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Executive Meddling / Animated Films

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You can get ink out of a suit, but you can't always keep the suits away from the ink.

  • Film, Film, Film parodies this. At the end of the production, there is little left of writer's original work.
  • Cool World was originally supposed to be about half-doodle/half-human Debbie Dallas, out to kill her human father for having sex with her cartoon mother. Paramount executive Frank Mancuso, Jr. had the script secretly rewrote handed back to Ralph Bakshi, changing the animated horror/thriller story to a Who Framed Roger Rabbit clone about an artist getting trapped in the comic book he created when he was in prison and his creation, Holly Would, having sex with him so she can become human and unleash the cartoon creations into the real world. Bakshi also intended to have Drew Barrymore as the female lead, but instead they stuck him with Kim Basinger, who thought that it was a children's movie.
    • Basinger's attitude helped push the rewrite because she thought kids should be able to watch the movie. Bakshi tried to convince her that this wasn't the kind of film she thought it was, but the producer agreed with her and arranged the rewrite behind Bakshi's back.
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  • Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings was originally going to be a trilogy before becoming a theoretical Two-Part Trilogy. Then these execs insisted on changing Saruman to Aruman but that didn't remain consistent; then they insisted on calling it The Lord of the Rings instead of The Lord of the Rings: Part I, assuming the audience wouldn't see half a movie; and finally, they rushed the film out the door. Even after the film was a box-office success, they didn't greenlight the sequels.
  • Happy Feet originally involved a subplot regarding actual extraterrestrial aliens, whose presence was made gradually more and more known throughout, and who were planning to siphon off the planet's resources gradually, placing the humans in the same light as the penguins. At the end, through the plight of the main character, their hand is stayed, and instead, first contact is made. This was chopped out during the last year of production at the behest of the studio executives, and has yet to see the light of day in a finished form, although concept art is available, and certain shots from these sequences do remain in the film, those of space being the most prominent, having become instead a constant visual motif. The film would've been somewhat longer, by extension. This also explains the bizarre closing credits, in which the names of the cast and crew were displayed over various planets and stars.
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  • The Black Cauldron had nearly twenty minutes cut off the finished film, courtesy of then newly-installed Disney Studios chief Jeffery Katzenberg, before it hit theaters, causing obvious skips in the soundtrack.
  • Toy Story: Disney Studios head Jeffrey Katzenberg continually pushed for Pixar to make the film more adult and cynical, which led Woody into being a Jerkass and the main form of humor being based off of insults. The result backfired, but in a positive way; after a screening for the Disney executives known as "The Black Friday Incident", Roy Disney declared it the worst thing he'd ever seen, while company president Peter Schneider wanted the entire film scrapped. Katzenberg realized that he had a negative effect on the film's production after a discussion with Thomas Schumacher, and Pixar was given two weeks to rewrite the film as they saw fit.
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  • Aladdin: Robin Williams signed on to do the voice of the character Genie on the conditions that his name wasn't used in advertisements, that the ads didn't feature the Genie alone, and ads did not feature him in over 25% of the space. (He had a prior commitment premiering around the same time and didn't want it to color people's perception of him.) As the Disney executives realized the Genie was the soul of the movie, the second condition was promptly discarded note , and by the time of Academy Award nominations, the first as well.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Executives from both Disney and Warner Bros. animation studios mandated that their characters could only be used as long as they received the exact same amount of screen time as their competitors, hence why Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are always on-screen together.
  • The Emperor's New Groove started out as a Prince and Pauper movie called Kingdom of the Sun, which would have been a full-on musical with a serious tone akin to Beauty and the Beast. Its overly long production time, poor reception from test audiences, and the lackluster performances of Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame led to Disney halting production and forcing the team to retool the movie.
  • In a positive example, The Lion King was going to have a total Downer Ending akin to Hamlet, but it was forced to be rewritten because the executives at Disney didn't like it.
    • Likewise, after an early version of Mufasa’s death scene was shown to Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg, he pointed to his dry eye and said, “See this? I’m not crying!” A more positive example than many, since whatever version they showed to him, the scene in the finished film stands among Disney's all-time biggest Tear Jerkers.
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride:
    • Several short, but important scenes were axed, including the original (much more emotionally charged) last moments of Nuka and Zira. The reason for the cuts were due to them being perceived as not child-friendly.
    • The idea that Kovu was actually Scar's son was dropped to merely being hinted at. This was done so that Kovu & Kiara wouldn't be Kissing Cousins by the end.
