Animated Extras: Deleted Scenes

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

The charming Little Mermaid, Ariel, sings "Looking around you'd think, 'Sure, she's got everything'. But who cares? No big deal. I want more."

I completely understand. My MousePlanet biography states that my house looks like a library has exploded and I am living in the remains of that event, carefully maneuvering through bookcases, stacked books and DVDs, boxes filled with magazines and more.

I freely admit that I am addicted to information. I love knowing things. I have several different releases of the same film on DVD because the extras are different.

From a very early age, I was fascinated about why certain choices were made in making one of my favorite films and especially, what was left on the cutting room floor. When working on an animated film, rapidly approaching deadlines and tightening last-minute budget changes can result in a segment being eliminated.

Often a well-written song finds itself a homeless orphan because of changes in the tone of the story or the elimination of a character or the need to get to a different scene more quickly.

Fortunately, some of these charming abandoned segments have been rescued by the Disney Company and given a new loving home in television specials and DVD/BluRay releases.

For the IMAX release of Beauty and the Beast (1991), the Disney Company decided to animate the song "Human Again," written by the award-winning team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken that was composed when the original film was in production. The talented Ashman had a great affection for the clever melody, but it fell victim to a shift in needs of the story.

As producer Don Hahn remembered the story, he was sitting around and joking with directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale about a special edition of a film that had been recently released with additional material.

"Kirk jokingly suggested, 'wouldn't it be fun to do a special edition of Beauty with "Human Again" or new material in it?' When the head of Feature Animation said he thought it was a great idea, we stopped joking and began thinking about how we could actually do it. We had storyboarded the sequence for the original production, but completely reworked it for this special edition of the film."

Although the song had been cut from the animated feature, it had been reinstated for Disney's theatrical Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast (1994-2007) and audiences fell in love with the lively tune. Ashman's favorite song had found a home not only on the stage, but also in the film re-release.

After the familiar and beloved "Something There" song, the enchanted objects in the castle are encouraged by the romance blooming between Belle and the Beast. Believing the horrible curse that condemned them to become household objects may be lifted soon, they all burst into an upbeat, festive song sharing what they will do when they are transformed back into human form.

New enchanted items, including perky knickknacks, cheery dust pails, exuberant brooms, and hard-working chairs enthusiastically join in the joyous song. For the first time, audiences were able to see that Belle's horse, Phillipe, was being well cared for in the Beast's stable. More significantly, this was the first time that the Disney Company had ever animated a new sequence for a previously-released feature.

The inclusion, according to producer Don Hahn "added a greater emotional depth to the story."

"I've very emotional about 'Human Again,'" noted actress Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle. "It was Howard's [Ashman] favorite song and now that its back, I know Howard is watching somewhere and is so happy that this is happening."

The addition of that new song was so well received that, with the re-release of The Lion King (1994) in IMAX, it was decided to incorporate a song for the film that never made it past the storyboard stage.

Ironically, though the tune never appeared in the final film, it had also been included in Disney's Broadway musical production of The Lion King (1997 and still running).

Although not as deeply emotional as "Human Again," "The Morning Report" gives a deeper look at the playful father and son bonding as well as some added insight into their world.

"The Morning Report," sung by Mufasa's feathered majordomo Zazu, is the daily report of the important news of the grunts, roars and snorts around the jungle kingdom. This gossipy update is given to mighty King Mufasa early every day so that he knows what is going on in his world.

Lyricist Tim Rice commented, "I just tried to throw in a lot of animal puns."

Composer Elton John added, "The lyrics are hilarious and gives the audience a little wider view of this world."

In the original theatrical release, Zazu lands on a stone to merely say the news highlights of the day. Little Simba is trying unsuccessfully to capture a grasshopper.

Intrigued Mufasa decides to give his impetuous son a real lesson in stalking and asks oblivious Zazu to turn around for a moment. Eager Simba leaps at the flustered bird and sweeps him off the stone.

