The film version of Astro Boy managed to go through no less than three different directors, several different writers and a budget that spiraled out of control due to constant production delays. The bottom fell out when the film's production company went bankrupt a few months before opening. The final product manages to show the chaotic production with its unevenness and lack of direction in terms of plot.
Disney and Pixar have been notorious for having multiple movies that went through this. Morever, during the reign of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, it was even chronic:
Toy Story was subject to constant Executive Meddling, pushing to make it more adult and cynical. Pixar, this being their first feature, dutifully followed the notes from the executives, even if they didn't agree with them. When a preview cut was declared unwatchable, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then head of animation at Disney, asked, with some concern, why on earth Pixar had followed all the notes he, and others, had sent. Production was shut down for two weeks, while Lasseter and the others basically rewrote the entire movie, into pretty much what they wanted in the first place. The movie would survive and get finished in time for release, though Katzenberg's job did not (he ended up quitting Disney a year before the movie's release to start up DreamWorks).
Beauty and the Beast: The animators were given no vacation time during the film's production in order for everything to be absolutely flawless, partially owing to Jeff Katenberg's admitted impatience with the medium. Several of the artists' marriages were broken up as a result; some artists even claimed to buying new clothing on their break time because they couldn't go home to do laundry, and plenty more up and quit. The grueling work clearly shows, but Katzenberg decided not to do this again when he saw how miserable his staff was as a result.
The Lion King first suffered from lack of internal faith - only up-and-coming animators or people who wanted to do animals picked up the project, with most going to work on Pocahontas instead. One of the directors, Oliver & Company director George Scribner, who had even traveled with the other director Roger Allers and other people to Africa for reference, left as he disagreed on turning the film into a musical while his intention was focusing on the natural aspects. The script was so bad that it needed a reworking with the help of the directors of Beauty and the Beast - and still was being fine-tuned during production, with completed scenes being reanimated due to dialogue changes. And just months before release, the Northridge earthquake hit Los Angeles, shutting off the studio and forcing animators to finish their work from home. Thankfully it was all worth it in the end.
The Emperor's New Groove started as Kingdom of the Sun, a Prince and Pauper epic directed by Roger Allers. Since the writers weren't very successful in adding original material and test audiences weren't reacting well, another director, Mark Dindal, was hired to see if things evolved. As the deadline got closer and Allers and Dindal were basically working at two movies simultaneously (the former with a drama, and the latter with a comedy), the higher-ups intervened and Allers quit. After a six-month interval where Dindal and some writers reworked the movie, the film became the screwball comedy that eventually saw the light of day. The ending then had to be rewritten just before release because Sting disagreed with the moral message and was going to quit the project. It was all documented in The Sweatbox, a film shot by Trudie Styler (her husband Sting wrote songs for the movie).
Ratatouille was originally developed in 2001 by Jan Pinkava, but Pixar lost faith in Pinkava and ultimately replaced him with Brad Bird.
Bolt suffered from this in spades. The film was originally helmed by Lilo & Stitch director Chris Sanders, who wanted to make another quirky animated family film. To that end, he envisioned American Dog, which followed a popular television star dog named Henry who (after being knocked out and waking up on a train to Nevada) enlists the help of two other talking animals, including a cat and oversized bunny rabbit, to drive him back home (while believing he's still in a television show). The film went through several different cuts (and suggestions from John Lasseter and other Pixar directors on how to improve the film), but Sanders reportedly rejected all of the changes. Lasseter then fired Sanders from the project, causing the latter to jump ship to DreamWorks, and the film was drastically reworked (under a constrained timeframe) into the final product. Tellingly, American Dog is not mentioned anywhere on the film's DVD features, and only receives a passing reference in the making-of book The Art of Bolt.
Brave had title changes, the dismissal of director/co-writer Brenda Chapman, and many scenes being rewritten and\or dropped during production.
