Friday, March 23, 2012

Disney's "The Sweatbox" (2000)


**UPDATE** Yup, it's gone.


I came across this from Cartoon Brew in their post "The Sweatbox", the Documentary That Disney Doesn't Want You to See". It shows the transformation of how back in 1997, the film "Kingdom of the Sun" painfully morphed into "The Emperor's New Groove".

It shows you how it all began. I know a lot of work goes into making an animated feature, but I had no idea how far along they were into production when they decided to change it all up. There were tons of pre-production sketches and conceptual art, rough and cleaned up animation, even some fully colored final animation and SIX songs written and recorded by Sting. I was really surprised to see some of the talent that was originally attached to the project. There was some amazing animation of Yzma done by Andreas Deja. I  was REALLY surprised to see Owen Wilson providing the voice of an 18 year-old version of Pacha. He was later changed to a 45 year-old man voiced by John Goodman.

It was really hard to watch as all these great artist were collaborating together and everything just was not clicking. Changes were being made left and right. They had no idea what kind of film they were making. The story was just all over the place. Kuzco was called Manko. They show what was a possible love interest. There was a ballad between the two. Owen Wilson's Pacha looks just like Manko. They switch places like "The Prince and the Pauper". But somehow Yzma STILL changes Manko into a llama?! Uh....from here I have no idea where they were going. You see a little bit of what I believe is the opening sequence. A narrator is setting the tone of the film. Some god grabbed the nearest star and brought it here and called it "something". This became the sun. blah blah blah. I was bored right away.

I think the first clue for me that things were down hill was when Sting was writing songs for a movie that did not yet have a script locked down. It's not until the 40 minute mark in this film that the decision was made to scrap just about everything and start over. Andreas, who had previously animated Gaston, Scar and Jafar, was excited to work on a female villain for the first time. He loved that she had this grand scheme in play. Then to have her role reduced to walking joke caused him to leave the project. The director Roger Allers, who had been working on this for three years, was pulled off the project. He was just coming off the success of "The Lion King" when he started working on "Kingdom of the Sun." After all that hard work, his original vision was gone.

All the songs Sting wrote were scrapped. Luckily we get to hear snippets from a few of them. There were two songs they loved but there was no way they could fit into this new incantation of the film. All his work was reduced to a ballad that played over the end credits. And in my opinion, did not flow with the film. I've seen "The Emperor's New Groove" many, many times and can quote you line after line. The one thing I cannot do is remember the "big" song of the film. The movie ends with a big happy ending, orchestra playing, trumpets blaring, BIG finish! Then BOOM, everything drops to a snail's pace with this ballad. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful song...whatever it's called...but for me it threw off the groove. (pun intended) If they had kept the fanfare going for just a little bit longer, then faded out AND THEN started up the ballad. Hey, but what do I know.

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