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Development Hell / Animated Film

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  • By far the most famous example of this is The Thief and the Cobbler. At 29 years, it is the longest film production ever, most of which was spent in and out of development, much of it owing to Richard Williams's insistence that the animation for his masterpiece (yes, he really called it that) be absolutely flawless. He took to self-funding it with odd jobs after repeatedly missing deadlines for potential investors, and an ever-rotating staff, some of whom were fired before even starting, added bits and bobs to the film, much of which Williams eventually scrapped when he felt it didn't meet his standards. In the early 90s, following the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mirimax offered to help complete the film, so long as it was completed for a specific budget and met an exact deadline. Williams did neither, the studio fired him, and a hastily completed version was eventually released. Both Williams and his admirers disowned this version and, in 2013, it was announced that the film would never be completed, leaving what was finished stuck here forever.
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  • The Movie of Clerks: The Animated Series. Originally planned as Clerks: Sell Out, wherein Dante and Randall decide to make a movie about their escapades in the Quick Stop, this got an animation test in 2006 and was supposed to go straight to DVD a little while after Clerks II. However, according to Kevin Smith, Disney still own the rights to the series and all designs related to it, which essentially negates all possibility of there being a movie any time soon.
  • The California Raisins. Plans for a California Raisins movie was considered in 2001 but it was scrapped, possibly due to Will Vinton losing his animation studio in 2002, followed by the death of the lead vocalist Buddy Miles in 2008. In 2015 it was announced that a Live-Action/CGI film adaptation was in the works and may be released in 2016 or 2017 but no further information on the progress of the project or who's starring in it.
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  • The Bone movie. Partially delayed in Jeff Smith's refusal of Nickelodeon's demands of putting pop music in, apparently the rights are now with Warner Bros.. According to the latest news, it's in early stages of development. Smith doesn't seem very involved as of yet and makes very little comment on the animation/design, saying only that it is dynamic.
  • A sequel/prequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. One was attempted during, but floundered due to many problems at Disney, with Steven Spielberg, problems converting the characters to CGI, and a skyrocketing budget. Attempts to make a sequel anyway continue to be discussed, but Roger Rabbit remains one of the biggest film properties to never be properly capitalized. But between Bob Hoskins' retirement from acting in 2012 and his passing in 2014, it's unlikely to ever materialize (unless it's a prequel). The second film was also planned to take place during WWII and involve a bunch of wacky Nazis, which Spielberg outright refused, as he felt he couldn't satirize Nazis after making Schindler's List.
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  • A CGI The Legend of Spyro movie was announced in late 2007, and posters emerged in early 2009 which slated the film for a Christmas release. The movie never came out, and it was later cancelled.
  • Dragon's Lair: The Movie which is supposed to be animated by Don Bluth himself, now a kickstarter campaign.
  • The CGI ThunderCats (1985) film, which was supposed to be made by the art director of Halo, which apparently reincarnated in the form of new Animated Series ThunderCats (2011), which premiered in July 2011 on Cartoon Network.
  • The Samurai Jack Movie. It seemed to be seeing the light of day again... in 2009. It ended up being secondary to a continuation of the TV series for [adult swim].
  • The Fairly Oddparents also had an animated film in Development Hell for a while. That Other Wiki says the "Wishology" specials may have started out as that movie; a live-action FOP TV movie that was meant as a conclusion to the series was eventually released in 2011, with a sequel released in 2012.
  • DreamWorks Animation has had a few:
    • Truckers: DreamWorks was supposed to do an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's book with Academy Award winning writer Simon Beaufoy writing the script and a set release date of 2012. The talks of making the film seemed to die down once the script was completed and everyone has since moved on.
    • Similarly, they purchased the rights to make a film adaptation of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine in 2006, shortly before they released their adaption of fellow comic strip Over the Hedge. Since then however, nothing has come of it.
    • An Aardman/Dreamworks project retelling "The Tortoise and the Hare" that might have featured Michael Caine as one of the voiceover performers withered on the vine.
    • Dreamworks also planned to adapt a character from the extremely obscure 1980s black-and-white furry comic Tales From The Aniverse in the early 2000s, but reps had a hard time comprehending the treatment that the comics' creator gave them.