Wreck-It Ralph went through a number of problems along the way. Originally planned to have been screened before Tangled, it had went through a number of cancelled and uncancelled calls along the way before finally getting the go-ahead. As well, the many video game companies, (especially Japanese ones), had strict guidelines as to how their characters should act - Nintendo had guides as to how Bowser should drink a cup of coffee, Sega had them reanimate a scene were Sonic loses some rings because they said he could only lose rings if he were hit and the only reason Q*Bert got prominence in the movie was because Namco took offence at Dig Dug being the target.
Frozen actually has a relatively easygoing production — at least in terms of the people involved getting along with each other. The problem was instead the story. They spent several years changing the plot over and over. And then once production had gotten well underway, they were inspired by Idina Menzel's performance of "Let it Go" (Which was written as a Villain Song accompanying a "Then Let Me Be Evil" epiphany for Elsa, but turned out much more positive and uplifting than they intended even for what was meant to be a sympathetic Tragic Villain) to re-write Elsa as a hero rather than a villain. Making sweeping changes to the plot to accommodate this new characterization, they were left with under fifteen months to finish the film. Due to this change in mid-development, there has been a lot of info on the "Evil Elsa" plot leaked or dumped around compared to most Disney films, including concept art for Disney Infinity, unused models, a lot of concept art, and many unused songs.
Inside Out was an attempt for Pixar to Win Back the Crowd as Cars 2 and Monsters University were considered a Dork Age, and thus lots of pressure ensued. The unique concept meant twice as much time spent on development. Production design alone lasted five years, the longest for designer Ralph Eggelston, and the emotions' distinct "grainy" surface texture was almost dropped because it was too difficult and expensive for just one character, let alone five. Towards the end of it, Pete Docter was seconds away from a nervous breakdown and quitting. But like many troubled Disney/Pixar productions, it was all worth it in the end, as Inside Out was heralded as Pixar's return to form, and, according to several critics, their new gold standard for movies.
The Good Dinosaur was originally scheduled to be released in June 2014, but plot troubles caused its director and producer to be replaced, the original script and recorded dialogue scrapped, and the entire cast replaced. The film's release date was pushed back to November 2015.
Every! Single! Film! made by Don Bluth, enough to force him into retirement in 2000.
The Secret of NIMH was similarly made in Bluth's garage with a budget so small that the last quarter of production was funded by Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy mortgaging their houses. The high-quality animation Bluth was aiming for required the animators to work 16 hours a day, sometimes even taking work home with them. It was then ultimately given too small of a release to profit on even it's meager budget, not helped by the fact that it was competing with freaking ET! However, it was well-reviewed enough to become a Cult Classic, gaining the attention of a certain rival director which led to the creation of Bluth's more successful second film.
All Dogs Go to Heaven had two significant snags: the first was Bluth and Steven Spielberg butting egos over his Executive Meddling on their previous two collaborations, which led to Spielberg walking out and Bluth producing the film independently. The other, more significant one was the murder of their lead actress after she had recorded all of her lines, forcing certain violent aspects of the film to be toned down, such as Killer's tommy gun becoming a laser blaster. Bluth also took umbrage with leads Burt Reynolds and Dom De Luise constantly ad libbing, but relented when he realized how much funnier their ad libs were than the script itself. Production was otherwise smooth and the film met it's intended release date of November 17th 1989... when it was promptly curb-stomped by The Little Mermaid.
Then came several films which kicked off Bluth's notorious curse of Executive Meddling. Starting with Rock-A-Doodle, what few investors he had left forced him to tone down his trademark darkness in favor of a lighter, more marketable and, most importantly, Disney-esque style which completely contradicted his own philosophy of creating films which were dark, but had catharsis. Phil Harris's Captain Obvious narration was forced upon him at the last minute after test audiences, ironically, complained about certain things not making enough sense. It ended up bombing hard enough to close down Bluth's homegrown studio, taking the rights to all of his films with it.
Pre-production of Thumbelina was slowed due to seemingly perpetual rewrites which lasted over a year. The original screenwriter had to be fired just to get physical production going, with Bluth writing the script himself and receiving his only solo screen writing credit.