In the revised special film version for IMAX, Zazu lands on a stone and sings his report with much fervor. The playful Simba is now trying futilely to capture a pesky groundhog that continually pops up through different holes and who made a brief appearance in the original scene.

Conceited Simba grabs poor Zazu by his tail feathers in the middle of his now lenghty musical report. The little lion swings the helpless bird around in the air and finally tosses him to the ground.

Another animated feature whose re-release featured the inclusion of a song eliminated from its original theatrical release was Pocahontas (1995).

"If I Never Knew You" is the love theme from the popular film written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. While the song itself was removed from the film, it provided a major musical theme throughout the film representing the deep love between Pocahontas and John Smith.

In addition, the romantic tune was performed during the end credits of the film and also released as a best-selling single. Audiences fell in love with the amorous ballad and wondered why the lyrical love song was not included in the film.

Originally, the song was meant for the scene where heroic John Smith is wrongly imprisoned for the death of the noble Powhatan warrior Kocoum. Worried Pocahontas visits the trussed up Smith the night before his execution. As they say their final goodbyes, the lovestruck duo sing the lost duet finally confessing their love for each other.

"In the original release, the scene started with Pocahontas talking to John Smith and then her friend Nokoma interrupting them. It was wonderful to include the song in this new edition," co-director Mike Gabriel remembered. "It was just heartbreaking to have to cut the song because John Pomeroy and Glen Keane had put so much emotion into their animation of the two characters. It was already substantially animated, well over 90 percent, so it was big deal because a lot of money and time had been spent on it."

During test screenings, Roy E. Disney recalled that when the song came on "there was degree of restlessness, especially with the children in the audience, and the teen audience was giddy. However, adult focus groups rated the song as their favorite in the film. It was just such an adult emotion being expressed that the attention of younger people began to wander from the story we wanted to tell."

"Even after the film was released, there was the feeling at the Disney Studio that we may have acted too quickly. The unfinished sequence was shown on the 1997 airing of the film on ABC television and got a good reaction," stated co-director Mike Gabriel. "The song belonged in the movie and contributed to the story, especially the end where Pocahontas looks into the reflection in the river and rejects Kocoum and accepts John Smith and they finish the duet in reflection form. It is the song where they, for the first time, audibly acknowledge the depth of their love for each other."

In 2005, Disney released the tenth anniversary edition of Pocahontas, which had the song fully animated, colored and integrated back into the film. It was performed by Mel Gibson and Judy Kuhn who had done the recording in 1995 when they did the original voices for the two characters.

I grew up without the wonders of IMAX. In fact, I huddled in front of a black and white television set that had a set of "rabbit ears" on top and got only the three major networks and a handful of local Los Angeles syndicated stations like KTLA and KCOP.

It was in front of that set that I sat and watched the weekly Disney television show and was enthralled with the secrets behind animation and the building of Disneyland.

It was also my first exposure to a deleted scene from a Disney animated feature: the Seven Dwarfs eating soup.

"I did a soup sequence for Snow White (1937), it was very fun and everybody laughed and so did Walt," said Ward Kimball. "She [Snow White] calls them in and she serves soup to them. All the funny ways that they slurp the soup, especially Dopey."

"Then Walt called me up to his office and he says, 'I've been looking at the film and I'm going to have to take out the soup sequence', and I had spent eight months on it. He gave me a reason why, he said 'I've got to get back to the witch' and… it kinda hurt," said Kimball, who later admitted to me in an interview that Walt's decision was the right one from the perspective of the overall film.

To compensate, Walt got Kimball all excited about doing Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (1940), which was going to be put into production.

For the animation of that lost scene, it was not just Ward Kimball (although he was primarily responsible for most the dwarf animation) but there was also work by animators Fred Spencer, Bill Tytla, Marvin Woodward, Dick Lundy and Bill Roberts. Snow White was done by Grim Natwick.

Decades later, Walt suggested cleaning up the scene and showing it as a special treat on his weekly television program. It aired on the episode "The Plausible Impossible" on October 31, 1956 and that episode was constantly rerun over the years where I finally got to see it.