    • Me and My Shadow, a film about a man's friendship with his Living Shadow that would have featured a unique blend of 3D and traditional animation, was scheduled to be released in early 2014 but seems to have fallen through the cracks after Dreamworks's split with Paramount.
    • B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, a film centering on an agency of ghosts, was set to be released in the summer of 2015. It has now been put on the back burner due to DreamWorks' restructuring plans.
  • Blue Planet, a CGI sci-fi action movie planned by now-defunct Rainbow Studios (later acquired by THQ), with a video-game tie-in. A trailer was released, to widespread acclaim, which showcased the for-the-time high-quality CGI, parodies of Pixar's Toy Story and A Bug's Life characters, and a soundtrack featuring "More Human Than Human" by Rob Zombie. Much of the already-shot footage was recycled for the tie-in game, which was eventually released as Deadly Tide.
  • In the late 1990's, Fox and Matt Groening signed a deal to make three films based on The Simpsons. The first film was released in 2007. In 2017, it was said that a sequel was in "the earliest stages of development." Here's hoping it comes out soon...
  • Around 2003, 20th Century Fox planned to make an animated adaptation of the children's novel The Wainscott Weasel. They finally dropped the idea in 2006.
  • In 2001, Shrek producer John H. Williams founded his own studio, Vanguard Animation, which created Valiant, Happily N'Ever After, Space Chimps, and a direct-to-video sequel of the same. Their website shows several other projects in the pipeline, such as The Nut House (a heist film parody involving squirrels and acorns; no connection to The Nut Job), Rotten Island (adaptation of a book by William Steig, who also wrote the books that inspired Shrek), an adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Twits, and many more are mentioned in a 2010 press release. However, other than the October 2011 announcement of The Nut House, it seems Vanguard has vanished.
  • Paramount announced plans for a sequel to Rango in late 2011 but despite the film grossing over $100 million and winning an Academy Award, it looks like the sequel is no more due to Disney buying Industrial Light and Magic (who did the animation on the film).
  • In June of 2011, Paramount announced to develop an animated film based on the Penny Arcade comic strip The New Kid with Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) penning the script and with Mary Parent and Cale Boyter of Disruption Entertainment producing the flim. There has not been any new updates about this project since.
  • Henry Selick's Shademaker began development in 2010 at Disney as part of a new foray into stop-motion animation for the studio with a set release date of 2013. Disney even set up a new animation studio in San Francisco for Selick to do the film and future projects. But in the summer of 2012, Disney dropped the film for no apparent reason and gave the rights back to Selick. Not long after, Disney closed the animation studio and now the film's future is up in the air.
  • Ever since the announcement of a Phineas and Ferb movie, there have been barely any details about it except that the movie would somehow combine live action and animation. The creators have even stated that the movie is in "development hell" until the project is now cancelled. This was likely due to the series' noticeable decline in popularity and Disney's later disinterest in non-would-be-blockbuster movies. In 2019, the movie was announced again for their new streaming service.
  • Ever since The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat came to an unceremonious end, Felix the Cat has had numerous projects on the backburner.
    • In the early 2000's, three holiday movies featuring Felix were announced. Only the Christmas movie was released in 2004, while the Valentine's and Halloween movies were never heard of again.
    • In September 2008, former rights-holder Don Oriolo stated that an All-CGI Cartoon revival of Felix was in the works, but nothing more came out of it. Oriolo sold the rights to the character to DreamWorks Animation in 2014, which in turn was taken over by NBCUniversal two years later, presumably canceling the project.
    • By March 2016, more talk of another Felix series (under DreamWorks) began to surface, with DHX Media (who currently represents the brand on behalf of DreamWorks/Universal) being involved.
  • In 2012, Universal announced that they would produce a live-action/CGI hybrid movie based off Clifford the Big Red Dog, with David Bowers attached to direct and Matt Lopez to write. It was scheduled for release in April 2016, but was pushed back to July 2017. Nothing more was revealed after that. Eventually Universal's rights expired and handed over to Paramount. No release date has been announced since then.
