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The Disney-Pixar movies that were never made


Next year brings us not one, but two Disney-Pixar movies. In March, we’ve got Onward, set in a fantastical land and focusing on two elf brothers who seek to bring their late father back to life. Marvel brethren Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice the main characters, and Monsters University’s Dan Scanlon directs.

Then, in June, Jamie Foxx voices a jazz artist on a spiritual journey in Soul. Inside Out director Lee Docter helms this look at the essence of what makes us human, which takes place in an abstract yet wondrous environment known as the ‘You Seminar’.

Both films are set to continue Disney-Pixar’s already formidable reputation as magnificent storytellers and animators. But what about the movies that never made it to the big screen? We’ve rounded up several of them.

(A bit of context: the following list refers to both the independent Pixar movies that were distributed by Disney, and also the post-2006 movies that fell beneath the official Disney-Pixar merger.)

1. Newt

This Disney-Pixar tale of love and survival was meant to be released in 2012, in the slot that eventually went to Scottish princess adventure Brave. The story revolved around two rare newts put together by scientists to save their species – the only problem being they can't stand the sight of each other.

It was cancelled simply because the idea wasn't coming together in pre-production – original director Gary Rydstrom left and was replaced with the aforementioned Pete Docter, who was more committed to another project. That idea became Inside Out, and Newt was eventually cancelled.

2. Gigantic

Technically, this would have been a movie from Walt Disney Animation Studios (Tangled; Frozen), although it did enlist the help of key Pixar creatives before it was cancelled.

Set in Spain during the so-called ‘Age of Exploration’ (between the 15th and mid-17th centuries), it tells the tale of Jack In The Beanstalk with a twist. In this version, Jack befriends an 11 year old girl at the top of the beanstalk, who belongs to a whole land of giants.

"Sometimes, no matter how much we love an idea or how much heart goes into it, we find that it just isn’t working", lamented Ed Catmull, Studio President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, in a 2017 statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

The songwriters behind Frozen, Robert and Kristen-Anderson Lopez, were on-board, and some concept artwork from the film exists. But the closest this film came to arriving on the big screen was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference in 2016's Zootropolis, with a poster for an animal version of the film called 'Giraffic'.

3. The Shadow King

The name Henry Selick is one that’s cherished among animation fans. As the director behind The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, he’s created darkly captivating stories that have stood the test of time.

The Shadow King was initially part of a four picture deal between Selick and Disney-Pixar, and $50 million was spent on its development. However, Selick was eventually released from the deal and allowed to shop the project to other studios, although The Shadow King is still in development.

The story reportedly revolves around a young orphan with long fingers who is taught to make fantastic shadow puppets by a living shadow girl. Test footage and storyboards have been circulating online, promising an adventure very much in keeping with previous Selick hits.

4. A Tin Toy Christmas

Tin Toy, as Pixar historians may remember, is one of the company’s first short films, and a beloved character in animation history. The character himself was considered first for a TV holiday special, and then for a feature film once Pixar began to collaborate with Disney on a distribution deal.

The story would have involved Tin Toy being put in storage before ‘waking up’ in a department store and looking for his lost friends alongside a ventriloquist’s dummy. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the idea would eventually evolve and become Toy Story, with Tin Toy and the dummy replaced with Woody and Buzz, who were considered more suitable toys for contemporary audiences.

5. Brad Bird’s 1906

Brad Bird has come to be known as a visionary filmmaker in both the fields of live-action (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) and animation (The Iron Giant; The Incredibles).

1906 represented his most ambitious project yet, and what would have been the first live-action Disney-Pixar movie. An adaptation of the novel about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, it was envisioned as a disaster movie drama that would have echoes of James Cameron's Titanic.

Ultimately, the film's scale proved costly and delays in the script led to the production eventually being abandoned. Bird recently said 1906 may be reimagined as a TV show, although it will be without the collaboration of Pixar.

6. The 'alternative' Pixar sequels

There was a brief period in the 2000s where Disney and Pixar had parted ways and were working on separate projects.

For Disney, this meant making sequels to Pixar movies, albeit without Pixar’s involvement, via short-lived Disney division Circle 7 Animation. An alternative Toy Story 3 was planned, with the gang heading off to Thailand after Buzz Lightyear is sent back to his manufacturer.

There were also plans for a sequel to Monsters, Inc. where Sully and Mike try to find Boo when she goes missing, not to mention a Finding Nemo sequel where, this time, Marlin goes missing. All projects were abandoned when the Disney-Pixar merger happened in 2006, leading to eventual masterpieces like Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out.

Which of these movies would you like to have seen on the big screen? Let us know @Cineworld.

James Luxford is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.