All this time, we've been on the outside looking in. We memorized all the songs, fantasized about having talking pets and even imagined meeting prince charming. But still, we've been completely clueless about so many fascinating details, like which celebrities were meant to get cast and which scenes almost got cut. See all the shocking facts you probably never knew about your favorite Disney movies.
We'd have never guessed that there was a connection between these two classics! It turns out that Princess Ariel and the Greek hero are actually family. Ariel is the daughter of King Triton, who's the son of Poseidon. And according to Greek mythology, Poseidon is the brother of Zeus, who is actually the father of Hercules. This means that Hercules and Triton are first cousins and that he and Ariel are technically first cousins, once removed. MIND. BLOWN.
During a test screening of the film, Disney's then-chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, noticed that a child dropped their popcorn while this scene was playing. Because of this, he concluded that the song was so dull it was making the kid feel bored and restless. We feel like it's a stretch to assume all this from ONE person dropping their popcorn. But apparently, Jeffrey was so convinced that he really wanted to cut the song out completely. The only reason why it was saved was because the rest of the staff fought to keep it (bless their hearts!!).
And that drag queen's name was Harris Glenn Milstead, better known as Divine. Much like the evil sea witch, Divine had hair that defied gravity, over-arched eyebrows and a glamorous sense of style. The character was modeled after Divine's looks and personality, but unfortunately, Divine passed away just a year before The Little Mermaid hit the big screen in 1989. Everyone who knew Divine personally claimed that the queen would've loved the character.
The popular girl group was approached by Disney to voice the five singing goddesses, mainly due to their popularity at the time. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the Spice Girls had to decline. Actresses Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan and Vanéese Y. Thomas were brought on board to voice the muses instead. And honestly, they were pretty epic.
The powerful and mysterious sorcerer always seemed intimidating at first glance. But we realized that deep down, he's actually a caring and compassionate character with an awesome sense of humor. We're not sure how we missed this one, but it turns out that his name, "Yen Sid," is Disney's name spelled backward. To be fair, though, we were way too busy focusing on Yen's impressive magic tricks.
Disney artist and writer Joe Grant was actually inspired by his real-life springer spaniel, Lady Nell the Second. When he noticed how well his dog got along with his firstborn, he was inspired to come up with a story where Lady gets into trouble because of two mischievous cats. Walt wound up shelving that idea because he didn't feel the story was strong enough. But after he read Ward Greene's "Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog," he revisited the idea and decided to incorporate some aspects from Ward's story.
Regarding the film's origins, Joe said: "Our first born child had arrived, and we soon discovered that Lady was a natural nanny. With Lady at the mercy of the baby, ideas began to flow in form of drawings and story situations. One drawing, in particular, was especially poignant and I showed it to Walt. He gave us a big 'OK' to develop Lady's story into a feature, with the addition of Tramp to give the story a touch of romance."
It's widely recognized as one of the most iconic and romantic moments in the film, but surprisingly, Walt was initially against the idea of including it. He thought it would be too awkward and off-putting. But then Frank Thomas, who worked on the animation, presented him with a rough sketch of how it would look after experimenting with his own dogs. Thankfully, this was enough to make Walt change his mind.
Not only did the legendary actor and martial artist voice the Beast, but he also did some singing! Very few people know this, but Jackie is actually a trained opera singer who had a music career. He released over 20 albums and has done vocals in multiple languages, including Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Taiwanese, and English. So when you hear his awesome vocals in this Chinese version of the title track, “Beauty and the Beast,” don't be too surprised.
Before Walt Disney passed away, he tried to adapt Beauty and the Beast twice, but both were failed attempts. Decades after he passed away, however, his company succeeded at putting out a film that would make history. Aside from being the first animated film to be in the running for best picture at the Oscars, it became the first animated film to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The film also received the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (for "Beauty and the Beast").
When Sleeping Beauty was being made, Walt was actually juggling more than one project. At the time, he was also preoccupied with the creation of Disneyland. Plus, he was so concerned that fans and critics would compare it to previous princess films (Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) that his team spent a tedious amount of time trying to create a more unique look.
