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The Shelf of Movie Languishment

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The movie is finished. The cast and crew have been paid, post-production is done. All it needs is an advertising campaign and to be sent to the theaters. Except it isn't, at least not at the speed most of its completed brethren do.

The act of being "shelved" is one of the oddities of the movie business. There are many reasons that a completed movie is set aside: a matter of timing, Executive Meddling, dissatisfaction with the result, corporate restructuring, unexpected copyright problems, etc. It can last anywhere from a couple months to forever.

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Compare Keep Circulating the Tapes (where the rights holders don't release copies for purchase after broadcast), Ashcan Copy (where the work was produced only to maintain the rights and was never intended for wide publication), Development Hell (where the work is never completed or takes an extraordinarily long time to complete), Missing Episode (where the work is released, but lost afterwards) and Sequel Gap (where the movie is made usually quickly but a long time since the last installment). See also Release Date Change, though that one doesn't have only delays.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Castle in the Sky was originally dubbed and prepared for a home video release in the US in 1998, and trailers for it appeared on various Disney VHS tapes. However, because of the surprise success of Kiki's Delivery Service on video, Disney decided to rethink their plan for the film. They planned on releasing it in theaters first, and they re-recorded the film's musical score with the original composer. However, after the disappointment of Princess Mononoke's theatrical release, Disney once again decided to rethink how to release Castle in the Sky, and put it on hold again. The film sat on the shelf until 2003 when it was finally released by Disney on video and DVD after only being screened at a few children's festivals.
  • The North American license for InuYasha: The Final Act was originally announced by Viz Media in mid-2009, around the time the anime began airing in Japan. The English dub was completed by the end of 2010, according to the actors in it. However, it didn't see a home video release until the end of 2012, over three years after its initial announcement.
  • The third Rebuild of Evangelion movie was screened in some theaters by Funimation in 2013, and was slated to be released to DVD/Blu-ray in February 2014, with pre-orders going up. However, the release was indefinitely put on hold, with widely varying explanations (from the booking of more screenings, to Studio Khara wanting more involvement), and the English voice actors discussed coming back to re-record some of their lines. There were even rumors of the film being snatched from Funimation and given to someone else with a completely new dub. The film came out on Blu-ray in February 2016 from FUNimation, two years after its original release date, with an entirely redone English dub and two different subtitle translations. It was later revealed that a representative from Khara had attended the dub's premiere at Otakon, and was horrified at the audience's amused reaction to the film, and blamed it on the localization. FUNimation tried explaining to them that anime convention crowds are usually very energetic, but Khara still forced them to redo the localization from scratch, resulting in a dub that was rather dry compared to what was originally screened. This may have played a part in a new dub with a new script and cast being commissioned for the original Evangelion franchise (which also went down a dry and literal path).
  • 009 RE:Cyborg was announced by Anime Limited for a release in the UK in 2013. The release kept getting delayed, with the English dub having to be completely redone at least once at the request of Production I.G. It finally came out in 2015, and was picked up for US distribution by FUNimation that same year.
  • Around 1968, TMS Entertainment made a 26-episode show called Chingo Muchabei (The Extravagant Muchabei), but it did not air until 1971, where it was burned through by airing the episodes daily during weekdays for over six weeks. The reason for the delay was because the show was filmed in black and white, and Japanese television has been heavily transitioning to color by then (even though TMS made at least two more black and white shows after this, both of which aired on schedule). Because of the delay, this show ended up being the last black and white anime to air on television.
  • The Funimation dub for the Buu saga of Dragon Ball Z Kai began recording in 2013, with plans to release it in 2014 alongside the Japanese airing. Come 2014, however, and there were no signs of the dub's release. Even the dub's cast was confused, stating that they had already recorded all their lines. The dub wouldn't see a release for a few more years, eventually premiering on Toonami at the start of 2017. Many have speculated as a result that Toei Animation was simply withholding the dub's release until the previous three arcs finished airing on Toonami. It's especially confusing though, since it was being put together specifically for overseas broadcasts (it only aired in Japan because of the unexpected cancellation of Toriko opening a timeslot), since the first four arcs did better outside of Japan than in, Sean Schemmel and Kyle Hebert announced they'd started recording the dub in 2014, and seeing as how the Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ movies came out in the meantime, you'd assume that they'd air, or release it on home media, to tie in, but nope.
  • Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was released in Japan in 1989 but even though it was an U.S. co-production intended for Western audiences from the beginning — and the Nintendo game adaptation made it to the United States on time — it would not be released in that country until 1992 as one of several foreign and/or shelved animated features that were rushed to that market to capitalize on the success of Beauty and the Beast the previous winter.
  • The Funimation dub for the Punk Hazard and Dressrosa arcs of One Piece suffered from languishment in different ways. Interviews conducted in 2017 showed evidence they were working on Punk Hazard (Luci Christian mentioned body swapping), the credits for Punk Hazard episodes list Joel McDonald as director (he stepped down in 2018) and Kellen Goff mentioned on Twitter that he recorded lines for Blue Gilly the same time he first recorded lines for Overhaul in My Hero Academia (in 2018). Punk Hazard and Dressrosa dubs didn't come out until 2020. Though evidence also exists that Dressrosa was only partly done, most evident in Johnny Yong Bosch taking over as Sabo following Vic Mignogna's termination.
    • This may have also been the case for the TV Specials 3D2Y and Episode of Sabo (both seeing release in 2019). The former featured Grant James as Zeff (he retired from voice acting in 2018) and the latter featured Ed Blaylock as Sengoku (he passed away in 2017).