For his final film, Titan A.E., Bluth and Goldman were handed an already foundering project which had already blown through 18 other directors and $30 million on pre-production alone. The two were forced to scrap the whole thing and start over with a $55 million budget and less than two years to deliver. Much of the effects and post-production work were done two weeks before it's release. Then, just before it's premiere, Fox lost faith in the project, foresaw the rising trend of computer animation and closed down it's barely six-year-old 2D animation unit. Bluth temporarily retired from animation shortly thereafter, publicly stating that he would "never draw another character and hand the rights over to someone else."
And this isn't even taking into account all of his projects which were abruptly canceled during pre-production either from funding being withdrawn or new animation units getting shut down.
Bluth and Goldman have since taken to crowd-funding a prequel film to their 1983 game Dragon's Lair in the hopes of making a proper comeback, after years in Development Hell. As of this writing, production has been slow.
Family Dog, a Steven Spielberg produced animated spin-off of Amazing Stories didn't debut until 1992 seven years after the original "Family Dog" episode of Amazing Stories had aired. Only five episodes of the finished product aired.
Food Fight, a film featuring Roger Rabbit-esque cameos by advertising mascots starring Charlie Sheen was trapped in development for 10 years. Originally set for a 2003 release until being delayed to 2005, it became even further delayed when the harddrives containing all the animation files were stolen and the studio had to start all over again on an even lower budget. The final result was finished in 2009, given a small theatrical release and started to emerge direct to video in other markets in 2012.
Gravity Falls, despite being instantly heralded as a classic and one of the defining series of the Disney Channel, suffered constant issues due to its creator Alex Hirsch's lack of experience in running an entire show (he was only 27 years old when it started). By the time the first season wrapped, Hirsch was so exhausted that he seriously considered ending the show right there, leaving it forever on an incredibly tantalizing Cliffhanger. It wasn't until he shared his plans with Jon Stewart, a huge fan who was horrified at the idea, that he decided to press on, though cutting his plans for the show to run three seasons down to just two. The Disney Channel execs weren't very happy about losing one of their most acclaimed shows so soon, and forbade him from revealing the plan to end the show to the public until the season was almost over, spending the entire time in between trying to talk him into continuing it to no avail. When the announcement finally couldn't be put off anymore, Hirsch was a complete stand up guy about it, making clear that the two season run was entirely his own decision and the fans shouldn't blame anyone at Disney for it, and ultimately came out of the experience with a highly acclaimed project he got to end on his own terms, about the happiest ending to the story possible.
To begin with, it had a deadline that was far too short—production began in May 1938, and it was due Christmas 1939; this is less than half of the four years of production that went into Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the film it was meant to emulate to begin with.
The studio was clearly under equipped to take on the challenge of making a Disney-like feature length animated film—many of their staffers weren't familiar with the West Coast style of animation and techniques pioneered by Disney. The studio had to expand their staff considerably to even make the film possible, even managing to hire many ex-Disney animators, but this resulted in the East Coast and West Coast animators clashing with each other on their approaches to animation, and the studio's decision to hire amateur, apathetic Miami art students, as well as newcomers who received a few hours' worth of cram-course art trainingnote contrast this to the years of extensive art training and schooling Disney and Don Graham pushed upon their artists resulted in sloppy inking and bad in-between work, which resulted in the film having very uneven animation quality. The Fleischers' move to a new studio in Miami also resulted in many of their talented employees in New York getting left behind (including Betty Boop voice actress Mae Questel), with the few who did make the move becoming homesick, as well as putting up with the hazards and quirks of Florida (such as many mosquito infestations).
A feud between story artists over which direction the story would take—it was planned as a Bing Crosby vehicle at one point, and at one point Popeye was intended to be the star of the film, with its tone being more cartoony, as Max Fleischer actually did not wish to follow the Disney approach to animated films. Both of the previous stories were thrown out and rewritten by West Coast storymen, particularly ex-Warners staffer Cal Howard.
A feud between Max and Dave Fleischer themselves over whether Dave himself or another person would compose the film's score. Ultimately, outside composers were brought in while songs were contributed by the studios in-house musicians like Sammy Timberg.
