Me and My Shadow Me and My Shadow

Have you ever seen incredible development artwork for an animated project that you couldn’t wait to see come to fruition, only to discover that it never got made? Or have you ever fallen in love with an animated film that nobody else seems to remember existed? Or maybe you saw a teaser that was so bad it was good and you don’t know how the project got that far?

If so, there’s a good chance that some incredible images, videos and the behind-the-scenes story of the film’s downfall are included, or one day will be included, in Drawing for Nothing, a new, free ebook that compiles artwork and anecdotes from the development and production of canceled and troubled animated films.

Drawing for Nothing is already 470 glorious pages and will only grow longer with time. Currently, 12 titles are included in the book, but that is just a tiny fraction of the list organizers plan to feature in its pages. In an ever-updating spreadsheet, available here, the book’s researchers have compiled a list of 166 unreleased/unfinished projects and 33 released films planned to be given their own chapters or included in an honorable mentions chapter.

The 12 titles included in the current version of Drawing for Nothing are:

  • Me and My Shadow (Dreamworks Animation) – Canceled
  • Foodfight! (Threshold Entertainment) – Released
  • B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations (Dreamworks Animation) – Canceled
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet (Warner Bros.) – Canceled
  • Joe Jump (Walt Disney Animation Studios) – Canceled
  • Dreaming Machine (Mad House) – Canceled
  • Dragon’s Lair: The Legend (Sullivan Bluth Studios) – Canceled
  • Jack and Ben (Laika) – Canceled
  • Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Al Brodax) – Canceled
  • Huck’s Landing (Tom Carter Productions) – Canceled
  • My Peoples (Walt Disney Animation Studios) – Canceled
  • Larrikins (Dreamworks Animation) – Canceled
Me and My Shadow
Me and My Shadow environment painting by Jason Scheier.
Jack & Ben
Jack & Ben visual development by Scott Fassett
My Peoples
My Peoples visual development by Ric Sluiter
Larrikins pre-visualization by Celine DeHyeu Kim.

There is no schedule for when chapters will be added, but Drawing for Nothing will announce any updates on its X (formerly Twitter) account when they are published.

The Drawing for Nothing project was spearheaded by Jacob Pruitt, who tells Cartoon Brew his reasons for putting together the book were manifold. One of the most important among them was to provide a platform for previously misrepresented work to be displayed in its proper context:

I have been told by artists in the past that their work was not accurately represented when being presented officially. This book’s goal is to represent these concepts and pieces as accurately as possible.

Beyond setting the historical record straight, Pruitt says he wants the book to be a source of inspiration for artists today and in the future:

Yeah, there’s a ton of things to be inspired by now, but what about the stuff that never made it? The stuff that was deemed too risky or not good enough?

Pruitt says that roughly 95% of the artwork in Drawing for Nothing is owned by the studios rather than the artists who created it. Because of that, most artists couldn’t share their work with the book’s team, and researchers had to find it elsewhere. Legally, Pruitt says that made things easier because artists didn’t have to risk their reputation by sharing artwork they don’t own, and the book is safe because the way it presents the assets clearly falls under fair use.

That said, there were a few things that Pruitt and his team found that they couldn’t include in the book:

The only thing I can think of that I specifically wasn’t allowed to include was a few animation tests from My Peoples. It hurt not being able to include them, one of which being the only example of the 2d/3d hybrid concept that the film was going to employ, but it’s alright. There are a few other things, mostly scripts, that I have access to and are also not allowed to include anywhere. Thankfully, a script is a lot less appealing to look at than the art itself.

Drawing for Nothing was researched and assembled by over 20 volunteers with input from countless knowledgeable fans. According to Pruitt:

I’ve relied a lot on people who love these movies. The Me and My Shadow fandom helped build the chapter on the film and were the first members on the team. I still recruit new people, or they come to me to help out. I write everything, I lay it all out, and I talk to (most of) the artists, but the team helps me find dead demo reels, portfolios, and social media accounts. A lot of things wouldn’t have been found without them.

Drawing for Nothing is a bittersweet treasure that deserves to be shared widely. We’re lucky to have so many great stories and wonderful art pieces collected in one place like this. Still, with the once-canceled Nimona currently part of this year’s animated feature Oscar Race, it’s hard not to wonder how many of the projects in the book’s pages might have been similarly impactful if they’d avoided the cutting room floor. Regardless, we’re grateful that Pruitt and his collaborators have put so much time and effort into ensuring that what did survive of these projects lives on.

Pictured at top: Dreamworks Animations’ Me and My Shadow