A movie studio with a history as long as Disney’s has its share of shelved and canceled projects littering office drawers in its many offices all over the world. That includes those projects featuring princesses and female leads: characters that might have once become as popular as Snow White, Cinderella and Belle. But those canceled characters never made it to the big screen.
Some of those projects never quite got off the ground, while others got stuck in their concept phases forever. Other projects were in the middle of production when Disney pulled the plug on them. Some even had concept art and animated sequences, as well as scripts and very distinct ideas of what stories those movies and TV shows would tell.
The Disney vault is full of princesses that might have been, some that many fans would probably like to see make it to the light of day. Disney is no stranger to revisiting ideas, after all: it took the company decades to finally bring Alice in Wonderland to the big screen as an animated feature, even after entertaining it as a film with a mix of live-action and animation.
Here are 15 Canceled Disney Princesses We’ll Never Get To See.
15. Penelope and the Twelve Months
In the 1940s, there was a popular poem about a young girl named Penelope who used a magical grandfather clock to travel through time. This allowed her to meet supernatural beings that represented the months of the year. Disney loved the poem and decided to turn it into a film. Artist Mary Blair did many preliminary sketches for the movie, but it, unfortunately, never happened.
In the Disney story, Penelope was a dead ringer for the princess she worked for. Instead of a magical grandfather clock, she had a magical ring. She used this ring to bring snow flowers to the princess: the two girls eventually became friends. At the time, Disney’s audiences were more adult and the company felt that a film based around a young girl wouldn’t go over well.
14. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
In the 1930s and 1940s, Disney often released short animated films (many which appeared before their longer features), including those as part of their Silly Symphonies musical productions. In 1936, Disney had plans to release a Silly Symphony short about classic fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with Papa Bear modeled after W.C. Fields and Shirley Temple as the voice of Goldilocks. That short never happened.
Disney revisited the idea in the 1960s, but again, nothing came of it. The company did finally bring the character of Goldilocks to television, though, with a Disney Jr. television production titled Goldie & Bear. That story, though, happens after the original fairy tale, where Goldilocks has already become friends with the bear family whose home she invaded earlier on.
13. Little Red Riding Hood
Although Walt Disney worked on a 1922 animated short about Little Red Riding Hood for Laugh-O-Gram studio, the company later decided in 1963 that the girl in the red cape deserved her own full-length feature film. There is obviously a lot of story there, especially with her journey into the deep dark forest to go to her grandmother’s house where she gets stalked by a wolf. The film never seemed to get past its concept phase, though, and Disney eventually abandoned the idea.
The character did make further appearances in Disney-owned franchises, though: she made a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and House of Mouse. She also got her live-action debut with the television series Once Upon A Time, which turned her story around by making her the wolf.
12. Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel is a story about two children who end up in a house made of candy and later get trapped by a witch who wants to eat them. It’s a classic tale, albeit a dark one. Considering how many Disney films find inspiration in these sort of dark fairy tales, though, one might wonder why the company never created a film based on it.
There was an animated short in 1937, Babes in the Woods, that told some of their tale. But in 1967, Disney wanted to create the story as a live-action feature film. That never happened, though. Hansel and Gretel did eventually pop up on the TV show Once Upon A Time, though, where they go into the woods on a quest for the Evil Queen.
11. Mistress Masham’s Repose
The T.H. White novel Mistress Masham’s Repose takes place just after World War II and tells the story of an orphaned girl who discovers some Lilliputians in England, a race of small people featured in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The girl has a strict governess that makes her life miserable, but a Cook and Professor act as her friends and try to protect her from the governess’ wrath.
It’s the perfect kind of story for Disney, which explains why the company attempted to turn it into a movie in 1985. Unfortunately, company politics got in the way: Roy Disney loved the project, while Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg hated it. Although it was in production, the team working on it eventually got fired and the movie never happened.
10. Swan Lake
Swan Lake is one of those beautiful stories that would have made a wonderful Disney movie. It has everything such movies require, including a princess tragically turned into a swan who can only walk in her human form at night. The only way to break the spell that binds her is if a prince swears himself to her. It’s literally already a Disney princess story.
Unfortunately, though, when Disney tried to turn it into an animated feature in 1992, it lost an agreement that would allow it to do so. The project landed in the hands of former Disney animator Richard Rich, who made the story into a movie called The Swan Princess for New Line Cinema. Imagine, though, how much better it would have fared as a Disney film.
9. Toots and the Upside Down House
Toots and the Upside Down House is a book by Carol Hughes that follows the tale of a girl named Toots who can’t really remember much about her deceased mother but has a grief-stricken father who spends way too much time with his stamp collection. That leaves Toots with a lot of lonely free time in her house. After the girl sees a chubby fairy walking on her ceiling, she gets shrunk down and transported to the Upside-Down world where she meets the fairies and spirits that keep her household safe against an evil Jack Frost.