    Comic Books 
  • Going Steady with Peggy, the first comic drawn by Al Feldstein for EC Comics, was canceled prior to publication because of a sudden plunge in demand for Follow the Leader imitations of Archie Comics.

    Live-Action TV — Fiction 
  • The Wolf is an especially odd case even by the Chinese censors' standards. The series was filmed in 2017, but the censors refused to pass it. It was shelved for three years before they finally agreed to let it air. After all that, many viewers watched it mainly out of curiosity to see what the censors found so objectionable... and were bewildered to discover it contained nothing that could possibly have offended even the most hypercritical censor. It remains a mystery why this show was delayed for so long.
  • At Last the 1948 Show (1967) was so-called because ITV supposedly kept shows sitting on shelves for months or years before finally deciding to air them. (Not to mention the fact that ITV didn't actually go on air until 1955.)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2003) was initially to air in February 2002, and even early promotions (which were included on the first video releases of Spy Kids) stated it. It didn't air in the United States until May 2004; it had aired in Canada a year earlier.
  • A remake of the miniseries Sybil was filmed in 2007 and got an European release that year, but it wasn't aired in the US until it was burned off one Saturday night in June 2008.
  • NBC picked up Day One, a show that involves apartment residents banding together after an unknown cataclysm destroys the world. It was supposed to air in 2010 with 13 episodes, but was cut to four episodes, then turned into a TV movie (the NBC head said that they would make a TV series if the movie did well). Eventually NBC lost hope in the series/movie and never aired it. The only footage people can see is the trailer.
  • One of the most extreme cases ever: The Frankie Howerd-starring BBC sitcom When Churchill Said to Me, set during the Second World War, was made in 1982. Various reasons, notably the Falklands War, saw it shelved. It eventually turned up on satellite in 1992 and wasn't shown by the BBC until 2000, long after Howerd's death. (Even then, they cut the six-episode season in half with a six month gap in the middle.)
  • The Muppets: A short pilot revival was filmed, but nothing ever came out of it due to the 2007 writers' strike. However, the mockumentary concept of that pilot was reformatted into an ABC show simply titled The Muppets, which lasted one season.
  • Us & Them was an American remake of Gavin & Stacey to be aired on Fox in 2013/2014. It originally was supposed to have 13 episodes before getting cut to 7 episodes. Fox decided to not air it at all, but the episodes can be seen in South Africa and Korea.
  • The third season of MTV's Scream: The TV Series, a reboot with a new cast, was entirely filmed in late 2017 and was supposed to premiere in the spring of 2018, but was delayed following the disgrace of producer Harvey Weinstein, whose name wound up removed from the project. It will finally see release in July of 2019 as a Mini Series titled Scream: Resurrection, after a Channel Hop to VH1.
  • Heathers was set to debut on the Paramount Network in 2018, but was shelved indefinitely after the February 2018 Florida school shooting due to its Black Comedy take on socially progressive and liberal topics, teen bullying, violence, and murder. Paramount Network later burned off the series, heavily edited, over five nights beginning October 25, 2018.
  • According to this article, A Year at the Top was filmed in 1974 but didn't air until 1977. In the meantime, Greg Evigan had to turn down a role in Welcome Back, Kotter because he was contractually tied to A Year at the Top.
  • The Blackish episode "Please, Baby, Please" was filmed in November 2017 and ultimately shelved by ABC. The episode, which condemned Donald Trump's attacks on critics of racism and police brutality in the wake of the NFL "kneeling" controversy, was shelved for allegedly being too "politically charged." However, critics of the shelving, including Blackish showrunner Kenya Barris, felt that ABC was becoming too sympathetic to Republicans and less sympathetic towards Democrats (the network had allowed Roseanne Barr to write her Republican affiliation into the Roseanne revival), and such indignation led to Barris leaving the show at the end of the season. Ultimately, Hulu streamed the episode in August 2020, in which by that point anti-racism protests had become widespread in the wake of several high-profile murders of black people by cops.
  • The Disney Channel series The Jersey wrapped up filming in April 2001, but it took over 2 years for the final season to air with the final episode airing in March of 2004, almost 3 years after wrapping production.
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    Live-Action TV — Non-Fiction 
  • All My Babies' Mamas was set to premiere on Oxygen in early 2013, but was cancelled in the wake of public outcry and a subsequent petition.
  • CBS ordered Arranged Marriage in mid-2009, but for unknown reasons, it never aired. Come 2012, and a similar show named 3 debuts; that series nonetheless bombed in the ratings and was axed after two airings.
  • Beyond Tomorrow, the documentary about The Tomorrow People (1973), was completed in 1997, but didn't see release until 2005.
  • Blonde Charity Mafia, a docusoap about three charity organizers in Washington, D.C., was originally developed at Lifetime before ending up on The CW. It was originally scheduled to air in summer 2009, but delayed to early 2010 before being shelved permanently. However, it did air on MTV channels in Australia and New Zealand in its entirety.
  • Buy It Now was originally slated to be part of ABC's summer 2006 lineup; however, eBay pulled out of the series' participation before it debuted, resulting in its cancellation.
  • Do You Trust Me?, a CBS game show hosted by Tucker Carlson, shot six episodes in 2007, but didn't make it to the air at all.
  • In the Dark, a game show produced by Meridian and hosted by Julian Clary, was set to run on The WB in 1996. Although a promo was aired (as was an affiliate primer on the show, the show itself was abruptly replaced by a rerun of The Wayans Bros.. UKGameShows claims that a whole series was made for The WB, but that might be false info. It was remade for Germany the following year as the one-off Zappenduster.
  • ABC announced Let's Dance in 2009, only to cancel it in November due to casting difficulties.
  • Marie, a syndicated talk show hosted by Marie Osmond, was scheduled to debut in the fall of 2009. However, despite being cleared in 80% of the country, it was withdrawn by Program Partners over a month before it even debuted, leading to several affiliates dropping the series as well. However, in 2012, it finally made it to air on the Hallmark Channel.
  • There have been two versions of Match Game that were picked up but not aired:
    • In 2004, Fox ordered What the Blank!, which was more faithful to the 1970s version but added a "interview on the street" segments, therefore making it Match Game meets Street Smarts. It was scrapped not long thereafter, and it's unknown how many episodes were actually made.
    • Another revival was announced by TBS in 2008, but beyond being mentioning in subsequent press conferences, nothing has been heard of that series ever since. Match Game was finally revived for ABC in 2016.
  • Our Little Genius was a game show produced by Mark Burnett and hosted by Kevin Pollak, that was supposed to premiere in January 2010 with American Idol as a lead-in. However, a week before its debut, it was pulled at Burnett's request due to concerns about integrity; Fox would eventually shelve the series for good.
  • Surprise with Jenny McCarthy was announced in May 2012, only to be scrapped in January 2013.
  • The CW ordered the reality game series The Frame in late 2010, and nothing has been heard of it since.
  • After being picked up by Fox in 2007, When Women Rule the World got delayed three times; it was planned to debut that summer, then pushed back to early 2008, then to June 2008, before the network ended up pulling the plug on the series for good. However, the United Kingdom did get their own version of the show on Channel 4 in September 2008.
  • ABC axed Welcome to the Neighborhood before it aired in the summer of 2005, likely due to its inappropriate subject matter.
  • Who's Your Daddy?, another Fox reality show that involved an adopted woman trying to identify her biological father among a group of impostors, technically did air once, but was shown as a "special", not a "series premiere". The 90-minute episode tanked in the ratings, causing Fox to shelve the remaining five episodes, though they did later air on FOX's Reality TV spin-off cable channel FOX Reality. Not helping matters was that WRAZ, Raleigh's Fox affiliate, refused to air it at all due to the controversy from adoption rights organizations.