  • Flushed Away:
    • Aardman Animation originally pitched the movie to DreamWorks as being about pirates, but they claimed that there was no market for pirate films and were forced to modernize the idea.
    • The singing/whistling slugs that recur regularly in the movie were originally just in one scene, but the producers apparently thought it was comedy gold and insisted that if a significant amount of time had passed without any big laughs, they were to slot in the slugs in some way. The experience working with DreamWorks (along with the poor box-office receipts) was enough to make Aardman Animation break off from them completely and later join Sony Pictures, who eventually greenlit the pirates project Aardman wanted to do (The Pirates! Band of Misfits).
  • The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: DreamWorks originally wanted Wallace's voice actor to be changed to a well-known American, which Aardman fought against. The issue was eventually dropped, and Aardman got to keep Wallace's voice.
  • Quest for Camelot: According to ex-WBFA personnel such as Lauren Faust, the movie was originally supposed to be akin to Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, being a more adult film and even have a PG-13 rating. Warner Bros. decided that they wanted it to be more like a Disney film instead, so the entire film was rewritten to fall in line.
  • Bolt:
    • An In-Universe example is what kickstarts the film's plot. When the ratings of Bolt's show start going down, executive Mindy Parker tells the director that the show's Target Audience are unhappy with its "predictable" episodes and that if they lose as much as half a rating point, she will fire everyone in the room. The director responds with an episode in which Penny, Bolt's owner, gets captured by their Arch-Enemy. The problem is that Bolt doesn't know it's all just a TV show, so he freaks out and runs away from the studio to track down and "rescue" her. Later, with Bolt still missing, Mindy tells Penny that they have to make a "grown-up" decision of forgetting about Bolt and using a double instead.
    • Almost all of the already completed voice performance of Chloë Grace Moretz were replaced with Miley Cyrus for marketing purposes.
    • The movie was going to be called American Dog, and the plot would've been about a self-centered dog who was stranded in the middle of the Arizona desert, meeting quirky characters and learning the error of his ways. Disney thought it was too similar to Pixar's Cars, and so it was re-tooled into the film we see today.
  • In G.I. Joe: The Movie, Duke was supposed to have died from Serpentor's snake javelin. The executives liked this idea so much they decided to kill off Optimus Prime, too. After the traumatic response from the latter, they quickly backpedaled and made the GI Joe writers change Duke's death to only being in a coma.
  • Ultramarines: According to scriptwriter Dan Abnett, he had no information about the project's budget, the team had different interpretations of his script, and his executives told him what to include and what he could not.
  • Walking with Dinosaurs was originally supposed to be silent movie, with no dialogue or voiceovers. The producers however would not have it as such, and thus voices were dubbed over the finished animation, presumably in an attempt to capture the success of earlier talking dinosaur films like Dinosaur and The Land Before Time.
  • In the mid-50s, a British animation firm adapted Animal Farm for the screen, supplied with copious notes by its mysterious financial backers (namely, the CIA) to make the animals appear worse than the original farmers on every conceivable level, as opposed to a good idea that went awry because of self-serving interests. George Orwell, an ardent socialist, was surely spinning in his grave.
  • Frozen was originally going to be traditionally animated, and first titled "The Snow Queen", then "Anna and the Snow Queen". After The Princess and the Frog under-performed at the box office, they made it CGI and the title was changed to "Frozen" (which actually fits the film's theme more, anyway). Even the Signature Song, "Let It Go", went through a slight lyric change. The third line was originally going to to be "Couldn't keep it in, God knows I tried". It wasn't because they wanted to remove religious references (as some people initially thought), but it didn't want to be considered to be taking the Lord's name in vain. The final line is instead "Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried", which fits better with the song's pattern anyway.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the video game companies had a major say in what their characters can do and not do. Bandai Namco did not like the plan to have Dig Dug be the homeless game hero, forcing them to change it to Q*bert. Nintendo had shown the animators the proper way to have King Bowser hold a cup of coffee and Sega made the animators reanimate the scene where Ralph escapes Hero's Duty and into Sugar Rush because of Sonic the Hedgehog's reaction - Sonic was originally supposed to be scared out of his rings when Ralph's escape pod raced by, but Sega had said that only being hit caused him to do so.note 
  • The worst case of this in an animated film is undeniably Richard Williams' masterpiece, The Thief and the Cobbler, which was outright butchered by the execs. Shelved for years, altered to make it look more like Disney's Aladdin, redrawn by different animators... the film has never gotten the respect it deserves. The only way people know of these injustices are through the effort of film editor Garrett Gilchrist, who compiled multiple versions of the film into a "Recobbled Cut", which he distributes freely online, and through Kevin Schreck's documentary "Persistence Of Vision".
