Disney films fill a special place in many people's hearts, whether they transport us back to our own childhoods or transcend time and generational gaps altogether, unifying people of all ages with timeless stories and memorable characters we can all enjoy.
That's not to say that the Mouse hasn't had its problems over the years, but overall the brainchild of Walt Disney now seems more accessible and delightful than ever as they bridge people from all walks of life and forge new paths into the world of animated adventure.
Sometimes a concept doesn't make it out of the early stages of development, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Knowing the vast number of ideas that made it through the chop shop alone is astounding, since we often don't think about the ideas that get cut. Ince we see some of the concept artwork, it helps us get an idea about why a movie may have seemed like a great idea only to be nixed.
Some early Disney concept art holds so much promise for exciting, beautiful stories that we are heartbroken to learn that it was nixed along the way, forever prompting us to wonder what might have been. Others appear so problematic, whether due to tone deaf writing, awful artwork, or just plain bad storytelling, that we're happy to hear that they'll never make it onto a big screen.
From the magic that dreams are made of to a few absolute nightmares, here are 11 Best Unused Disney Concept Art (And 15 Worst).
26 Worst: Don Quixote
From the 1940s to the 2000s, Disney attempted to create a film based on the Spanish Don Quixote tale without success. Between this concept art and Disney's penchant for insulting culture with insensitive character depictions early in the company's history, it's probably for the best.
Although newer concepts designed by Sandro Cleuzo and John Watkiss in the '90s, they still didn't take. The studio is still trying to create a live action version.
Disney isn't the only studio with this issue. While The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been in development for almost three decades, Terry Gilliam's comedy adventure still has yet to be released in the United States, despite its all-star cast.
25 Best: Captain Gore
Dark fairy tales have a place and time, and while that may not include works for kids, Disney could have very well adapted Captain Gore into something for grown-up fans.
The original antagonist for Disney's Haunted Mansion, Gore, also known as Captain Blood, was created by Ken Anderson and had a nasty tale surrounding him and his ghostly bride, whom he eliminated.
This tale could have translated somewhere into the company's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, or his creepy nautical home could have inspired a fun animated feature where his wife enacts her revenge or even leads her own team of pirate ghosts. The possibilities are endless.
24 Worst: Young Moana
Fans and journalists celebrated Moana when the film was released, for depicting a more natural body shape for a young woman. The fact remains that most Disney heroines are on the opposite side of the spectrum, appearing thinner than the average person.
Moana simply had a normal body - a refreshing change.
We like that Disney cut the thinner-than-the-average-girl Moana in favor of a more realistic heroine, whom John Rusker said looks stronger and more capable of action. Moana's grandmother is also fuller figured and never made the butt of a joke.
23 Best: Baymax Sees A Scary Movie
Big Hero 6's lovable personal healthcare companion is already such an adorable character without this scene, so we get why it wasn't really needed in the final product. Even so, how cute is this idea?
We love seeing Baymax bond with Aunt Cass over a scary movie while Hiro looks on, amused.
Artist Ryan Lang tells us that the idea was to unify the big guy with Hiro's family to make them more of a cohesive unit by the end of the film, which we would have loved to see.
It's not meant to only show us Hiro finally finding happiness, but also Baymax as a member of the family.
22 Worst: Early Beauty And The Beast
Given that Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's most popular features of all time, we can guess how far south the project would have tanked had the earliest versions of the film with Mel Shaw's artwork been approved instead.
With its various wizards, body swaps, shark army and vulture-humans it certainly sounded like a wild romp that lots of fantasy lovers might have paid to see, but it sure wasn't the dramatic romance that audiences fell in love with in 1991.
This version also modified to create a stronger heroine after Disney took some heat for a sexist The Little Mermaid, which audiences also appreciated.
21 Best: Tarzan's Jane
Jane Porter in Disney's Tarzan is an adorable character voiced by Minnie Driver, but her original concept had such a cute, more accurate period dress and Beatrix Potter look that it bears mentioning.
While the wild and spunky nature of Jane comes through in the animated feature that was ultimately released, the original concept sketches reveal further depths that this character could have exhibited along with some unique features that we don't normally witness in a Disney film.
It's a rare occurrence when all of these concepts could yield an interesting character, as is the case here.
20 Worst: Toy Story Circle 7
Toy Story is easily one of the most beautiful and complex pieces of children's media ever written. It might not have turned out that way had the writers opted to veer into the direction of Toy Story Circle 7.
Its original focus was on a recall of all Buzz Lightyear toys, a complicated rescue mission for Buzz in Taiwan and Buzz even being partially crushed by a machine.
Some of the same concepts from Toy Story 3 were there, such as the daycare, but we're really glad that the rescue mission plan, which seems too complicated, was cut.
19 Best: Dumbo's Mouse Tale
There is a lot to not like about Dumbo, but this interesting idea could have improved the film.
