finians finians

A Free Animation Book Idea For You

Finians Rainbow
Concept art from John Hubley’s Finian’s Rainbow

This repost of John Canemaker’s article about John Hubley’s unproduced feature Finian’s Rainbow reminded me of a book idea I’ve had for years. With my full plate of writing, editing, and creative directing various book projects, I know I’m never going to get around to doing this book, but I believe in the idea so I’m going to put it out there and hope somebody runs with it.

Here’s what I’d like to see: a richly illustrated coffeetable book that explores unproduced animated features. Kind of like Charles Solomon’s The Disney That Never Was minus all the dull-as-dishwater Disney projects. There’s a good reason why most of those Disney films were never produced! (An exception might be made for Marc Davis and Ken Anderson’s Chanticleer.) Looking past Disney, there is an extensive catalog of daring and colorful feature animation projects that were unrealized. It’s an eye-opening alternative animation history that spans some of the art form’s biggest names. Anybody who tackles the book should be sure to include:

* Orson Welles’ The Little Prince (developed with Hugh Harman and Mel Shaw)
* UPA’s The White Deer (developed by Leo Salkin and Aurelius Battaglia)
* John Hubley’s Finian’s Rainbow
* John Dunn and Vic Haboush’s Wolgalooly
* Richard Williams’ Thief and the Cobbler
* George Dunning’s The Tempest
* Fred Calvert’s Don Quixote (developed by Ray Aragon)
* Yuri Norstein’s The Overcoat
* Tom Carter Productions’ Huck’s Landing
* TMS’ Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (with various crews that included Hayao Miyazaki, Chuck Jones, George Lucas, Isao Takahata, Ray Bradbury, Frank Thomas and Brad Bird)
* Ralph Bakshi’s Last Days of Coney Island
* Bill and Sue Kroyer’s Arrow
* Brad Bird’s Ray Gunn

The “what could have been” factor of these films is a persistent source of fascination for me. Any number of these projects had the potential to change the course of the art form. Imagine if Orson Welles had released an animated feature at the height of his influence, or if John Hubley’s vision of mature feature animation had come to fruition in the 1950s. Some of these films were indeed produced in bastardized forms (Little Nemo and Arabian Knight are examples), but most perished for a variety of reasons like financing, a director’s inability to finish, a director’s death, the Hollywood blacklist, or in the case of Huck’s Landing, the head of the studio being sent to prison.

Putting together this book won’t be easy. Whoever does it will have to do tons of research and detective work; it would even be wise perhaps to divide it amongst a cadre of historians and writers to ensure that the book is finished in a reasonable period of time. But if executed properly, I have no doubt it would be an entertaining, educational, and thoroughly unique contribution to animation literature.

  • How about setting up a Cartoon Brew co-operative to produce the book? That way the rescources of the many talented readers of this blog could be used to their full potential and you would still have a hand in the project.

  • Don’t forget Miyazaki’s attempt at Pippi Longstockings!

  • Rooniman

    Not a bad idea for a book.

  • * Bob Clampett’s John Carter of Mars

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    “There’s a good reason why most of those Disney films were never produced! (An exception might be made for Marc Davis and Ken Anderson’s Chanticleer.)”

    I’ve seen Don Bluth’s “Rock-a-Doodle” so I say “No exception.”

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I know a few guys who might like to help out on such a book. I’d surely love to pick this up if or when it comes out.

  • Jay Taylor

    Yuri Norstein is still working on The Overcoat.

  • As far as I know Yuri Norstein is still working on The Overcoat.

    And Brad Bird was also working on an animated version of The Spirit.

    And speaking of Brad Bird, how about Jan Pinkava’s version of Ratatouille?

    Walter Lantz worked on ideas for two features: Aladdin and a live and animated mix with Abbott & Costello

    Hector Hoppin and Anthony Gross (Joie de Vivre) work on Around the World in Eighty Days was permanently interrupted by WWII.

    (uh oh, it sounds like I want to work on this book)

  • Mr. Crankypants

    Gotta include Jerry Rees and Brad Bird’s work on The Spirit.

  • Grant

    *Ralph Eggleston’s Bluebeard project from Warners.

  • I would buy this book if it were to be released. Don’t forget Ralph Bakshi’s original version of Cool World.

    You could probably do a whole book on unfulfilled Bakshi projects.

  • Buzz Potamkin

    Little Nemo was produced and released theatrically – even re-released; released on VHS and then restored-length DVD, and last year re-released on DVD. So why on the list?

  • Clutch

    Brad Bird’s The Spirit?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I remember reading up about that with “The Spirit” and how execs. at the time turned it down feeling nobody outside the Disney studio could make a movie like that.

