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Watch: Unreleased Documentary 'The Sweatbox' About The Troubled Production Of Disney's 'The Emperor's New Groove'

by Kevin Jagernauth
March 23, 2012 10:21 AM
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The Emperor's New Groove

Though they end up on screen as cheery, bright eyed films for the whole family to enjoy, the truth is that behind the scenes, bringing an animated film to life is an arduous, exhausting journey. Freed from the constraints and demands of live action filmmaking in which you have a set script and a short window of time to make it happen, animation studios will routinely spend months and years developing, tweaking, editing and refining a project before voicework and production begins. But few films faced when Disney went through on 2000's "The Emperor's New Groove."

You can find a more detailed version of what happened with a quick Google search, but we'll give you the condensed version. Originally planned to be a musical entitled "The Kingdom Of The Sun," the film had Roger Allers ("The Lion King") directing with Sting contributing six songs, in what was an Incan retelling of Mark Twain's "The Prince & The Pauper." However, the film wound up falling behind schedule, and worried about early poor test scores, and fearing the story wasn't original enough, Mark Dindal ("Cats Don't Dance") was brought in to try and liven up the story. With a release date looming, the pressure increased on Allers and when he asked for an extension of six months to year, he was denied, and he quit the picture.

Disney then put the project on hold, temporarily assigned the animations to work on the "Rhapsody In Blue" sequence for "Fantasia 2000," and Dindal along with producer Randy Fullmer and writers Chris Williams and David Reynolds, completely reworked the project and story into the movie you know today. Because Sting had written specific songs for the first version, they all had to be dropped, with only one left that usable (all the songs are available on the soundtrack).

Needless to say it was a dramatic tale, with lots of tension and headbutting between the creative teams and the studio. However, Sting's wife Trudie Styler -- a movie producer and filmmaker -- was there to capture it all from beginning to end, and the result is "The Sweatbox." The feature length documentary has been kept out of site by Disney for years, with no release on home video, though it did screen at TIFF in 2002. And we doubt it will be released any time soon (if ever). However, someone has upload the whole thing to YouTube and it's a pretty fascinating look at what really goes on behind closed doors. Watch it below before it gets yanked. 

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  • Phlegmbot | March 31, 2012 2:21 AMReply

    You'll have to find it via torrent now, but it's still out there....

  • Joe Mahma | March 26, 2012 12:29 AMReply

    It's a good thing this is still downloadable.

  • Christopher Burns | March 24, 2012 12:46 PMReply

    I like how quickly Disney had that video snatched off YouTube!

  • Meredith | March 23, 2012 6:52 PMReply

    Really interesting documentary. I knew that Sting had done songs that were not really part of the film, but I had no idea about the background story. It would have been fascinating to have the documentary finished and released, but I guess Disney would not have wanted that.

  • Tom | March 23, 2012 3:07 PMReply

    Great. I love Emperor's New Groove and have been dying to learn more about the shit that went down behind the scenes.

  • Nik Grape | March 23, 2012 2:17 PMReply

    Very insightful stuff! I loved Emperor's New Groove but I really wonder how Allers' more epic vision would have looked.

  • Nolan | March 23, 2012 12:38 PMReply

    I had no idea the production was so troubled. That being said, I do love "The Emperor's New Groove."

  • rotch | March 23, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    This is quite fascinating. Thanks for posting it.

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