Walt once explained: "That’s why it took us six years and $6 million to make Sleeping Beauty. But to us, it was worth it,” Walt once said. Earle also worked on Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp, among others."
As of now, the film has earned a total of nearly $52 million against a budget of $6 million, which is pretty impressive. But when it was initially released, the film only grossed $5.3 million and was met with mixed reviews. It must've been a major bummer considering that the production team went above and beyond and spent several years making the film. After the movie's release, they waited over three decades before they made another Disney princess movie: The Little Mermaid (which, thankfully, did way better).
When hyena biologists allowed Disney animators to visit their facilities do they could observe and sketch real hyenas, they actually requested that the animals be portrayed positively. So when the film finally came out and the animals were portrayed as senseless, villainous creatures, they were NOT happy. Some went as far as boycotting the film, but one researcher was so upset that he tried to sue Disney for defamation of character. Many fans also took offense because the hyenas seemed to show an anti-immigrant bias. Some theories state that the animals symbolized Black and Latino people.
When the movie came out, fans of the popular Japanese cartoon, Kimba the White Lion, were surprised to see so many similarities to the series. For one, the main characters had names that sounded alike (like Simba and Kimba). Plus, both projects featured a bird sidekick (Zazu, Pauly Parrot), clueless hyenas, a wise baboon, and a lioness love interest. Some scenes in the film even seemed to mirror certain parts of the series, but despite the clear similarities, Disney has repeatedly denied that there was any influence from Kimba.
Tom Sito, an animator who worked on The Lion King, explained: "There is absolutely no inspiration from Kimba. I mean the artists working on the film, if they grew up in the ‘60s, they probably saw Kimba. I mean, I watched Kimba when I was a kid in the ‘60s, and I think in the recesses of my memory we’re aware of it, but I don’t think anybody consciously thought, 'Let’s rip off Kimba.'"
Pocahontas was being made at the same time as The Lion King, but Disney chose to put more time and effort into the former because they had higher hopes for the Disney princess. They considered The Lion King to be a "B film" at the time, so they assigned their best animators to Pocahontas instead. But interestingly enough, The Lion King made over $968.5 million at the box office while Pocahontas made less than half as much ($346.1 million).
Remember that terrifying scene where Simba almost got trampled in the stampede? That was actually one of the first scenes that went into production and one of the last to be completed. For the sequence, distinct wildebeest characters were created through a 3D computer program, then multiplied to create a herd. It took five trained animators and nearly three years to finish this two-and-a-half-minute scene!
It's really tough to imagine The Lion King with any other plot because it's perfect as is. But back when the original concept came about, Disney was planning to make a film that focused on a conflict between the lions and baboons. Scar was going to be the leader of the baboons and, unlike the film, Simba was going to remain in the kingdom, becoming a careless and awful character because of Scar's influence. Timon and Pumba were supposed to be Simba's childhood friends, and as for the actual baboon in the film, Rafiki - he was supposed to be a cheetah. All we can say is, thank goodness the story got changed.
The song is romantic enough to melt hearts, but believe it or not, it was originally supposed to be sung by the hilarious duo, Timon and Pumba. However, Elton John, who composed the song, wasn't a fan of the idea because of its comical nature. He mentioned that the song was meant to be part of "Disney's tradition of great love songs," and he felt that it could accurately express how the lions really felt about each other. So instead, Kristle Edwards did the vocals for the song, which included brief lines from Simba and Nala. The beginning and end parts also feature some dialogue from Timon and Pumba.
Yep, you read that right. Way before he became the legendary Bruce Wayne, Christian was doing a bit of voice animation. He was the voice behind John Smith's best friend, Thomas. But aside from this Disney film, the actor also did voice work for the anime fantasy film Howl's Moving Castle in 2004. He was the voice behind the main character, Howl.
Rather than sticking to original book's evil depiction of vultures, Disney chose to put a positive spin on the creatures. They were modeled after The Beatles and Disney even attempted to get the members to voice the characters. It was also their intention to have the group sing their song, "That's What Friends Are For." John Lennon unfortunately refused to get on board. On the bright side, Disney was able to get Chad Stuart from the British musical duo, Chad & Jeremy.