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): While it's unknown if the current development has any, some intense meddling was narrowly avoided during the time Sony Pictures was the distributor, if the Sony hacks and the emails leaked are to be believed. Several script disagreements were revealed, with Amy Pascal (whose knowledge of the show was minimal going by the various questions made) pushing to make the movie more like The Smurfs complete with possible visits to the real world. It remains unknown how far these pushes got, though it's likely they were the reason ties were cut with Sony, and pretty much the entire fanbase agreed a bullet was dodged in the process.
    • Another example happened with the marketing of the movie when it was finally released. Lionsgate forced Hasbro to show tons of ads for the movie on TV, especially on children's channels, but they instead showed more ads for the toys based on the film rather than the film itself as the company requested. This caused the movie to underperform and for Hasbro and Lionsgate to split up.
  • The Transformers: The Movie, being a silver-screen installment of a Merchandise-Driven series, had its fair share of meddling. Most evident in the finished product is the mass death of characters whose toys were no longer sold, though this has the positive side effect of indicating just how much higher the stakes are, with Optimus Prime in particular receiving an appropriately dramatic and emotional send-off that places a major subplot in motion. Another instance of meddling nearly banished Arcee to the cutting-room floor; writer Ron Friedman had a daughter who loved Transformers and knew of other young girls who did as well, so he felt the movie should introduce a female Autobot as a main character for them to relate to. He ended up having to fight to keep Arcee—although Hasbro was fine with female Transformers as supporting characters, they felt a female main character in a "boys' series" lacked marketing potential. While Friedman ultimately won out, Arcee ended up a Toyless Toyline Character regardless. It's rather telling that it took 28 years for a proper G1 Arcee toy to come out (all other Arcee toys released up to that point were either made for other series such as Energon, Animated, or Prime, or were unlicensed third-party toys that use some...interesting names to skirt Hasbro's trademarks, even using these names for characters whom Hasbro does not own the trademark to or can't trademark).
  • The How to Train Your Dragon franchise:
    • How to Train Your Dragon 2 had some executive meddling that the director admitted made the story's narrative suffer. Originally Hiccup's mother, Valka, was intended as the story's main antagonist, being a mirror to Hiccup and Stoick as a pro-dragon human who believed that peaceful coexistence was impossible, but when this was shown to a focus group, they reacted poorly to the concept, forcing a late stage rewrite of the narrative arcs, to the point where you can practically see the welding lines in the script where the new antagonist, Drago, was inserted, and the antagonistic elements of Valka's arc were removed.
    • While it makes sense for T.J. Miller to have been recast for The Hidden World, Dean DeBlois claims that it was primarily the studio's decision to do so.
  • An unusual case occurred with Zootopia. Although the film had been in production for over four years, their internal story walk-through process kept revealing that the dark, "tame-collar" story-line was considered too dark and made the city of Zootopia an unappealing place that the audience did not want Nick or Judy to remain in. Instead of scuttling the project, Disney Animation Executives trusted the development process they had put in place and gave the creative team an opportunity to entirely rework the story just nine months before the scheduled release date. The team came up with shifting to Judy as the main protagonist, replacing the shock collars with the concept of social bias/prejudice, and rallied the animators to overhaul the movie but still make the release date. The result was the second Disney animated feature to cross a billion dollars worldwide making it their most successful animated feature after Frozen.
  • Tim Sheridan, who wrote Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost mentioned that there was debate within WB when they conceived this film whether the monster Asmodeus should be real or not. Apparently the end result having changed several times during production until it was agreed upon there would be both a "supernatural" explanation and a "realistic" explanation. However due to some of the examples listed on the movie's trivia page, one gets the impression some things in the film would have been very different had this trope not been around to forcibly change some events.
  • The DC Animated Movie Universe's very existence was predicated on this.
  • Tony Cervone, the director for SCOOB!, said how he wasn't fond of the fact that, except for Frank Welker as Scooby Doo, the Scooby Doo and Hanna Barbera characters were recast with big name celebrities, which he attributed to studio request.


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