The soup-eating segment was also re-purposed to use on television specials that celebrated the various anniversaries of Snow White and it ended up on the Snow White Diamond Edition BluRay.

My friend and Disney Legend Floyd Norman recently wrote about that segment on his blog.

Norman worked on cleaning up that segment that was first animated many years before he was even born.He has had an amazing career and was gracious enough to write a wonderful introduction to my book Who's Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories that is worth the cost of the book.

Here is an excerpt from Norman's posting. He had just been hired as an animator at the Disney Studio.

"It was the 1950s and Walt Disney Productions had already launched a weekly television show on ABC. The Old Maestro and his creative staff were busily looking for projects they could exploit. Walt knew his audience delighted in seeing behind the scenes stuff and what goes on in the making of an animated film.

"Disney's writers came up with a brilliant idea. Since so much energy and imagination go into the making of an animated film what if we allowed the Disneyland audience to see material that never made it into the finished motion picture? A good example would be Snow White.

"Animator Ward Kimball had put a good deal of effort into two sequences that never made it into the completed film. One sequence featured the Seven Dwarfs building Snow White's bed. However, the material Walt decided to show was the famous soup eating sequence. There was even a delightful song written by composer, Frank Churchill. It was titled, The Rhythm in Your Soup." [Korkis note: the actual title was "Music in Your Soup."]

"Even better, the song recorded back in the 1930s was still in the Disney's vault. Television audiences would finally see an entertaining sequence that had been 'hidden' for years.

"However, once the unseen footage was pulled from the archive, the Old Maestro had a major concern. The animation was fun and entertaining, but the sketches were clearly loose and rough. Perhaps a little too rough for television audiences not used to viewing rough animation.

"Walt Disney made the decision to clean up the footage. He wanted the drawings a little tighter, yet not so much as to lose the energy and vitality of the animator's original drawings. A crew was needed to get the soup eating sequence ready for prime time.

"The year was 1956, and a group of young animation apprentices had just been hired. Having completed their thirty days of training, the young animation trainees were moved into a large room in 1-F, on the first floor of the Animation Building.

"I was one of those young trainees and our first assignment was to clean-up the rough sketches in Ward Kimball's soup eating sequence. You can imagine how surprised we were when given the original animated scenes from Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If was if we were suddenly touching history.

"These were drawings made before some of us were even born, and now it was our responsibility to prepare these amazing scenes for their debut on network television. Perhaps some of you have seen the program where Walt Disney introduces the famous sequence and presents the unseen material for the first time.

"As you can imagine, it was an assignment we'll never forget. Especially because we were just getting our feet wet as young Disney artists beginning our careers in the cartoon business. And that, boys and girls is how I ended up working on Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

As you can tell, Floyd is not only a terrific artist, but a terrific storyteller. Make sure you add a copy of his most recent book Animated Life: A Lifetime of tips, tricks, techniques and stories from an animation Legend to your collection. It is filled with lots of Disney stories.

When Norman posted the story, I wrote to him to ask if Kimball had any reaction to seeing his animation finally shown to an audience.

"The soup eating sequence was one of our first assignments as young Disney newbies," Norman said. "We simply did what we were told and had no idea what guys like Ward Kimball were thinking. Walt seemed pleased with what had been done, but I doubt Kimball even saw the sequence. He had his hands full with the new space series he was producing. I think Ward had long since forgotten his work on Snow White and never showed the slightest interest in what we were doing."

Usually there is a good reason for something being deleted from a film I love, like a close-up of King Kong chomping away on a native in the original 1933 movie. Somehow that moment and the one where he casually tosses a woman to her death from a building because he discovers she is not Ann Darrow make him a less sympathetic character. It literally changes the tone of the whole film.

There are many other lost treasures from Disney animated feature films over the years and I am glad to have the opportunity to view them but they don't necessarily enhance the film if they are reinstated.