The fact that the film was being made in the Fleischers' new studio in Miami, Florida (which was far too small to hold the 700+ staffers needed to complete Gulliver) meant that if any equipment broke down, it would have been very difficult to get it fixed in any reasonable time. The lack of film industry in Miami also meant that, unless they wanted to use local actors or their woefully inadequate amateur orchestra (which was impeding the sound quality of the shorts from mid-1938 onward), they had to outsource recording sessions to West Coast studios (which they did for Gulliver, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, and the Superman Theatrical Cartoons).
In the end, while the film did modestly well at the box office, Paramount deliberately discounted the money the film made in Europe before World War II broke out there, meaning the film had much overhead left to be paid, leaving the Fleischers in the red. Critical reaction was also mixed, with a cruel remark from rival Walt Disney quipping "We can make a better film than that with our second-string animators".
Iron Man was also a mess behind the scenes, with Marvel viewing it as an afterthought whose sole purpose was to sell toys. The second season had no producer until three months into production, which resulted in 2-hour work days with no weekends off. The staff also had little say in things about plots and character designs, which were largely dictated by Marvel and Toy Biz.
Many of the season 1 episodes were massacred by bad outsourcing, due in part to work from the cheapskate, sweatshop conditions of Fil-Cartoons, who handled ink-and-paint work for the entire first season, and more often than not heavily ruined many scenes due to their all-around cheap Xeroxing, ugly colors and even "reworking" drawings or whole scenes of animation; there were even some unintentional (rather than purposeful) off model moments, such as Stimpy's eyes inexplicably turning black in the "Stimpy's Breakfast Tips". Carbunkle director Bob Jacques had to fight tooth and claw to get the studio to turn in acceptable work for episodes like "Stimpy's Invention" (and even then the sporadic error slipped in, such as Stimpy's eyes floating off his face when he's showing Ren his new socks), and described the experience of working with them as "all damage control".
One of the biggest sources of friction was over censorship. Nickelodeon was always uneasy with the gross-out nature of the show's humor, and shelved one episode, "Man's Best Friend", due to its violent and scatological content. As a general rule, anything that had to do with religion, politics, alcohol, and tobacco was put under a microscope by Standards & Practices; the character George Liquor had his last name removed from one episode and made only sporadic appearances due to opposition from the network, right down to axing an entire scene with him from "Rubber Nipple Salesman" and forcing Spumco to change a Liquor cameo in "Haunted House" into a parody of Doug Funnie (a scene that got edited out in reruns anyway), while "Powdered Toast Man", featuring The Pope, removed a cross from his hat and credited the character simply as "The Man with the Pointy Hat", and the ending scene of Toast Man carelessly using the Constitution and Bill of Rights as kindling for a fire got edited out after its initial airing, which ironically ruined the episode's satirical message of how easily authority and power are abused.
The show suffered from severe Schedule Slip almost from the start, the result of, depending on who you ask, John Kricfalusi's perfectionism or the constant battles over what was acceptable to air. Nickelodeon had to rerun the pilot episode in order to have something to show in what would've been the second episode's time slot; this helped the show build an audience but killed any hope for syndication. This became a trend; the first season had only six episodes air between August 1991 and February '92.
Feuding between John K. and Nickelodeon over Schedule Slip and censorship came to a head in September '92, in the middle of the second season, when Nickelodeon fired John K. and took over production themselves via the in-house studio Games Animation. The exact circumstances of John K.'s firing are hotly debated to this day; John K. cites his refusal to censor "Man's Best Friend" as the final straw for Nick, while others blame the Schedule Slip. Regardless, this is the moment when many fans claim that the show took a notable downturn in quality, especially given that a good chunk of the staff left in protest at John K.'s firing. Ren & Stimpy finished its second season and ran for a total of three more before it was canceled at the end of 1995 (though one last episode aired on MTV the following year).