8. Disney Princess Enchanted Tales sequels
In the direct-to-video feature Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams, Disney introduced some new stories featuring the Disney princesses Jasmine and Aurora. This movie was set to become the first in a series of such films, which would feature different Disney princesses in a variety of new stories.
Trailers were released for future movies (as well as for scenes that never appeared in this one), but those films just never happened. Rumors at the time suggested that John Lasseter hated them with a passion (along with some other DisneyToon features) and he canceled them after becoming the Chief Creative Officer for the company. Considering how bad these movies really were, it’s probably for the best that they just went away. But who knows what could have been.
7. Princess Academy
It wasn’t so long ago that Disney decided to put all its main female lead characters into a movie together, from Snow White all the way up to Rapunzel. The plan was to even use Pixar characters. That film was Princess Academy, which would also include characters from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Nightmare Before Christmas. The idea was to create a kind of musical fantasy, something akin to Fantasia, but with all the characters interacting with each other at a boarding school. Alen Menken was even on board to score the music.
6. Cinderella Stories
Cinderella remains one of the most iconic of Disney princess characters. Her rags-to-riches story continues to inspire. Disney decided to bring the character back in 1999 in a TV series called Cinderella Stories. The company created a storyboard for a pilot episode in which Cinderella and her mouse friends face an adventure on horseback.
Interestingly enough, although it features a lot of funny Jaq sight gags, that storyboard never showed an ending for the first episode. There’s probably a reason for that: Disney canceled the animated series, but Cinderella got another shot at small screen fame in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, a direct-to-video sequel of the original animated film that featured three Cinderella-based stories. The TV series synopsis, though, still sounds a lot better.
In 1937, Disney released an animated short, Little Hiawatha. This short was a part of its Silly Symphonies musical productions. That small film, based on the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” featured a Native American boy. The short followed several adventures of the boy as he traverses a forest full of animals.
Disney, inspired by the Native American theme of the story, wanted to produce a sequel of that story to life, featuring a Native American girl named Minnehaha. The concept didn’t get too far, though, and any ideas about its plots are now lost to time and locked inside a file somewhere on a dusty shelf at a Disney studio. Instead, Disney later decided to bring the story of Pocahontas to life, in all its historically inaccurate glory.
4. Snow White Returns
One of the most highly recognized and most beloved Disney princess movies of all time is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Not only did the movie bring the character of Snow White to life on the silver screen, but it also brought the first full-length animated film to theaters in 1937.
Because of its success, Disney immediately jumped on the idea of a sequel, Snow White Returns, a short that would reunite audiences with the princess and her seven best friends. That short would happen before Snow White found her prince and feature more of her daily life with the dwarfs. It would also have introduced a musical number cut from the original film, “Music in Your Soup”, where Snow White teaches the dwarfs how to eat soup.
3. The Wizard of Oz
In the 1930s, Disney wanted to follow up on its success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with an animated featured based on Frank L. Baum’s fantastical story of The Wizard of Oz, the story of a Kansas girl who changes a whole world. However, Disney lost the film rights to Samuel Goldwyn, who originally wanted to turn the story into a musical comedy. Fortunately for theater audiences, Goldwyn ended up selling the rights to MGM, who made the version of the movie fans know and love today.
However, Disney still set its sights on Oz in the 2000s and went head to head with Warner Bros. (which now owns the rights to The Wizard of Oz) to release its own Oz-based movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, starring James Franco. That film serves as a prequel to the original.
2. Sonja Henie Fantasy (Fantasia short)
Sometimes, real life princesses inspire companies like Disney to make movies featuring them. Before Elsa became the reigning ice princess, there was Sonja Henie, the very real-life three-time Olympic champion, ten-time World Champion figure skater and six-time European Champion, from Norway.
What’s most fascinating about Henie, though, is that after her Olympic wins in the ’30s, she went on to become an actress and was one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood during her time. Disney wanted to create an animated short for Fantasia focusing on Henie, which would probably have featured either all animation or a combination of live action and animation. Unfortunately, that short never happened, but Henie’s film career lives on. You can catch her in Thin Ice, Second Fiddle, and My Lucky Star.
1. Live-action Alice in Wonderland
In 1933, Disney first entertained notions of bringing Alice in Wonderland to the big screen. The company wanted to create something that was part live-action and part animation with actress Mary Pickford set to star as Alice. But another movie had priority at the studio at that time: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Disney revisited the idea in 1939, complete with a script and storyboards, but the project never made it off the ground because of World War II.Disney released its fully animated Alice in Wonderland in 1951. The studio finally got its live-action Alice in Wonderland with Tim Burton’s production in 2010, and some of the elements of the studio’s second attempt made it into Burton’s movie, although that film dealt with events that happened later.
Which of the Disney princesses would you most want to see? Let us know in the comments!
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