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Media Essays: 100 Facts About Disney (11-20)

Updated: May 14, 2023


The title card for my essay about Disney facts.

Continued from Part 1.


Our countdown to Disney's 100th Anniversary continues. Here's ten more facts for this month to prepare you for the big day itself...


11: Jeffery Katzenberg worked for Disney before he founded DreamWorks

A picture for the Number 10 spot.

We all know Jeffery Katzenberg as one of the head honchos of DreamWorks Animation, but how many of you knew he once worked for Disney before then? Heck, this was pretty much what he was doing before DreamWorks even existed!


Back in the 70's Katzenberg worked at Paramount Pictures and worked his way up the chain of command until eventually, he became president of production under the then president of Paramount, Michael Eisner. Then come 1984, Eisner became president of Disney and he brought Katzenberg with him. Katzenberg's time at Disney was full of highs and lows for the company. While he proved to be problematic at times such as editing twelve minutes of The Black Cauldron by himself despite objections against editing the movie and taking way too much credit for the work being done at Disney, he was also responsible for helping kickstart the Disney Renaissance and getting the studio back on its feet. It was under his management that movies such as The Great Mouse Detective, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were produced and became critical and financial hits. It was also Katzenberg himself who sealed the deal between Disney and Pixar that made the highly successful partnership that we all know today.


But Katzenberg didn't just do good stuff for the company as I mentioned. He was rather infamous for having a bit of an ego. As I said, he had a habit of taking too much credit for the success of Disney's early 1990's releases, it was thanks to him that The Rescuers Down Under became as forgotten as it is for he didn't even give it a chance and basically pulled it from cinemas because it didn't open up that strongly, The Black Cauldron's failure could be blamed on him and worst of all, he was causing problems in the studio that eventually led to his departure. He kept wanting to be the president of Disney and be Eisner's second-in-command and after Frank Wells, the then president, died in a helicopter crash, he saw that as an opportunity to get the job he wanted. Yeah, nice guy am I right? :/ Disney board member Stanley Gold even felt that Katzenberg had been "brought low by his ego and almost pathological need to be important." Come October 1994, tensions grew to the point that Katzenberg resigned from Disney and went on to co-found DreamWorks along with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Since then, the studio has become one of Disney's biggest rivals in the animation industry.


Kinda sounds like a supervillain origin story, doesn't it? XD Of course Jeffery is not ACTUALLY a supervillain and I'm not trying to demonize him at all. In fact, he's done a lot of good things in his life, including donations to charity and supporting gun-control. But one has to wonder if he hadn't been so desperate for that position of power, would he still be working at Disney now? Would DreamWorks even exist if that was the case? You never know...


12: At least 32 Disney Animated films have bombed at the Box Office

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Disney may be the leading giant in the animation industry...but that doesn't mean every film they make is a money-making machine. Quite the contrary in fact.


Some of their animated movies, even a few of their most beloved classics, have bombed at the box office through the years. How many? Around 32 at the very least, and that's including Disney films outside of their main canon and also Pixar's movies. These box office bombs are:


1: Pinocchio (at the time of release because of World War II)

2: Fantasia

3: Bambi (at the time of release due to World War II. Re-releases helped it to become a success afterwards)

4: Alice in Wonderland

5: Sleeping Beauty

6: The Black Cauldron

7: DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

8: The Rescuers Down Under

9: James and the Giant Peach

10: Hercules

11: Fantasia 2000

12: The Emperor's New Groove

13: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

14: Treasure Planet

15: Piglet's Big Movie

16: Teacher's Pet

17: Home on the Range

18: The Wild

19: Meet the Robinsons

20: Tinker Bell (whoever thought that movie deserved a theatrical release must've been crazy!)

21: Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

22: A Christmas Carol 2009

23: Mars Needs Moms (The biggest bomb in animation history no less!)

24: Winnie the Pooh 2011 (but that's only because some idiot thought releasing it in the same month is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 somehow wouldn't backfire on them!)

25: Tinker Bell and the Secret Wings

26: Strange Magic

27: Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (you'd think someone would finally realize that the Tinker Bell movies don't make money!)

28: The Good Dinosaur

29: Onward (thanks to COVID)

30: Soul (also thanks to COVID)

31: Lightyear

32: Strange World


I'm not sure how accurate this is so feel free to correct me if I've missed any or got any wrong but as far as I'm aware, these are all the animated movies made by Disney that have flopped at the box office. Goes to show that even the titans themselves can't make a success all the time.