Later on, in 2003, John K. relaunched the show as Ren & Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon, part of an adult animation block on Spike TV. The show once more suffered from Schedule Slip, though the censorship fights at Nickelodeon were inverted at Spike TV; John K. maintains that Spike TV pressured him to turn up the adult content farther than he was willing to go. In any case, the show only lasted two months and seven episodes (the pilot being the previously-unaired "Man's Best Friend") before being canceled.
The Road to El Dorado: The films director, Will Finn, said that the films production was an absolute bloodbath and that he still has nightmares about it to this day, and he has nothing but grim memories about it whenever it's brought up. It was bad enough that he resigned from Dreamworks to return back to Disney later in its production. He likened the turbulent making of it to being akin to a mashup of Mutiny on the Bounty and The Producers.
By 1979, The Scooby-Doo Show was on the verge of cancelation by ABC, and Joe Barbera came up with the new character to help save it. None of the on-staff writers at Hanna-Barbera could write a satisfactory pilot script, and Evanier, the editor of their comic book division, was chosen. Barbera and Evanier worked together to finalize the character, and Evanier eventually turned in a satisfactory pilot script, and the show was picked up for a full season and made it on the air following endless salary and billing disputes, conflicts with Standards & Practices, and much muchExecutive Meddling.
Casting the character's voice was difficult in its own right, and the entire pilot was recorded at least five different times. Mel Blanc was Barbara's first choice to voice Scrappy, but he turned the role down over salary disagreements. Then Frank Welker was considered before Don Messick was cast, and the pilot script recorded with the entire cast. Then ABC decided they didn't like Don's version, so Daws Butler was cast and the entire script re-recorded. Then they didn't like his version, and Marilyn Schreffler was cast and the script re-recorded once again before Welker was cast, and the entire script recorded a fourth time. Then Paul Winchell and Dick Beals were cast at different points, though production was haulted while Barbera once again attempted to strike a deal with Mel Blanc. Ultimately, Lennie Weinrib was cast in the role simply because he was the first choice the network wouldn't veto. Even he would end up leaving the role at the end of the season over a salary dispute, along with a personality dispute with the voice director, and Don Messick became Scrappy's permanent voice afterwords.
The pilot episode of The Simpsons, "Some Enchanted Evening" went so badly wrong that it nearly killed the show before it even began. The big problem was that the key members of the production team didn't appear to be talking to each other. Matt Groening and James L. Brooks imagined a show with unique designs and color schemes, but characters who were animated in a realistic way. Animation director Kent Butterworth (and apparently the people at Klasky-Csupo) on the other hand thought it should be animated in a whacked-out, over the top style with little regard paid to keeping the characters on model. And nobody appeared to have told the Korean animators anything at all, meaning they were let loose on the episode with wildly inconsistent results. The end product, while sometimes defended by animation enthusiasts as how the show should have been animated, wasn't what the producers or Fox wanted at all, and the plug nearly got pulled on the series. Fortunately the second episode, "Bart the Genius" did fit what the producers were looking for, and so they reshuffled the episode order and kicked off the series with "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," while "Some Enchanted Evening" got substantially re-animated and booted to the end of the season.
There is a notorious story surrounding the first time the staff saw "Some Enchanted Evening". In one scene, Bart and Lisa watch a Happy Little Elves cartoon. For some reason yet to be determined, Butterworth had decided to have a bear tear off one of the elves's heads and drink its blood. Needless to say, this did not go over well with the production crew.
One major problem during production was that they couldn't make up their mind what kind of cartoon this was supposed to be—studio head Phil Roman was most comfortable with the plot-and-dialogue-driven approach used in his commercial successes Garfield and Friends and The Simpsons, and had given this series what seemed like a guarded blessing—there was one group who wanted a Felix like the Otto Messmer shorts, one group who wanted Max Fleischer surreality, Don Oriolo, the current owner of Felix, wanting it to be like his dad's made-for-TV Felix cartoons (which most of the staff working on the show were against—they ultimately, but begrudgingly, added certain elements from it into Twisted Tales, like the Magic Bag), one group who wanted the show to be Ren and Stimpy-esque (understandable, since some of the artists on the show were former Ren and Stimpy artists), and one director who wanted a Robert Crumb influence! With so many cooks in the kitchen, the direction of the show tended to be all over the place, with Felix himself often getting swamped in importance by a large cast of supporting characters and his chaotic world. On top of that, per word of Mark Evanier, the studio had a terrible time finding a voice for Felix, saying they may have set a new industry record for most actors auditioned for one role (to where even staff of the studio were trying to audition for the role), and they wound up recording the show with a "scratch" (temporary) voice and animating to that. The final voice was only selected a few weeks before an episode aired and was dubbed in.