  • You forgot about the Motown project, “Bush Head.” Developed by Phil Mendez, Gary Goddard, Walt Peregoy and others, this would have been a breakthrough animated film.

    Featuring the music of Smokey Robinson, we were heavily in development when the project was shut down.

  • Mike Cagle

    Great idea for a book! I too nominate the Brad Bird Spirit project.

  • Eric Noble is right, I’d love to see the development of Bakshi’s “On The Road” and his “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” included on that Book.

  • This is a feature pilot we were contracted to develop at The Ink Tank:

  • Believe me, Amid, you could devote an entire book just to HUCK’S LANDING! It may be the wildest rise-and-fall story ever told regarding the world of animation. And — at least as of a few years ago — Tom Carter is still trying to sell HUCK’S LANDING! So maybe the story’s not over yet!

  • Sounds like a great idea.

    I nominate Chris Sanders’ “American Dog”, if it’s okay with Disney.

  • Here’s a feature I haven’t seen mentioned: STRAWBERRY FIELDS.
    NYIT was working on this hand-drawn feature in the 80’s. I believe they had the rights to many Beatles songs.

    I’ve seen a few very nicely animated pencil tests, they were quite impressive. I’ve got a copy of the script lying around somewhere.

    There’s a lot more information about the film here:

    Also, wasn’t NYIT trying to develop the first CG feature before Pixar?


  • optimist

    I think it’s a little early to include Ray Gunn in that list. It might still be produced.

    That situation would include the other titles from the last 15 years-there are many that got as far as the extensive development stage only, but they’re still owned by respective corporate entities or by individual artist/creators who I’d think would be very unwilling to toss their pitches out there having them publishesd as “never was”s just now.

    A book of the older projects cited however would be absolutely terrific.

  • “You forgot about the Motown project, “Bush Head.” Developed by Phil Mendez, Gary Goddard, Walt Peregoy and others, this would have been a breakthrough animated film.”

    Could you expound on this Mr. Norman? Maybe on your blog, you could talk about it. I would love to hear the story and see some of that art. Actually, I would love to see the art of any of these films that were made. That would really make my day.

  • top cat james

    The story behind “Huck’s Landing” is detailed in Jim Korkis’ excellent 1991 book, “Cartoon Confidential”.

  • cliffclaven

    Not a feature, but somewhere out there is Walt Kelly’s unfinished Pogo short. You think by now somebody could have rallied a drive to get it done.

    Sally Cruikshank’s animated pitch for “Quasi’s Cabaret” used to turn up at animation festivals, but I never heard anything more about it. Was she serious or just kidding around? (It included Quasi’s girlfriend clutching a bunch of Quasi dolls while pitching the merchandising potential)

    Don’t know how far they got on it, but I’d be interested in Mr. Magoo as Don Quixote. It’s an idea that could have worked; and certainly more suitable than the pretty but weak 1001 Arabian Nights UPA did instead (according to one book, it was because the releasing studio’s executive hadn’t heard of Don Quixote)

    PS — There was a collection of animation articles — I think Jim Korkis was one of the writers — that told the story of Huck’s Landing and included a lot of artwork. The lunatic ambition of it all — theme park, theatrical shorts, comic books and newspaper strips all plowing forward at once — is amazing, especially considering the founder was a total amateur.

  • Among stop-motion buffs, the holy grail is David Allen’s The Primevals, which was in development from 1968 up to Allen’s passing in 1999 (he’d finally gotten funding in the mid-1990s and was in the midst of completing the film, which would have been the first where the prolific animator would have had creative control):

    Another intriguing project, which has been covered before on the Brew and other sites, is the 1990s effort at a Betty Boop feature film.

    “Also, wasn’t NYIT trying to develop the first CG feature before Pixar?”
    Yes, it was called The Works:

  • Some other interesting ones that you missed:

    -The Tale of the Priest and His Workman Balda (Mikhail Tsekhanovskiy, Soviet Union, early 1930s, with music by Shostakovich)

    Unfinished and mostly destroyed in WW2, the only surviving scene can be seen here:

    -The Adventures of Pinocchio (1936, Raoul Verdini and Umberto Spano, was going to be Italy’s first animated feature)

    -Train Arrival (Прибытие поезда) (to quote Wikipedia: A watercolour-animated feature film begun in 1986 by Aleksandr Tatarskiy – part of the reason for the formation of PILOT Studio, the first private animation studio in the USSR. About 40 minutes were finished before hyper-inflation hit Russia in the late 1990s. The unfinished film was highly praised by several masters of Russian animation who saw it (including Fyodor Khitruk, Yuriy Norshteyn, Eduard Nazarov, Igor Kovalyov and others), before the film materials were lost to three consecutive floods in late 2005.)