At one point in Dumbo, Timothy Mouse was supposed to give this weird history lesson about how ancient mice used to be enormous and terrorize elephants, which is why they have a complicated history between the species. Animation producer Don Hahn thought it was cut because it distracted from the film, but a stegosaurus mouse might have improved it.
There are quite a few things that a dino-mouse might have improved.
How about we replace the racist crows with this scene?
18 Worst: Lost Scene From Cars
Remember the scene in Cars when Lightening McQueen stumbles upon an old graveyard of old cars? No? That's because it was cut after John Lasseter dubbed it too scary for the film.
A scene where McQueen finds himself lost and bumping into a bunch of out of commission cars does sound pretty terrifying in a film where cars are personified for children.
The illogical side of this cut scene is demonstrated in Cars II, in which we witness cars not only being tormented, but destroyed.
How is that appropriate or different from the Lost Cars scene?
17 Best: A Creepier Alice In Wonderland
Remember when Tim Burton directed Alice in Wonderland and everyone got excited about the potential creepiness? Viewers still enjoyed the film very much, but many were hoping for something more along the lines of American McGee's Alice, which was just too dark for Disney.
It turns out that the original Alice in Wonderland animated feature might have gone a much darker route had it followed the 1939 art of David Hall.
Disney himself said the illustrations were too monstrous and went for a lighter take on the idea.
That movie might have frightened kids but it may have also delighted fans who enjoy fairy tales the way they were meant to be told: scary!
16 Worst: Chambermaid Tiana
If there weren't enough insensitive stereotypes in the otherwise lush 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, Disney had the original plan to make Tiana not a waitress saving for her dream restaurant, but a chambermaid.
This line of work has absolutely nothing to do with Tiana's chosen profession.
As a young waitress, she at least was able to learn more about the restaurant business.
While some elements of early Tiana's costumes, like her princess gowns, were lovely, other illustrations appeared pretty hackneyed at best, making us glad that they changed her story line into the determined young entrepreneur that we love.
15 Best: A Scarier Beast
Fairy tales aren't meant to be saccharine sweet stories but dark, twisted tales to entertain peasants during their dismal days.
While Disney hasn't shied away from violence (not to mention Stockholm Syndrome), there's a tendency to water down traditional fairy tales for the kiddies. It's understandable that they might do this for sheer market value, but would it not be more historically accurate and entertaining for the adults if they went with something like this original concept art for Beauty and the Beast?
It's too bad that Disney didn't consider this idea among the reboots that are in progress.
While the live-action movie was beautiful, how cool would a grittier version have been?
14 Worst: Evil Elsa
Anyone familiar with the original Snow Queen story knows that its queen is not a benevolent ice-handler like Elsa but a villain to be defeated, which is where the original Disney story was heading when the studio first decided to write Frozen.
We can imagine how different the outcome of those sales might have been had the movie been about defeating an evil witch rather than two sisters learning to help each other and accept not only one another but themselves.
It's one of the most gorgeous stories that Disney has ever told, but it was very nearly a cliche.
13 Best: A Few Good Ghosts
A ghost story that takes place in Appalachia and tells the story of two feuding families. What's not to love about this Disney concept?
Also known by the names My Peoples, Once in a Blue Moon, Elgin's Peoples, and Angel and Her No Good Sister, this film would have focused on dolls with names like Crazy Ray, Good O'Boy, and Blues Man, so we can see how it might have become a stereotypical mess.
Even so, with some tweaking it sounds like an intriguing concept, and who doesn't love a good ghost story? The rumor was that it wasn't "edgy" enough, so perhaps Disney should revisit this one.
12 Worst: The Seven Dwarves
The round, innocent faces of the dwarves in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves gave them much of their charm, while their old gnomish features made them seem more grandfatherly and appropriate roommates for the innocent Snow White at the time.
While there a lot of issues with the story of this film, they would only have grown had the original dwarf art been included.
A cross between clown art and mixed stereotypes with a weird, fresh-faced Gandalf Dopey thrown in, the original dwarf art was simply cut for good reason.
11 Best: Penelope And The Twelve Months
Mary Blair's sketches of Penelope and the Twelve Months give us a peek at a cool might-have-been in Disney's past. The story of a young girl who moves through time with the help of a grandfather clock who meets personified months, Mother Nature and other creatures sounds amazing, but it was cut because it was considered too "kiddie."
The idea of the months as characters isn't brand new but it would be so much fun to see in an animated feature.
Who else wants Neil Gaiman to work on this movie?
10 Worst: A More Satanic Hades
Hades is one of the most enjoyable characters to see in Disney's Hercules. He's a ridiculous schmoozer we love to hate. Witnessing him work a room and ultimately fail is partly fun just because of his cool look and sardonic expressions.