It's one of those things that's super easy to miss if you don't pay attention to the tiniest details. In that scene where a concert is being held at King Triton's Palace, the audience is clearly visible. But if you take a closer look at the people to the left of Triton, you'll notice three familiar Disney characters making a cameo. Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy!
The film would go on to make history as the first American film to have a soundtrack album, so it comes as no surprise that so much time was spent on the music. Originally, there were 25 songs written for the princess movie, but only eight were chosen. All songs were composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, while Paul J. Smith and Leigh Harline did the incidental music score (which got nominated for an Oscar). Now we're curious to hear what we missed out on...
In 1939, Walt Disney's film earned an Academy Honorary Award, being described as "a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field." At the ceremony, child star Shirley Temple presented Walt with an award that was specially designed for him. In addition to the regular-sized Oscar statuette, he also got seven tiny ones - a clear reference to the seven dwarves.
Even the movie's co-director, Nathan Greno, missed this easter egg! When a fan asked him about it on social media, he had to check with the animators to confirm that it was really Rapunzel and Flynn in the crowd arriving for Elsa’s coronation. After actually confirming it, Nathan admitted that he had no idea, saying: "I guess I missed that when I watched the film." Isn't it nuts how the animators slipped that in without the director even noticing it?!
The Disney film was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen. And the main characters: Hans, Kristoff, Anna, and Sven, are actually a direct reference to Hans. If you sound out all the names together, you'll notice that there's a striking similarity to the sound of the original author's name. Pretty cool, isn't it?
Jennifer Lee, who also wrote the screenplay and voiced the Queen of Arendelle, became the first woman to direct a feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Plus, she made history as the first female director of a feature film that made over $1 billion at the box office. It's kind of ridiculous that it took this long before Disney had a female director, but here's hoping this inspires the company to hire more women!
Originally, the snow monster (aka Marshmallow) was going to be Olaf's big brother. He was also going to look exactly like Olaf, except way bigger. But when the monster was created, the producers found it way too cute and decided to tweak this part of the story, making the villain look like an actual monster. This was a good call because a bigger version of Olaf definitely wouldn't have scared anyone.
The film that we came to know and love focuses on two sisters, but during its early development, the two weren't even related. In earlier sketches, Anna was a peasant while Elsa was the evil Snow Queen. Also, Elsa looked completely different with blue skin, short blue hair, and a coat made of weasels. But along the way, the director's perception of Elsa completely changed.
Jennifer Lee said: "Elsa was going to be the complete antagonist. They kept calling her the 'villain.' But there came a point where we said, 'We can't use that word anymore.' You care about someone who's been forced to hide who they are. Elsa's not a villain, she just makes some bad choices because she's in a very difficult situation."
It may shock you to know that the giant term wasn't invented by the movie's songwriters, but rather, they made it famous. The Mary Poppins song, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," was written by the Sherman brothers, but they were then sued by songwriters Gloria Parker and Barney Young because they had written a song of the same name several years prior. Their suit, however, was unsuccessful because it turned out a similar word had already been used by a writer since the early '30s. Helen Herman had authored a column called "A-muse-ings" and included the variant "supercaliflawjalisticexpialidoshus," so the Gloria and Barney claim was unfounded.
The adorable little robot's name was directly inspired by Walt, whose full name is actually Walter Elias Disney. So the creators basically shortened Walt's first name and added the first initial of his middle name to make "WALL-E." It's pretty crazy that we never caught on to this, but it's such a clever way to pay homage to the legend. Plus, the name is so fitting for the character!
When the movie's director, Andrew Stanton, was still working on the film's characters, he reached out to Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, for help designing a specific character. As a result, Steve sent over his lead designer, Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPhone, iPod, and iMac.
Andrew explained: "I wanted Eve to be high-end technology - no expense spared - and I wanted it to be seamless and for the technology to be sort of hidden and subcutaneous. The more I started describing it, the more I realized I was pretty much describing the Apple playbook for design."