  • Similarly, Universal planned to produce a Cat in the Hat CGI film via Illumination Entertainment in response to the box office success of The Lorax. Due to the continued success of the Despicable Me franchise, and the terrible reputation of their live-action take of the story, Universal shelved the film for years. The rights were ultimately passed on to Warner Bros., who announced in 2018 that it would be the exclusive production house of Dr. Seuss adaptations. On the other hand, the setback allowed Universal to move onto production of Illumination's take on How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.
  • According to this 1996 article, the Sega Genesis game Vectorman was supposed to get an animated movie adaption, but it never materialized.
  • A Darker and Edgier CGI version of The Wind in the Willows was supposed to come out in 2012. 2012 has been and gone, and nothing's happened, so it's presumably entered this trope.
  • Yuriy Norshteyn's The Overcoat, a stop-motion film using cutouts. Largely a single-man project, with the man working on a lot of other projects and suffering from severe perfectionism. Probably the current record holder, being in production since 1981; as of 2004 only 25 minutes out of planned 1 hour were ready. A number of preview fragments have been released.
  • Disney's remake of Yellow Submarine, cancelled after the record-setting box office failure of Mars Needs Moms.
  • Seth MacFarlane has been in talks to make a Family Guy feature film since 2007. He stated in 2008 that he planned to produce the movie within the next year, and has given similar responses to the movie's production in recent years.
  • A Marvin the Martian hybrid CGI/live-action film was announced in 2008, with Mike Myers voicing Marvin. It was planned to come out in late 2011/early 2012, but vanished without a trace. The only thing to materialize out of it since was some leaked test footage.
  • Along with the above mentions Marvin the Martian film, a Hong Kong Phooey CGI/Live-action film was also announced along side it, with Eddie Murphy to voice the title character. Test footage was released in 2012, but nothing else had came of the film until casting information sprang up in late 2014. The film as of resent appears to have been Saved from Development Hell, as a release date of September 18, 2015 has been announced. The day has approached, but no film.
  • The Waterman Movie, based on the Flash animated web series Waterman, has been in development hell since at least 2010. The film was announced in 2007 and was financed through crowd funding. What makes the film notable is that it is the last film appearance of the late Leslie Nielsen, who had recorded all his dialogue for the film before his tragic death. Many planned release dates have been made, going back as early as Winter 2007, and as late as Christmas 2012. As of March 2015, no information on the film has come up since June 2011.
  • A CGI animated adaptation of the popular comic The Goon, with the voices of Clancy Brown as The Goon and Paul Giamatti as Franky, was announced back in 2010, with a fully animated and voiced trailer being released. An official poster was also released claiming the film will be released theatrically. Due to financial troubles, Blur Studios launched a Kickstarter, which it successfully reached in late 2012. No information has come up since then. In March 2015, Blur Studios had an update on the Kickstarter project claiming it was close to finishing the movie.
  • A UK animation studio named Kaleidoscope announced in 2013 a Toy Story-like film called Once Upon a Time in the Kitchen, starring Nicholas Hoult, Gemma Arterton and Stephen Fry as the stars. The main premise was to be "a kitchen divided between everyday utensils and the snooty best silver from the other side of the table". The film was aimed at for a late 2014 or early 2015 release, but with almost no signs of movement and them missing the release dates, it seems to have fallen into Development Hell.
  • The New York Institute of Technology set out to create the world's first feature-length All-CGI Cartoon called The Works, being worked on sporadically between 1979 and 1986. Unfortunately, the poor performance of TRON, competition from Lucasfilm, and an increasing lack of interest by the creators brought production to a halt, but the goal of a feature-length CGI animated film was eventually met with Pixar's Toy Story.
  • Pixar:
    • Brad Bird's 1906, an animated adaptation of the 2004 novel based upon the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, was picked up by Disney, Pixar and Warner Brothers with an estimated budget of $200 million, which ultimately played a role in the film getting pushed back and rewritten numerous times by Bird in order to lessen the film's scope. Eventually, Pixar and Disney dropped the project over lack of confidence, and Brad Bird left production as well, leaving only Warner Brothers to carry the film and leaving its future unknown.
    • Pixar had plans to release a film entitled Newt, about two newts that were experimented on by scientists and want to fall in love with each other. Because Blue Sky Studios' Rio had a very similar premise to this idea, the project was handed over to Pete Docter, who proposed a different idea that would become Inside Out.
