The story would follow two star-crossed lovers, Elgin Harper and Rose McGee, as they tried to make their forbidden romance work in 1940s Appalachia. With their families disapproving of the match, Rose’s father tries to cast a spell on Elgin to make him forget all about Rose. However, the spell actually just brings a ton of folk dolls to life. The dolls proceed to try and get Elgin and Rose together again. The movie was supposed to star Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin but was scrapped at the last minute in favor of Chicken Little. Who even liked Chicken Little? My Peoples sounds way better.
6. Uncle Stiltskin
Have you ever wondered what happened to Rumplestiltskin after his failed attempt to steal a baby in the classic fairy tale? In fact, why did he even try to snatch a child in the first place? Disney’s planned project Uncle Stiltskin would have answered both of those questions. The film was due to portray Skiltskin as a man desperate to have a child but unable to do so himself. After his first failed attempt to ‘adopt’ a kid through less than wholesome means, the misunderstood troll adopts a feral orphan girl who’d been raised by wolves. While old Stiltskin finds that fatherhood is a lot more work than he expected, he eventually learns the true meaning of family. This movie sounds adorable! It’s not quite clear why it never got made, but the project was definitely scrapped at some point. Such a shame!
5. The Aristocats II
Almost forty years after classic Disney movie The Aristocats made its 1970 debut, Disney executives briefly considered giving it a sequel. The Aristocats II would have followed Marie, the adorable kitten of the original movie’s star Duchess, and her adventures on board a cruise ship. After becoming smitten with another kitten on board, Marie finds herself swept into a mystery involving stolen jewels and a nefarious criminal. She and her family take on the thief, all the while still sailing on the open seas. The movie was going to be a direct-to-DVD release, but Disney decided to scrap it in 2007 and focus on new projects. In fact, incoming exec John Lasseter went as far as to fire Sharon Morrill, the producer who’d planned the movie. Oh dear.
4. Dumbo II
Another Disney classic, another planned sequel that never saw the light of day. Dumbo may be a bit uncomfortable for modern audiences to watch (that racial stereotyping though), but it’s still a much-loved tale of an elephant learning to fly. In 2001, Disney got seriously into the idea of releasing a direct-to-DVD sequel, even adding a trailer for Dumbo II to the first movie’s 60th Anniversary edition DVD. The plot would see Dumbo and his friends escaping the circus – freedom for the animals, yay! – and trying to find their way home. We would also apparently learn a bit more about what happened to Dumbo’s father. Unfortunately, the initial animated material for Dumbo II was considered too ‘lackluster’ for release and the project was indefinitely shelved. Instead, we’re going to be getting a live-action Dumbo remake in 2019.
You know that feeling when you come up with an awesome idea, but someone else announces exactly the same thing just before you do? Yeah, that’s what happened with Newt. This Disney Pixar movie would have followed Newt and Brooke, the last two blue-footed newts in the world. When science brings them together to breed for the good of their species, Newt and Brooke discover that they totally hate each other. How will their species survive if the two can’t be convinced to mate?! Unfortunately, this storyline was deemed a bit too similar to that of Fox’s Rio, about a Macaw who thinks he’s the last of his kind but then discovers the existence of a female Macaw on the other side of the world. With a heavy heart, Pixar shelved Newt and went back to the drawing board.
This planned 2011 feature film would have combined the ideas of two truly magical creators. Disney wanted to adapt Mort, the fourth novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Mort is an outcast who finds himself working as an apprentice to actual Death. Like, the Grim Reaper. The actual harbinger of doom. As you’d expect, such a work assignment isn’t particularly easy: Mort and Death get up to some pretty strange but exciting antics. This fantasy story is one of Pratchett’s best-loved works and was the perfect candidate for an animated adaptation. Unfortunately, Disney simply couldn’t afford to buy the film rights to the book, so the project was scrapped.
Gigantic is the most recent Disney project to get the chop. Originally slated for a 2020 release, the movie was shelved in October 2017 due to ‘creative difficulties’ in the development stage. It’s a real shame – the information released about the movie before its cancelation made it sound really, really cool! Gigantic would have been a loose adaptation of the English folktale Jack in the Beanstalk. However, the setting would have become Spain in the Age of Exploration, and the giant Jack meets would be a friend and not an enemy. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez – the brains behind the music of Frozen – were signed on to write the movie’s score, and Tangled‘s Nathan Greno was due to direct. However, after numerous delays in production, Disney executives decided to retire Gigantic altogether. We’ll have to wait and see what the studio replaces it with!