13: The Lion King currently remains the highest grossing 2-D Animated film of all time

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Before the age of computer animation, hand-drawn animated movies were the box office giants of the time and The Lion King as of 2023 remains the highest grossing 2-D animated movie of all time. And let's face it, that record is NEVER going to be broken because no 2-D animated film is ever going to make that much money ever again so this'll be a record that'll stand for all time.


How much money has it made you may ask? A grand total of $968.5 Million to be exact. That's staggeringly close to reaching a billion! Unless 2-D animated movies produce something really special or society finally stops promoting that dumb stereotype of animation being "for kids", I doubt any 2-D movie will ever reach that milestone or surpass it.


So in this case, The Lion King will forever remain the King of 2-D Animated Box Office grosses.


14: Snow White WASN'T the first animated film ever made

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This one may change the way you view Disney forever but yeah, we all say Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the first animated movie ever made. THIS. IS. NOT TRUE.


There is SOME truth to it though for Snow White is merely the first TRADITIONALLY animated movie ever made. But before Snow White, some other animated movies were made first but with different styles of animation. There were two animated movies made in Argentina but they've long since been lost to time and can't be seen. And in 1926 there was this German animated film called The Adventures of Prince Achmed, a movie based on the One Thousand and One Nights stories and was made using sillhouette animation. While it isn't lost, it isn't anywhere near as well-known as Snow White so Disney kinda stole its thunder and thus many people mistakenly believe that Snow White was the first ever animated movie when in actuality, it's not.


As of today, The Adventures of Prince Achmed remains the oldest surviving animated film and is available to watch on DVD or the Turner Classic Movies channel. While it's not as well-known as Disney's animated movies, it deserves recognition for being the oldest surviving animated film and we need to remember that Snow White wasn't the first after all.


15: It was Howard Ashman's idea for the household objects and prologue in Beauty and the Beast

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Ah poor Howard Ashman. A man with such talent who's life was cut so short. Passing away at the age of 40 due to AIDS, Howard is the man whom Kirk Wise feels was the man that started the Disney Renaissance with his lyrical and musical contributions to the films. We all know his work and enjoy it even to this day whether it's the songs from The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.


However, his work on the latter was a bit more than just writing song lyrics. He was an executive producer on the movie and contributed many ideas that would make the movie the classic that it is today. Namely the opening prologue was his idea and it was also his idea to make the Beast's servants household objects rather than people. It was a good thing he suggested that as that only made the characters even more memorable and allowed the movie to further flex its creativity so good on him for that.


Apparently, he was known for being the kind of guy where if he had an idea, you didn't dare disagree with him or else. XD Still, kudos to Ashman for the idea on the household objects for the movie and giving us some of the film's most memorable characters like Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts.


16: Kathryn Beaumont was only ten years old when she was cast as Alice in Alice in Wonderland

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Yes, it may sound hard to believe but that's the case with this movie.


Kathryn Beaumont is a British actress who currently worked as a teacher for 36 years at the University of Southern California. She is currently the last surviving member of both It Happened One Sunday and Alice in Wonderland, still alive at the age of 84 as I'm writing this post. She was chosen to play Alice after Walt Disney watched her performance in On An Island With You and not only did she do the voice, she also performed the live-action models for the animators to follow. She would also perform as Wendy in Peter Pan, even using the same voice she used for Alice. She would reprise her role as Alice in Disney's House of Mouse and would play both Alice and Wendy again in Kingdom Hearts.


Speaking of the voice, it's hard to imagine a ten year old girl behind the microphone isn't it? With how grown-up and dignified Kathryn's voice was in both Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, you'd probably never have guessed she was only a child, would you? Then again, this was the 20th century where everybody had to talk like overly dignified gentlemen and women so maybe it's not that surprising. XD


17: Walt Disney was fond of chili, and even has his own recipe you can try for yourself!

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We all have our own favourite foods out there. Me? I'm especially fond of cheese. Give me a piece of cheese and I'm happy. XD


For Walt, he was quite fond of chili. After a hard day's work, he'd often like to settle down with a bowl of his family's famous chili recipe and as mentioned above, YOU can try it for yourself! Here's the recipe here: Chili Just Like Walt Disney Used to Eat - D23


I might even try that myself one day. Looks quite nice but hopefully it's not too hot.


