Disney films are classics that many of us grew up with. From princes and princesses to talking animals and witches and pirates and fairies, Disney films were full of magic. As children, we enjoyed the stories—almost all of which are adaptations of fairy tales, or of other stories, like The Lion King, which is a rewriting of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. As grown-ups, we learned to enjoy the beautiful soundtracks (and catchy songs) and artistry behind the animation. And children and grown-ups alike can experience the magic of Disney at Disney parks!
Of course, there’s more to Disney than magic and laughter—many of the films sparked controversy for various reasons, and there are quite a few people who will tell you that Walt Disney was, well, not a great person. But no matter what you think of him and of Walt Disney studios, it’s undeniable that an incredible amount of work went into each Disney film. From animation pieces that took years to create to super-secret Easter eggs that you could spend hours finding, Disney movies are full of secrets (and of things that don’t quite make sense).
I could spend hours telling you about hidden things in Disney movies, or about fan theories, but I think it’s more interesting to dig into the secrets behind the making of some of our favorite Disney films. I found out a couple things that will surprise you! Without further ado, here are 25 things crazy details behind the making of Disney movies.
25 Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle Animations
Did you know that some of Disney’s classic animation scenes were “recycled” to save money and time? For instance, an animation from Snow White (1937) was used in Robin Hood (1967). Remember the iconic ball scene from Beauty and The Beast (1991)? It’s also a reused animation, and originally comes from Sleeping Beauty (1959). This process, during which animators trace over already existing footage, is called rotoscoping, and was used for many of the classic animated Disney films. If you’ve ever watched a Disney film and had a sense of deja-vu, this is probably why!
24 The Beatles Were Meant To Be In The Jungle Book
Yeah, you read that right. Originally, the makers of the animated Jungle Book film wanted to have the iconic band voice the four vultures in the film, and sing “That’s What Friends Are For.”
The Beatles, though, ultimately refused, for reasons that remain unknown (though there are plenty of rumors).
If you look closely at the vultures, you’ll notice that their hairstyles are meant to be reminiscent of The Beatles! For the recent live-action Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau tried once again to get Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to cameo in the film, to no avail.
23 And Beyonce Could Have Been Tiana
Reportedly, producers initially wanted Queen Bey herself to voice Tiana in The Princess And The Frog. However, the singer declined to audition—according to some, she expected to be given the role anyway. Unfortunately for us, we never got to find out what Tiana played by Beyonce might have been like, and the role went to Anika Noni Rose. She’s amazing, of course, but we can’t help but imagine what “Almost There” would have sounded like if Beyonce sang it!
22 Jackie Chan Did The Chinese Voice Of The Beast
Disney did manage to enlist some celebrities to cameo in its movies, though. One of these celebrities is none other than Jackie Chan, who voiced the Beast in the Chinese dub of Beauty and The Beast.
Not only did he voice the iconic character, he sang the songs, too!
Take a second to wrap your head around it. We don’t know about you, but it’s enough to make us wish we spoke Chinese. It’s such an unexpected cameo, but it’s definitely amazing to think about.
21 And The Girl From The Ring Voiced Lilo!
This is a little creepier to think about. Lilo, the sweet little girl from the beloved Disney classic Lilo and Stitch, was voiced by Daveigh Chase, who played Samara in the 2002 Ring movie. She even got Best Villain in the 2003 MTV Movie Awards for that role. If you’re not familiar with the movie, The Ring was a remake of a Japanese horror film, featuring a cursed cassette, and Samara, a spooky vengeful ghost. Chase’s performance in both roles is exceptional, but they really couldn’t be more different!
20 There Really Was A Fight Over The Colour Of Aurora’s Dress
If, like me, Sleeping Beauty was your favorite Disney film growing up, you probably remember the scene where the fairies argue over the color of Aurora’s dress: blue, or pink? Tempers get frayed and wands are taken out, and the dress is eventually ruined, covered in blue and pink splotches. At the end of the movie, when Aurora dances with her prince, the fairies are still at it, magically changing the color of the dress in the middle of the ball. A fun tidbit of information? While magic wands probably weren’t involved, there really was an argument over the dress during the production of the film!
19 Animators Hide “A113” In Every Pixar Movie
It’s a tribute to a classroom at CalArts, where animators John Lasseter and Brad Bird worked. They’ve put it in every single Disney Pixar movie! In Cars, it’s Martin’s license plate. In Up, when Carl is waiting at the tribunal, a sign next to him reads “Office A-113”; in Finding Nemo you see the code on the divers’ camera, in Brave, it’s above the witch’s door, in Ratatouille, it’s on Git’s ear tag… I could go on. When you know what it means, and the work that went into hiding this Easter egg, it’s fun to try and find it!