It's important to distinguish Hades, who lords over the underworld not by choice but because he pretty much drew the last straw, from the Satanic Hades Disney almost went with.
This Hades is stereotypical, overused and a little on the dull side.
The movie's blue god is much more fun.
9 Best: Ride Of The Valkyries
Thor: Ragnorok has Valkyrie on everyone's mind these days, but what if Disney had kept the Ride of the Valkyries in Fantasia?
As gorgeous as the concept art created by Danish illustrator Kay Nielson was, it was ultimately cut from the 1940s work because Walt Disney felt that the Richard Wagner piece drew the mind to the Axis of Evil since it was one of the German dictator's favorite works.
It's a sad reason to cut this gorgeous song and artwork but it's also understandable for that time period.
Perhaps it's time for another Fantasia installment?
8 Worst: Yzma
The Emperor's New Groove is a unique film in that both the protagonist and antagonist are morally bankrupt. The difference is that Yzma never learns or grows, which causes her to remain the villain.
Her exaggerated features, exorbitant purple wardrobe, and cheeky one-liners make her one of the most enjoyable villains to watch, but if Disney had gone with the original design for the baddie she wouldn't have been nearly as fun.
In fact, the original art, while it likely tries to pay homage to Inca people, appears to be a brutal caricature that would have bothered many people. Going with the version that made the film was a great choice.
7 Best: Catfish Bend
Some of Disney's most cherished tales are those of a ragtag group of animals on an adventure. What better story to tell, then, than that of Ben Lucien Burman's Catfish Bend books about swamp animals living on the Mississippi?
Walt Peregoy's concept art shows us that we might have had a fun story in 1981 had the idea not been cut from the Disney lineup.
Given how Disney's gorgeous yet sometimes stereotypical Bayou film, The Princess and the Frog, turned out, we could see how Catfish Bend could have also had its issues.
6 Worst: King Of The Jungle
In a word, Disney's King of the Jungle could have been gross.
A much more violent rendition of The Lion King, it featured inappropriate behavior and suggestive content that rendered it far outside the Disney market.
Early concept art by Mel Shaw reflects how much darker the script was compared to the film that was actually released, which still turned out to be violent enough on its own.
Not one, but two scripts were scrapped in the 1990s before Disney scrapped King of the Jungle, also known as King of the Beasts, in favor of The Lion King.
5 Best: Hiawatha
It's probably a good thing that Disney didn't make a Hiawatha film in 1949. We can hardly imagine that native representation in any movie would be respectful in that time period.
The pretty concept art, which inspired much of the artwork in Pocahontas, and the story of The Great Peacemaker of the Iroquois people both sound like beautiful works that could be inspiring if made today.
There's also the fact that Hiawatha was meant to be akin to Fantasia in terms of its development, and we can only imagine how lovely that might be if made with the direction of Seneca people today.
4 Worst: Gremlins
Even if you love Gremlins, it's unlikely that Disney's 1940s Roald Dahl project with the same name would have been appealing to you. It has nothing to do with Mogwai and everything to do with little military critters with horns.
The "girl gremlin" in particular "is a honey," giving us some insight about what kind of tone this project might have had.
Although this film was never finished, the Gremlins are still part of Disney history as they show up in storybooks, comics and even the company's video games like Epic Mickey.
3 Worst: Mickey's Sea Monster
The idea of Mickey Mouse facing off with a sea monster sounds kind of fun until you check out the early designs for this concept by Ferdinand Horvath in 1935, which pretty much cause you to back away slowly, shaking your head all the while.
It's no wonder why a movie like this didn't make it. It's meant to be a comedy in which Mickey, Donald and Goofy capture a sea monster for a Hollywood producer.
Perhaps this one would be a better idea as a more action-oriented film with some CGI.
2 Worst: Aristocats II
Not only does the idea behind Aristocats II sound kind of dumb, but the artwork presented for the film was going to result in harsher lines that differed from its original source material.
Just looking at these "updated" cats makes us queasy, and knowing that tough cat O'Malley was supposed to become seasick in the film just made it worse.
A love story for Marie sounds especially dull after so many Disney love stories, and given that the company has really moved away from that traditional method of storytelling for more adventurous plots makes us think this was a bullet dodged.
1 Worst: An Easily Recognizable Te Ka
Part of what makes Moana's Te Ka so amazing is the ending revelation that she is also Te Fiti, something that would have been destroyed had the original idea to maintain Te Fiti's look in the film been kept.
Although we can see the pain in this version of Te Ka, her rage isn't nearly as palpable, either, and we need to see how much that pain and anger transforms the goddess after she's been violated by the demigod.
Maui was also originally supposed to fight and defeat the goddess, and we are very glad that Disney went with the more empowering, cooperative ending.
Which of these unrealized Disney concepts would you most like to see? Let us know in the comments!