  • Frequently occurs in Disney Animated Canon:
    • Disney announced in 2008 that a 3D adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story "The King of the Elves" was scheduled for 2012, but the project got shelved in 2009. Reports in 2010 and 2011 claimed that the project had gone back into development with a new director and script writer. Concept art has been leaked, but there hasn't been any news on that front since then. It's been assumed the project has been quietly cancelled.
    • Disney was working on a romance film loosely based on The Prince and the Pauper named "Kingdom Of The Sun" in the 1990s. Due to a Troubled Production and differing developmental views the film was pushed back a year and eventually heavily retooled into The Emperor's New Groove.
    • In the early 1990s Disney announced several films however none ended up being made: Swan Lake, Sinbad the Sailor, Homer's Odyssey, Song Of The Sea, and Silly Hillbillies On Mars. The Swan Lake adaptation is the only one that has been discussed since. It was cancelled due to being too similar to The Little Mermaid. A Disney-esque film called The Swan Princess was later made by a competitor, killing off any future attempts at a Swan Lake adaptation.
    • Gigantic was announced as Giants in 2013 with a 2016 release date. Its release was delayed to 2018 in 2016, then to 2020 in mid 2017, then indefinitely later that same year due to issues with the story. Unsurprisingly, the plot changed dramatically from the initial announcement to the cancellation. Inma was changed from a side-character human to a protagonist Giant Girl, most of the characters were presumably scrapped, and the tone completely shifted. One of the troubles of the film being in development hell was that the girls meant to play Inma either kept on aging out of the roles or would age out by the time voice acting began.
    • Disney has toyed around with a film featuring all their animated film characters for years, to no avail. One attempt was a film called The Search for Mickey Mouse. In it, Mickey Mouse disappears and Basil of Baker Street must find him. It was cancelled because the writers couldn't figure out how to make all the cameos into anything more than quick-paced fanservice.
    • Disney almost adapted Where the Wild Things Are. The film would have featured traditionally animated characters upon CGI backgrounds.
    • In the mid-2000s, a film called Fraidy Cat was shown off at events. It was ultimately canned because it was thought that children wouldn't understand, or be interested in, the plot. It starred a cat in London and spoofed Alfred Hitchcock films.
    • A Fractured Fairytale based off Little Red Riding Hood named Little Red's Wolf was in production during the late 1990s/early 2000s. It was shelved due to being too similar to the then-upcoming film Shrek.
    • Disney has announced plans for several films in the past, however they weren't specified as either live action or animated (though signs point towards the latter): an adaptation of Don Quixote, an adaptation of The Nightingale, a film set in Africa called The Song of Sundiata, a film about birds called The Last Songbird, and a film about apes helping British soldiers during World War II called Scruffy.
    • A film alternatively titled My Peoples, Angel and Her No Good Sister, and A Few Good Ghosts was in development in the 2000s. It would have been set to a bluegrass score and featured the voices of Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin. The plot would have been about a family of ghosts possessing various wooden figures, and it would have employed Medium Blending: the physical characters would be traditionally-animated while the wooden figures would have been in CGI. Unfortunately, Disney's decision to abandon traditional animation causes the project to be cancelled in November 2003, shortly before the Florida studio that was making the film closed in January 2004.
    • In the 2000s industry rumors existed that Disney wanted to remake several of their classic films in CGI. That ultimately never happened, but in the 2010s they began doing just that except in live-action.
    • A musical based on the life of Marco Polo was announced at one point but it never made it that far into development. It would have had songs by Stephen Weiner and Glenn Slater.
    • After 101 Dalmatians, a film about a chicken called Chanticleer and the Fox: A Chaucerian Tale was in production. It was cancelled and instead The Jungle Book was released.
  • The film adaptation of Tailchaser's Song has become this. Announced in 2011, it's stated to be an All-CGI Cartoon adaptation. It was supposedly going for a 2016 release however nothing has been heard of it for years.
  • This page gives details about a number of animated films and shorts from 2007, including the concept for something named Bones Story by Pierre Coffin (one of Despicable Me's creators), and a CG movie about Crazy Frog, the infamous ringtone mascot from the mid 2000s, that was to be preceded by 52 one-minute shorts. None of them were ultimately made.
