No matter how big a movie may get, or how many years fans have to watch, and rewatch, some incredible secrets can always be found, guaranteed to make viewers rush for another viewing. There’s no studio in the world like the one founded by Walt Disney, so it’s no surprise that their animated films have more secrets to give than most.
Here’s another dose of rapid fire movie trivia in our next installment of Know Your Movies: 20 Disney Movie Secrets That Will Blow Your Mind.
Disney’s influences come full circle in Frozen, when Anna’s first song sees her mimic the painting “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The painting was recreated as the first piece of concept art for Tangled years earlier, making Rapunzel’s cameo appearance even more fitting.
Despite appearing in just a single scene, fans will never forget Wandering Oaken. What they probably don’t know is his heavily-accented voice is actually provided by Chris Williams, a story artist on the movie, and the co-director of Disney’s Big Hero 6.
It wasn’t just Disney directors who lent their voice to the movie, but their kids, too. During the opening song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” the voice of young Anna is actually Katie Lopez, the daughter of the movie’s songwriting duo. The teenage Anna gets her voice from Agatha Lee Monn, the daughter of the co-director, Jennifer Lee.
Fans spin wild theories about every Disney princess being somehow related in the same Royal Family, but as crazy as it sounds, their genetic traits seem to back it up. When Tangled added Rapunzel to the studio’s royalty, she was the first Disney Princess to have green eyes – EVER. Who knew?
The heroine’s heart is stolen by the dangerous Flynn Rider, but it’s not by accident. Before production started, the directors gathered every woman in the studio in a single room, showing video footage and photos of celebrities to find out exactly how to make the most attractive man possible. Hard to argue with the results.
Singer Mandy Moore may have landed the role of Rapunzel, but it was Natalie Portman who the animators looked to for their initial designs. The first pencil tests of the princess were even animated to her performance in the movie Closer.
Beauty and The Beast
It’s hard to imagine anyone but actress Angela Lansbury, the voice of Mrs. Potts, singing the title ballad to this Disney classic, but she originally refused, believing a professional singer should do the job. The directors convinced her to record a single version of it just in case – which is the exact one in the finished movie.
Disney’s artists take months, sometimes years to design their heroes and villains, but fans hardly ever see the original designs. Luckily, Beauty and the Beast is the exception. The Beast’s animal inspirations are obvious, but nearly all of the statues seen in his mansion were earlier designs of his character.
The movie and its soundtrack helped kick of the Disney Renaissance, but at first, people didn’t realize just how special it was. When test audiences sat in silence for each song, the animators added an “Applause” sign after Genie’s big number as an inside joke. It worked, so the sign stayed in the finish cut.
Robin Williams took a tiny paycheck for his role as Genie, in exchange for assurances his memorable dialogue couldn’t be used in toys and merchandise – but the studio did it anyway. Williams refused an apology, and even an original Picasso painting from Disney’s CEO, meaning the role had to be re-cast before things were patched up years later.
The Lion King
Every movie looking to make animals act like humans can take cues from The Lion King – but fans probably don’t know that not a single real lion’s roar was recorded for the movie. Despite sounding like they were recorded in the wild, legendary voice actor Frank Welker created them all himself.
Not many fans know that the part of Buzz Lightyear was first offered to Billy Crystal, who claimed turning it down was the biggest mistake he’d ever made. So when Pixar boss John Lasseter called years later, he picked up the phone and answered “yes” before his part in Monsters, Inc. could even be offered.
While recording her dialogue as Mike Wazowski’s girlfriend, actress Jennifer Tilly raved to the Pixar staff about a movie script being written by Brad Bird, a director on her husband’s show, The Simpsons. Just a few years later, Bird’s story of a superpowered family in the 1960s would be made a reality as The Incredibles.
When director Brad Bird offered the role of ‘Violet Parr’ to Sarah Vowell, the author, essayist and regular guest on the “This American Life” radio show refused, claiming she wasn’t an actress. Determined to get her one of a kind voice into the movie, Bird had Violet animated to one of Vowell’s guest spots, proving she was more of an actress than she realized.
To get his story of a lost clownfish into production, director Andrew Stanton delivered an hour long pitch to Pixar boss John Lasseter. Relying on voices, acting out scenes, and claiming the movie could be Pixar’s biggest hit yet left Stanton exhausted once the hour was up. It was then that Lasseter broke the silence by simply saying: “you had me at ‘fish.'”
Stanton’s performances must’ve been good, too. When his temporary dialogue tracks as ‘Crush,’ the laid back, surfer sea turtle earned praise from his co-workers during test screenings, he took the part for good. To get the beach attitude perfect, Stanton recorded all of his lines while comfortably reclining on the couch in his office.
Disney had been developing a movie following video game characters since the 1980s, with “High Score” becoming “Joe Jump” with the success of Super Mario in the 1990s. In fact, it re-entered development as ‘Fix-it Felix’ in the 2000s – before they realized that the ‘bad guy’ would make an even better hero.
Pixar decided to bring their world of cars to life a bit differently, using the windshields as eyes, instead of the cars’ headlights, like most cartoon. The result was a unique look for the studio and franchise, but it was actually over 50 fifty years old – first used in the 1952 Disney cartoon Susie the Little Blue Coupe (one of John Lasseter’s favorites).
The idea of actually casting actors as the emotions inside a young girl’s head was an instant hit with Pixar’s leadership, with the idea of casting comedian Lewis Black as Anger apparently the first example offered. There was no better option, which meant their first prediction came true, and Black played the part to perfection.
The movie might seem like pure fantasy, but celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain praised Ratatouille as the most faithful and accurate film about cooking he had ever seen. From the attention to actual food, flavours and recipes, down to the almost invisible scars marking the characters’ forearms – badges of honour among veteran chefs.
Those are some of our favorite details and behind-the-scenes stories from Disney’s animated studios, but which are yours? Let us know in the comments, and remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch the next installment.