    -The Treasure Under the Mountain (an unlicensed Russian adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” 1994, Argus International)

  • WHen I first started at Chuck Jones’, I did some development work on BARNABY SCRATCH, a feature script he wanted to do. He had beat boarded the thing in the margins of the typed script pages. Kind of a neat thing to see.

    Oh, and then there’s all the TURNER FEATURE ANIMATION things we worked on there, during production on CATS DON’T DANCE, before the Warners merger.

  • Alfons Moline

    The idea of donig a book on unproduced non-Disney animated features sounds exciting to me! If a Cartoon Brew co-operative to produce the book is finally set up, as Andrew Smith suggests, count me in!
    Here are my two cents:
    In Spain, filmmaker Francisco Macián tried to make for a long time -at least since the mid-50´s until his death in 1976- a Christmas-themed feature which was going to be titled CANDELITA (“Little Candle”). He worked on it during all those years, even developing two versions of it: the first one with a Disney-ish look, and a latter one in the 70´s with more stylized, UPA-esque designs.
    Also Steven Spielberg intended to produce at his London-based studio Amblimation an animated adaptation of the successful musical CATS. This was going to be the studio´s third feature after FIEVEL GOES WEST and WE´RE BACK, but was abandoned and replaced by BALTO. After that, the studio closed shop, and part of the animation crew moved to L.A. to work at Dreamworks Animation.
    By the way, there is a book written by Swiss animation expert Bruno Edera, FULL LENGTH ANIMATED FILMS (Focal Press, 1977) which mentions several animated feature projects -being developed around the time this book was published- which finally never saw the light of the day (for example, a version of DON QUIXOTE which was going to be made by Fred Calvert).

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Don’t forget Don Bluth’s East of the Sun,West of The Moon; Beauty &
    The Beast;and Song of The Ice Whale. Also Disney’s Catfish Bend.

  • Dreamworks’ TUSKER and the MOBY DICK adaptation that the Brizzi bros. worked on . . .

  • John A

    Before he died, Jack Kinney had been trying to sell his feature project, “Sir Puss in Boots” to a studio. Hanna-Barbera had an unreleased film called “Rock Odyssey” that was only shown once in its incomplete form in 1987.

  • Austin Papageorge

    Does a change of director count as a “lost film”?

    Then we’d have George Scribner’s Lion King, Richard Purdum’s Beauty and the Beast, and Art Vitello’s Titan A.E. .

  • Last days of Coney Island is on the list? I thought Bakshi was still making that film…

  • I think Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair movie could fit this section, along with Danny Antouncci’s horror movie which hasnt been heard of yet, nor have we seen screenshots or heard of production.

    Disney had a bunch of proposed projects for animated films. Roald Dahl’s gremlins that wouldve been an interesting animated film, They also had another caballeros movie that took place in Cuba but I dont know how it got canned. I remember hearing somewhere that Disney tried to do an adaptation on The Phantom of the Opera.

    If we are mentioning Bakshi in this book, we better mention the animated movie that Bakshi had planned with John K Bobby’s girl. I would like to see this mentioned and see art of this proposed animated film.

    There was also a planned animated movie of Betty Boop that was planned in the 90’s, but however it got shut down by the guy who screwed up with Ralph Bakshi’s original cool world.

  • Jeffrey Gray

    There’s also Jon Acevski’s “Freddie Goes to Washington,” which was scrapped after “Freddie as F.R.O.7.” tanked. Did Acevski’s creditors come after him or something?

    Also, Hanna-Barbera’s “Nessie Come Home,” which was scrapped after “Heidi’s Song” failed and H-B shuttered their feature unit.

  • How about the other feature films Steve Krantz was planning with Ralph Bakshi?

    Arrivederci Rudy, based on the life of Rudolph Valentino, and Dick Tracy: Frozen, Fried, and Buried Alive, about Chester Gould’s famous detective. I’m not sure if Chester Gould would have been willing to give the film rights of his property to those two if he saw Fritz the Cat.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    On the subject of aborted Steve Krantz projects,he announced an animated version of GREASE in 1973 that was never made. Although
    production had supposedly started at the time.

  • acetate

    Disney’s Kingdom of The Sun ? or was that covered in the Solomon book? Also I thought Richard Williams Thief and The Cobbler was finished and out. I have a vhs of it from the late 90’s I think.