18 Tangled Is The Second Most Expensive Disney Film Ever Made
You just know it has something to do with the animation of Rapunzel’s impossibly long hair. The movie took $260 million dollars to make, and a lot of that money did go to CGI research—the producers wanted the movie to be reminiscent of the hand-painted Disney classics. Furthermore, the development of the movie was stopped several times, and a lot of over-budget costs went to creating scenes that were never used. There are several other reasons Tangled was so expensive, and it’s pretty impressive to think about.
17 And The Most Expensive Movie Ever Is A Disney Film
If Tangled is the second most expensive Disney film, then what’s the most expensive? As it turns out, the most expensive Disney film is also the most expensive movie ever.
It’s not an animated movie: unsurprisingly enough, it’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
People often tend to forget it, but the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is technically owned by Disney! On Stranger Tides cost approximatively $378 million to produce, making it, so far, the most expensive movie ever to be produced.
16 Ariel Almost Didn’t Sing “Part Of Your World”
It’s hard to imagine, but the iconic song was almost cut from The Little Mermaid! Producers reportedly considered cutting it because they were worried it would be too slow and boring for young children—who, let’s face it, have terrible attention spans. Thankfully, lyricist Howard Ashman fought to include the ballad in the movie, and we’re glad he did. “Part of Your World” is a beautiful song and a part of our childhoods, and it quickly became a fan-favorite. After all, it’s really fun to listen and sing along to!
15 Lion Roars In The Lion King Are Actually Tiger Roars
Lion roars are loud, mighty and powerful. Right? Wrong. Or at least, they weren’t powerful enough for the producers of The Lion King.
The roars you hear in the movie are actually tiger roars, since they’re louder.
In cases when even tiger roars weren’t loud enough, voice actor and sound effects specialist Frank Welker would use a trash can to create the sound effect. Feeling a little betrayed? Yeah, us too.
14 Disney Had To Mortgage His Own House To Make Snow White
No one in Disney’s entourage thought Snow White was going to work, and Walt took a lot of risks to produce the film. Production costs ended up being over six times the initial budget, and at the time, animated films were rarely successful. They were usually short films, shown before longer movies in theatres.
To produce the iconic film that launched his career, he had to mortgage his own house.
However, it was all worth it. Snow White was a huge success, and today, the film is recognized as a classic.
13 He Refused To Make Dumbo Longer
At only 64 minutes, Dumbo is one of Disney Studios' shortest animated films. The movie, produced in 1941, tells the heart-warming story of a little elephant with giant ears trying to find his mother. It’s a beautiful story, and, if you’ve watched the film as a kid, one that’s probably made you cry more than once. People around Walt Disney pressed him to make the movie longer, but he refused, stating that "You can stretch a story just so far and after that, it won't hold together." (Mouseplanet.com).
12 Walt Disney’s Favorite Piece Of Animation Is From Cinderella
Reportedly, out of all the animations that were created by Walt Disney Studios during Walt’s lifetime, his favorite was a piece of animation from Cinderella. The film indisputably includes beautifully animated sequences, and Disney’s favorite piece of animation is the scene where Cinderella’s godmother transforms her ruined dress into a beautiful ball gown. We can’t help but agree with him—it’s a beautiful piece of animation that perfectly captures Cinderella’s whimsical atmosphere. In fact, that one sequence sums up Cinderella’s rags to riches story well.
11 But He Was Initially Against The Spaghetti Scene
You read that right: Walt Disney never liked what would become the most iconic Disney kissing scene ever. Ask anyone around you what the words “spaghetti kiss” or “Lady And The Tramp kiss” make them think of and you can be fairly sure they’ll know what you’re talking about. The two dogs share a plate of spaghetti, which results in a surprise kiss when they slurp the same strand. It’s both funny and romantic (if you forget we’re talking about dogs for a second), but Walt Disney reportedly did not want the scene in the movie.
10 Scenes In Pocahontas Were Rewritten Again And Again
When it came out in 1995, Pocahontas received mixed reviews, partially because of its “bland” storyline and partially because of its dubious historical accuracy and its representation of the Powhatan Nation. While visually speaking, it’s a beautiful movie, it still sparks controversy today. And yet, the writers involved in the project desperately wanted to get the story right. Some parts of the script were rewritten over 35 times, and the film took 5 years to produce. No matter what you think of the movie, it’s undeniable that a lot of work went into it!