When Walt first announced that he'd be making a full-length animated film, he estimated the cost to be around $250,000. However, that cost skyrocketed to $1.5 million and such a giant budget was unheard of at the time.
Walt was forced to take out several loans and he even mortgaged his home to help finance the film. Everyone, including Walt's wife, predicted that this film would bomb because no adult would pay to sit through a full-length animated movie. They also believed that Walt's career would take a huge blow. But to everyone's surprise, it was actually a major box office success and, as previously mentioned, earned an Academy Award.
Those cute little Dwarfs actually had to go through dozens of character and name changes before the team finally settled for Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey. Plus, it turns out that Disney had a hard time trying to find the right voice for Dopey. If you've ever wondered why he stays silent throughout the entire film, it's because they couldn't find the right personality to fit that role.
There were so many versions that the producers ended up with over 16 hours of recordings. Since Robin Williams was only available to do a few recording sessions, he made the most of the little time he had by recording in as many ways as he could.
The character's supervising animator, Eric Goldberg, explained: "Robin had so much freedom, and [ad-libbing] was always encouraged. He always gave us such a huge amount to choose from. He would do a line as written, but he would do it as 20 different characters ... [We] would take those tracks back to the studio and really put the ones in that made us laugh the most and were the ones that we thought were best suited to the lines."
The R&B sensation was actually in the running to play the title role in The Princess and the Frog, but she refused to audition, expecting to be given the role anyway. Unfortunately, it cost her the part. The film's casting director, Jen Rudin, explained: "Beyoncé expected an offer, but wouldn't audition and so she didn't get one."
In the end, the role went to Beyoncé's Dreamgirls co-star, Anika Noni Rose, who was described as "the most qualified." Though the R&B singer missed out on voicing the first African American Disney princess, she did go on to voice Queen Tara in the animated film, Epic.
Beyoncé wasn't the only star being considered for this role. Jen mentioned that Tyra Banks and Jennifer Hudson also wanted the part. Jen said: "They had to sing, so we made it clear they needed sheet music. Tyra came in with a CD, but it didn't matter because she was so pretty and nice."
But Alicia Keys was so determined that she auditioned for it three times. Though she didn't land the part, she's still got a few impressive roles beneath her belt, including June in The Secret Life of Bees.
Yes, Lilo is Samara Morgan from The Ring and we're still reeling. But this isn't the only scary flick she has appeared in. Daveigh's other thrillers include Killer Crush, Wild in Blue, and Jack Goes Home. The actress and singer still is best known for voicing Lilo, but she has also done voice work in the Japanese anime, Spirited Away.
At first, Aladdin was going to be just 13 years old. He was also going to be modeled after Michael J. Fox, but when Disney created the character, they found him a bit too boyish and not as appealing as they'd hoped. So instead, Aladdin's age was increased to eighteen and he was made to look more like actor Tom Cruise. There's a tiny resemblance if you look closely, but some features were also taken from Calvin Klein models.
Playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman first pitched an idea that was meant to be a musical adaptation of the original folk tale. He had even written songs and a full script that remained true to the plot (it focuses on Aladdin and his mother's journey after an evil sorcerer and magical lamp entered their lives). But apparently, Disney wasn't impressed and they removed the entire project from development. Producers completely reworked the story and, as a result, they eliminated Aladdin's mom's character and put more spotlight on Jasmine. Screenwriters even altered Aladdin's personality to be "a little rougher, like a young Harrison Ford."
The film was actually released under a different name in European countries, mainly because 'Moana' is a widely known trademark and keeping the film's original title would've led to some conflict. In Italy, however, the film's title was changed to Oceania. This was done to avoid any confusion with the Italian porn star Moana Pozzi. We can definitely understand their reasoning.
In 1999, Disney was forced to recall over 3.4 million VHS copies of the movie because one scene included an “objectionable background image.” It was actually a waist-up shot of a naked woman clearly visible from a window as Bernard and Bianca rode together in a sardine container. The first frame showed it on the bottom left while the second showed it at the top center... And it was quite obvious. We doubt this little “slip up” was accidental.