  • Jeffrey Gray

    Also, I remember vague rumors on a Don Bluth fansite around 1999-2000 about a “Dracula” animated feature. I’m assuming this was one of the potential follow-ups to “Titan A.E.” when Fox Animation Studios was still a going concern?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Being reminded of Hanna-Barbera’s Rock Odyssey getting airplay in foreign markets like Spain. Wouldn’t call it too unfinished despite getting some sort of theatrical screening at several places and distribution outside the states.

    On a similar note, there’s Sanrio’s “Metamorphoses”, later released as “Winds of Change” with a different soundtrack and arrangement of sequences.

    Both films I’ve already stated probably wouldn’t count for this book otherwise but I just felt like adding my two cents anyway, but a look into their production histories is one I like to know more about personally, such as with TMS’s “Little Nemo” film, given the different people who came and went on that production such as Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Someone mentioned earlier the Pippi Longstocking film both wanted to do in the early 70’s. Apparently Astrid Lindgren, author of the books didn’t give her permission so the project was canned, but the idea of a little girl with pigtails living independent and carefree would later find it’s way into the short films, “Panda Kopanda” (“Panda, Little Panda”, 1972) and “Panda kopanda amefuri sâkasu no maki” (“Panda, Little Panda: Rainy Day Circus”, 1973)

  • Chris Sobieniak

    The version of “The Thief and The Cobbler” you have is based on what happened to the film once the production of it was taken over by someone else and given newer sequences and editing different from what Williams had intended. In the case of the US release as “Arabian Knight” (Miramax, later known as T&TC on home video), it featured additional voice roles that differ from it’s release in other countries (Matthew Broderick and Jonathan Winters to name a few).

  • Jeffrey Gray

    And also, Don Bluth’s The Little Blue Whale aka Song of the Ice Whale aka Kandu. I’ve seen various pre-production artwork online, most of it from Bluth’s personal collection at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

  • And so we’ve gone from a simple idea with a few entries to a multi-volume set costing as much as a small used car.

  • acetate

    Thanks Chris I wasn’t sure.

  • “And so we’ve gone from a simple idea with a few entries to a multi-volume set costing as much as a small used car.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much the way it works. This book will be the first of an ongoing series.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    If this becomes a multi-set, it would be the Time-Life of animation books!

  • Kevin Schreck

    YES. I especially want to see a book giving a comprehensive look at the making and destruction of “The Thief and the Cobbler.” What a tragedy for cinema at large that the film was never completed as Williams intended.

  • Let’s not forget Rex Steel Nazi Smasher!!! That was pure gold

  • mbm

    more to add:
    -the ’33 live action/animated version of Alice in Wonderland by Disney that was to star Mary Pickford
    -the Roger Rabbit sequel Toon Platoon
    -the abandoned version of Filmation’s Journey Back to Oz (ca. 1961-62) when Judy Garland was slated to reprise her role as Dorothy
    -the Silly Symphonies version of The Little Mermaid (ca. ’39)
    -any of the abandoned animated features by Disney: Aida, Wild Life, My Peoples, Fraidy Cat

  • Amid I Really Want To See Your Book (Espically Every Unmade Animated Film) I Would Like To Add The Following
    Disney Pixar’s Humpty Dumpty Trouble(Unless It Was A Rumor)
    Big Idea Productions Follow Up To Jonah The Bob and Larry Movie
    Nelvana’s Planned Films at Paramount(including The Trumpet Of The Swan, Thief Of Always, Sign Of The Seahorses, and Mask Vision)
    The Peter Rabbit Books Disney Wanted To Film
    Hanna Barbera’s Rock Oddysey/Nessie Come Home
    The Thief and The Cobbler(At Least Have It Mentioned With 4 or 5 Images)
    Maybe You Should Turn It Into A Series Or Something But Who Knows

  • i Really Want To See The Book I Hope You Make It

  • Q

    With respect to Tom Carter’s Huck’s Landing, whomever decides to take on the task of writing this book of Animations That Never Were, I have a great number of stories that I could tell him/her for that book since I was intimately involved in securing the $300 million financing for this project — which we were able to do. Once the financing was secured and Disney became aware of it and it then became clear that Tom Carter Productions was going to be able to come out of Chapter 11, then Sheriff Gates was sent, with the media in tow, to put him in handcuffs and take him to jail …. a la Fort Leavenworth. Huck’s Landing wasn’t just a cartoon film project … he was about to build the equivalent of Disneyland on the strip in Las Vegas. Would love to see Tom again after 27 years …. Contact Q at [email protected] if anyone knows of his whereabouts.