9 Copies Of The Rescuers Had To Be Recalled
The Rescuers, a 1977 film featuring a lovable cast of cartoon mice, isn’t Disney’s most famous animated film. It was still a great movie, but here’s something you may not know: thousands of copies of the 1999 re-release had to be recalled due to what Disney diplomatically called an "objectionable background image." The image in question? A photograph of a woman, which was inserted after the images were drawn. The studio denied their animators did it, of course, and how the image got there remains a dark Disney secret.
8 Frozen Is The First Disney Film Directed By A Woman
As crazy as it is to think about, before 2013’s Frozen, all Walt Disney Animation Studios films had been directed by men.
Jennifer Lee wrote and directed the famous film, and she won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for it!
Considering Frozen is the first film to address questions like “maybe you shouldn’t run off and marry a man you just met,” that’s hardly surprising. What is surprising, however, is that it took this long for Disney to release a film directed by a woman!
7 Maui’s Tattoos In Moana Are Hand-Drawn
While Moana, like all recent Disney film, uses digital art and computer animation, one character was hand-drawn and hand-animated. I’m talking about Mini Maui, one of the demi-god’s many tattoos—as you would guess, he’s more than a simple tattoo. Mini Maui, a stylized, 2D version of the character, interacts with Maui in a way that gives him depth and complexity—and brings us back to the early days of 2D animation. All of Maui’s other tattoos are also hand-drawn, and when you stop and look at how intricate they are, that’s quite impressive!
6 Bambi Took More Than 5 Years To Make
Many Disney animated movies took years to make—animating a full-length film is, after all, a long, arduous task. I mentioned Pocahontas earlier, which took 5 years to make. Fan-favorite movie Bambi took even longer! That’s right, this beloved movie, which traumatized many children with its incredibly sad story (rest in peace, Bambi’s mom), took over 5 years to make. The result was a stunning movie that’s still considered a timeless classic today—to such an extent that 76 years later, Bambi is still a big part of pop culture.
5 And The Stampede Scene In The Lion King Took Three Years To Animate
Talking about traumatizing scenes in Disney movies, another scene that horrified children (and adults) was the stampede scene in The Lion King. From the intense music to the spooky moment when it feels like both Simba and Mufasa are both about to be crushed by the herd of wildebeests, to Mufasa’s tragic end at the paws of his brother, it’s an incredibly complex scene from a cinematographical point of view—and it took three years to animate. The scene was revisited again and again until animators got it just right.
4 Painting The Bubbles In The Little Mermaid Had To Be Outsourced To China
A lot of work was put into drawing the backgrounds for The Little Mermaid, and the producers of the movie wanted everything to be perfect. Even the tiniest of details—like the bubbles—had to be spot-on.
This was a bit of a problem, as globally speaking, over a million bubbles were drawn for the animated film.
How did Disney manage that without blowing (pun intended) their entire budget on bubbles? They outsourced the work to a studio in China called Pacific Rim Productions.
3 Computer Animation Wasn’t Used In Disney Films Until The Little Mermaid
They had to outsource bubble animation to Pacific Rim Productions precisely because The Little Mermaid was the last Disney animated film to use cel animation.
The film was also one of the first to use Pixar’s CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), although it was only used at the very end.
That really makes you think about the amount of work that went into drawing and animated the old Disney classics! Computer animation has come a long way since The Little Mermaid, resulting in films that look and feel very different compared to the first Disney films.
2 Twenty-Five Songs Were Originally Written For Snow White
Remember the songs in Snow White? If the answer to that question is no, we wouldn’t blame you—while Snow White was a beautiful film, it isn’t exactly remembered for its songs. In fact, before doing research for this article, I probably could have named two or three at most.
But did you know that 25 songs were originally written for the movie?
At the end of the day, even if Snow White’s songs weren’t as memorable as “Hakuna Matata” or “Beauty and the Beast,” it did start the Disney tradition of having characters break into songs.
1 Robin Williams Was Given A Lot Of Freedom To Play The Genie
One of Robin Williams’ iconic roles, alongside classics such as Mrs. Doubtfire from Mrs. Doubtfire or John Keating from Dead Poet Society, was the genie in Aladdin. Disney got him to agree to the role by animating a scene around one of his old comedy bits—Williams loved it and signed the contract. During production, ad-libbing was encouraged, and Robin Williams was given loads of creative freedom, resulting in an astounding amount of hours of recording, and, ultimately, in an amazing character.