Another problem was that in addition to having a month to storyboard, design and do layout work on each short, they could not learn from their mistakes, because by the time film began to come in, the season had been just about wrapped up. Some directors could handle writing and boarding a good cartoon, while some couldn't. The artists had no say on retakes in animation either, which was left to Phil Roman to decide—and unfortunately, the overseas animation on the show tended to be rather sluggish. This only got worse with the second season, with Korean company Plus One having to rush episodes through, resulting in sloppy artwork and very bad animation timing (with "Nightmare on Oak Street" being one of the worst examples in the second season). On top of that, they were behind schedule, so they couldn't order retakes to correct any mistakes.
Eventually, Phil Roman and Don Oriolo found the "Cartoonist Driven" approach of the first season to be too taxing on them, and not even worth the trouble since, despite being one of the most expensive shows that Phil Roman's studio had made, the first season turned out to be a flop in ratings, due in part to a terrible time slot—it was sandwiched right between sports shows and then-ratings giant X-Men, making it very hard to establish an audience for the show. On top of that, Don was just unhappy with the weird direction of season 1 having almost nothing in common with Joe Oriolo's Felix, so the second season went through an extensive retool—while the first season was storyboarded while working from a basic outline, and was absurdly surreal in its premises and animation, the second season decided to take the series into a direction more in vogue with the Joe Oriolo Felix cartoons and shift production to make the show a more standard TV cartoon, with scripts replacing the all-storyboard approach (usually provided by the writer of Garfield and Friends, Mark Evanier, who has remained silent on the series ever since), resulting in much more linear plotting and less surreal humor and more emphasis on wordplay and one liners, as well as bringing back some of the Oriolo era characters like Poindexter, Master Cylinder and The Professor while forcing most of the new side characters to be scrapped in turn. This move was met with outright hostile reception from the shows staff, particularly the producer of the first season, who knew Don's meddling would only make things worse and bailed on the show just two weeks into the second seasons production. They even tried to have the writers voice direct the actors instead of the directors, but after a couple weeks of trying that, the results were so disastrous that the studio was forced to drop that and hand over voice direction back to the cartoon directors. The staff retaliated by writing whole episodes that took jabs at the second seasons toned down retool, such as "Attack of the Robot Rat" (which infuriated Don Oriolo for being a ruthless parody of his dads made for TV Felix the Cat cartoons), "Phoney Felix" and "The Fuzzy Bunny Show". The first few scripts they received were followed closely, but the shows new producer finally fought for the artists to have more storytelling and creative control on the show, and they were able to completely scrap the scripts and write their own shows, ironically giving the crew more freedom than they had in the first season. Some episodes were tightly scripted and some were not. Unfortunately for them, the VP of Childrens Programming, Judy Price, who wanted the show picked up in the first place, got fired, and Felix the Cat Inc. was so unhappy with the show in general that they refused to renew the license for Phil Roman to continue using Felix, guaranteeing a third season wouldn't happen. To make matters worse, the second season turned to be an evenbiggerflop in the ratings, and it ultimately got the show canned, with season 2 ending after just 8 episodes. The second season was considered a disaster in the eyes of everyone involved in it (especially Don Oriolo, who is barely willing to acknowledge the existence of Twisted Tales these days) and the show's failure ultimately put the Felix the Cat cartoons on ice yet again (having already gone through it with the 1991 movie, which was a box office bomb), with only low key revivals coming of the series after the fact.