Disney Movies That Were Never Made
Most movies never get past the pre-production stage. When a new film gets proposed, odds are that it will get shot down by the studio, either because it’s not widely appealing, not feasible, or not very good. While Walt Disney Pictures has been wildly successful for decades, it has its fair share of abandoned projects. Here are a few of them.
Walt Disney was fascinated by American history, literature, and culture. He created Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Tom Sawyer Island, and a film based on the life of Johnny Appleseed. At one point, the filmmaker wanted to make a movie based on the work of America’s most popular poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Specifically, Walt Disney wanted to make a film based on Longfellow’s epic poem Hiawatha. In the late 1940s, this film was almost made. The concept art produced for it garnered high praise, however, the studio ultimately decided that the film was too highbrow to earn a wide audience. Since the studio’s art film Fantasia failed at the box office a few years prior, Walt Disney Pictures wasn’t willing to gamble on a concept like Hiawatha.
‘The Rainbow Road to Oz’
So far, Disney has made two movies derived from the Oz books by L. Frank Baum: one was the dark 1980s cult classic Return to Oz while the other was the more popular film Oz the Great and Powerful. Walt Disney himself attempted to bring Oz to the big screen multiple times.
He initially intended to purchase the rights to the first Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and make it into the first full-length Disney film. Instead, MGM purchased the rights to the book and the rest is film history. Following the death of Baum’s widow in 1953, Walt purchased the rights to eleven of the fourteen Oz books that Baum had written.
Walt was going to make a film called The Rainbow Road to Oz starring Annette Funicello as a princess and featuring other Mouseketeers in supporting roles. A preview of the film was released to television but the project was never completed, possibly because Walt was too busy working on Sleeping Beauty at the time.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is a very long novel; some college courses will spend an entire term reading and discussing that book. Any work of literature that long and dense is not obvious material for Disney to adapt. Despite this, Walt Disney did consider making a film based on Don Quixote. In 1940, he thought about making the book into an art film comparable to Fantasia.
After abandoning that adaptation of Don Quixote, he decided that it would be better for him to make the novel into a short, before abandoning the short as well. The idea of adapting Don Quixote was considered one final time in 1951. Then, Walt toyed with the idea of adapting the novel into a film with a simplistic animation style, a sharp contrast to Don Quixote‘s complex themes. The studio has never attempted to adapt the novel again.