  • A trailer released by Sony back in 2014 revealed plans for a Sly Cooper feature film slated for a 2016 release. Due to a lack of new footage or information combined with how Ratchet & Clank bombed at the box office, many fans speculated that it was pulled altogether. In June of 2017, the film was confirmed cancelled. It was instead being reworked into a cartoon series.
  • Disney and Mandeville Films announced a live-action/CGI hybrid adaptation of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers in 2014, to be directed by advertisement director Robert Rugan. Exactly nothing else has been heard about the project since then.
  • Heathcliff:
    • Heathcliff: Bad Kitty was an All-CGI Cartoon film meant to revitalize the franchise. Only the initial teaser is known to exist despite distribution rights being discussed and it having a $5 million budget. Bad Kitty was supposed to come out in 2011 however it and its cartoon series have seemingly been quietly canceled.
    • Waterman Productions (who produced Casper, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Stuart Little) made a deal in 2012 to make a live action/CGI hybrid film of Heathcliff. Nothing has been heard since.
  • Fox announced an adaptation of the Maxis Studios video game Spore in 2009, a year after the game was released, with Blue Sky Studios producing and Chris Wedge directing. There have been no subsequent announcements since then, and with the underperformance of the later spin-off Darkspore, its future is in doubt.
  • An untitled Nicktoons crossover movie directed by Jared Hess was in development, but as of April 2016, nothing has been heard of it since then.
  • Blue Sky Studios:
    • They've had a Mutts adaptation in the works several years.
    • There was a bird-themed film in development in the early 2010s. Aside from concept art, nothing else has surfaced. It may have evolved into Spies in Disguise, which stars pigeons.
  • Disneytoon Studios:
    • A project simply known as GHOST PROJECT was cancelled early in development. Judging from concept art it involved late 19th century to early 20th century ghosts.
    • Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams was meant to be one in a series of Disney Princess: Enchanted Tales films. A sequel was well into development and had a trailer showing that it involved Mulan and Cinderella characters, but ultimately it never came out.
    • Many Disney sequels were cancelled in 2009 when Disney put a stop to their direct-to-video sequels. This included Chicken Little, Pinocchio, and The Aristocats sequels.
  • Ralph Bakshi liked to talk about doing a sequel to Wizards from time to time, which has been stonewalled due to numerous other projects Bakshi had in the pipeline and 20th Century Fox not wanting to collaborate with Bakshi following the catastrophic bomb Cool World. By 2015, Bakshi had a screenplay for Wizards II and with The Last Days of Coney Island finally completed, Bakshi seemed to be ready to start work on the sequel. Two years later, however, Fox was bought out, along with the Wizards IP, by Disney. Between Bakshi's utter dislike towards Disney and his deteriorating health, it's not clear whether or not a Wizards sequel will ever be made.
  • Sony Pictures Animation:
    • Sony picked up the rights to produce a movie adaptation of Rollercoaster Tycoon in 2010. Nothing else has been heard from it since.
    • Sony put the All-CGI Cartoon film adaptation of Popeye on hold after director Genndy Tartakovsky left the film's production. He cited Sony Pictures' Executive Meddling as a result of the hacking scandal as a reason for leaving the film, irritated that despite very positive reception to the film's test reel Sony's executives would not give the go ahead to start production. Several years later, King Features commissioned Wildbrain to produce a new web cartoon called Popeye's Island Adventures in December 2018, suggesting that Sony's rights to the character expired and that the film had been canned for good.
    • The setback of Popeye initially allowed Genndy to move onto developing his original film, Can You Imagine?. However, there was no further news since its annoucement and he later confirmed its cancellation on July 2017.
  • Fox picked up the movie rights to Mr. Men in early 2015. As of this writing (February 2019), no new information has come out. Additionally, Disney is set to take over Fox that year, leaving the film in uncharted waters.
  • Sanrio announced a Hello Kitty movie in January 2015 with a tentative release date of 2019. However, Sanrio didn't even start production until they licensed the rights to New Line Cinema in March 2019. Beau Flynn is attached as producer.
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