18: Robin Williams and Disney had a fall out after the release of Aladdin

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Here's a story I'm sure many of you dedicated Disney fans have heard before. For those who don't know about it, here's the full story for you:


Robin Williams was cast to play the Genie in Aladdin, a role that even stands to this day as among his most popular and beloved. But sadly, it wasn't all fun and larks for Robin when he was working on the movie. You see, he agreed to voice the Genie for a pay of $75,000 instead of his usual asking fee of $8 million on the condition that his name or image wouldn't be used for marketing and his character would not take more than 25% of space on advertising artwork. The reason Williams wanted this was because his other movie, Toys, was scheduled for release one month after Aladdin would debut. Unfortunately...Disney didn't honour this agreement. They went against Robin's wishes and as a result, he fell out with them big time. I like to think it went something like this:


Robin: "Excuse me? Are you looking at me? Did you cast me in this movie? Did you agree to my terms? Did you bring me here? And now all of a sudden you're backing out on the conditions I set for my casting? I don't think so! Not right now! You're not getting off the hook so easily, so SIT DOWN!!!!!"


Disney tried to make up for it by giving him a Pablo Picasso painting worth $1 million at the time. Robin didn't accept the apology. It wasn't until Joe Roth, the then Walt Disney Studios chairman who replaced Jefferey Katzenberg in the role, issued a public apology to Robin that he would forgive them and went on to reprise his role as the Genie in Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Honestly, Disney shouldn't have been two-faced like that and Robin deserved better than to have that knife in the back. Let this a be a lesson to any budding filmmakers: don't screw with your actors. It may bite you in the bum...


19: Zootopia/Zootropolis was going to be a MUCH darker movie...

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Zootopia (or Zootropolis here in the UK) is one of Disney's biggest modern hits having grossed around $1 billion at the Box Office and is among the highest grossing movies in the animate industry alongside Frozen, Frozen II, Toy Story 3, Toy Story 4, Finding Dory and Incredibles 2. But did you know that the movie would've been VERY different than what we got? And in a really messed up way at that?


In the original concept, Nick Wilde was the main character rather than Judy Hopps and Zootopia/Zootropolis would've been this cruel, dystopian world where predators like Nick have to wear "tame collars" in which if they felt any of their predatory primal urges, they'd get a nasty shock to the system. Eventually the collars would be banned by the end of the movie but when it came to test screenings and developments, Disney and Pixar just couldn't swallow the whole thing with the collars and they felt that they had to go otherwise the film would've featured a world and cast of characters that was too unlikeable and uncomfortable.


I'm personally THRILLED they dropped that concept because that would've made the movie way too dark for a family-friendly picture and would've made Zootopia/Zootropolis too uncomfortable to watch. The film was all the better for dropping those collars I say.


20: One aspect of Luz Noceda's life is based on Dana Terrace's life

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Thanks To Them was quite a big episode for The Owl House, not only because it starts off Season 3, but because it features a lot of big new developments and revelations for the characters with Camilla especially getting the lion's share of development.


But one aspect I want to draw attention to here is the video diary scene where we get to see what it was like for Luz growing up and having to cope with the loss of her dad. She reveals to us that it was her dad that gave her her beloved Good Witch Azura book. This moment parallels a moment in Dana Terrace's own life. Her father Thomas Terrace gave her a copy of Pokémon Red for the Gameboy. It was sadly the last gift he ever gave her before he died in a car accident when she was only 11 years old. Given writers love to draw inspiration from their own lives when writing their stories, it's no surprise Dana has some parallels to her like in The Owl House. It's quite a sweet parallel too. Luz is essentially Dana in this scene and the Good Witch Azura book is to Luz what Pokémon Red was to Dana. If her father was still alive now, I bet he'd appreciate his gift-giving act of kindness being homaged here in a show his daughter created. ^^


And that's it for this month's round of Disney facts. Tune in again next month for ten more facts as the countdown to Disney's 100th anniversary continues. For now, feel free to share your thoughts on all the facts I've listed here today? Were they interesting? Did you learn anything new? Let's hear all about it. ^^


While we're on the subject of Disney, tune in next week as I review one of my favourite movies of the Disney Renaissance. See you then everyone!


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3 Comments


Erin Delgado
Erin Delgado
May 26, 2023

The Disney Bombs you say makes sense, and others I know of Robin being screwed by Disney, Zootopia having the dark pitch before scrapped and Luz's life based on Dana's. Good job on the roster. Also Lion King being the highest 2-D film no surprise as it is a masterpiece and still is. :)


Plus the young VA of Wendy & Alice still voice the characters is impressive.

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Jacob Coad
Jacob Coad
Feb 17, 2023

Those are some cool facts you posted for this month. ^^


Sidenote: I love how the photo you got of Howard Ashman is him on the set of the original production of "Little Shop of Horrors." I just love that. :D

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Guest
Feb 17, 2023

Thomas Holmes:


Some of this stuff I already know, like Zootropolis originally having a darker story and the inspiration for Luz from Dana, and others I don’t, like Disney going on their word with Robin.


You learn something new every day. ;)

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