Even if you've watched every Disney film 20 times, there are still plenty of little-known facts to discover about them. Did you know The Emperor's New Groove had a completely different story before production hit a fatal snag? Or about how the competition between the animators on Pocahontas and The Lion King? These and even more secrets lie just beneath the technicolor surface of many Disney classics.
The animators on Pocahontas and The Lion King were (friendly) rivals
The productions of Pocahontas and The Lion King were underway at the same time. However, more animators wanted to work on Pocahontas because they thought it seemed like it would be the bigger hit.
Former Disney animator Tom Bancroft told Refinery 29 in 2015, “Long story short, all the most experienced animators wanted to work alongside Glen [Keane] on the ‘for sure hit’ Pocahontas, which left all the inexperienced (but hungry to prove themselves) animators on The Lion King... This split of the animation team set up a (friendly) rivalry between the artists and these films that made them both better.”
Disney created a real Atlantean language
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is very different from most Disney flicks because there are no songs and more explosions. The filmmakers also brought in linguist Marc Okrand to help create an actual alien language for the film. Okrand had previously created the Klingon language in Star Trek.
Co-director Gary Trousdale told Reel, "We told [Okrand] we wanted something that is kind of like a Tower of Babel language. That from this language all other languages sprung. That when it broke up, the different pieces of it kind of grew into different languages around the world... Mark was an expert in California languages, but he also used Hebrew. He used Chinese, a pinch of Latin."
Ariel could have been a blonde
Co-director of The Little Mermaid Ron Clements told CinemaBlend, "[Then-Chairman of Disney] Jeffrey Katzenberg had different ideas, I think. And for whatever reason, a lot of what he saw early on was black-and-white animation footage, which are just pencil drawings. And [Ariel] sort of looks blonde."
He continued, "But when [Katzenberg] first saw that [Ariel] was a redhead, he was concerned. And I remember him saying at the time, ‘Everybody knows all mermaids are blonde.’ I don’t know exactly where that came from."
They invented new colors for Sleeping Beauty
“Walt [Disney] told me after one story meeting that he didn’t care how long it took, but to do it right,” sequence director Eric Larson said about Sleeping Beauty. It was this perfectionism that led to the production inventing new colors.
If Sleeping Beauty was going to pop on screen, artist Eyvind Earle wanted colors that sparkled like jewels. The Disney Paint Lab then had to create these shades using additives so that they'd literally glow when they were projected.