    Music 
  • The Beatles recorded the songs which became the album Let It Be in 1969 but then shelved the whole thing and went back to the studio, producing and releasing Abbey Road in 1969. After Phil Spector dug through the tapes and finished the songs, Let It Be (along with its accompanying film) was released in 1970.
  • When Willie Nelson signed with Atlantic Records in 1973 he recorded two albums worth of material at the same sessions. One was his first "outlaw country" album Shotgun Willie, the other was a gospel album called The Troublemaker. Nelson actually thought The Troublemaker turned out the better of the two, but Atlantic didn't think a gospel album would sell so they shelved it. After releasing one more album on Atlantic (Phases & Stages) he moved to Columbia Records, and Atlantic let him have the master tapes for The Troublemaker, which he finally released on Columbia in 1976.
  • It's common for an artist to record an album for one label, have it go unreleased due to poor performance of its singles, then finally have the album come out once the artist makes it big on another label. Examples:
    • Both Big Kenny and John Rich (then-recently fired from Lonestar) recorded solo albums in the late 1990s. Neither was released until 2005, after the two had become famous as Big & Rich.
    • Due to poor performance of its singles, Marty Stuart's 1988 album Let There Be Country was not released by Columbia Records until he had a few hits under his belt over at MCA in the early 90s.
    • David Ball recorded an album for RCA Records in the 80s, but it wasn't released at the time. After he had a big hit with Thinkin' Problem on Warner (Bros.) Records in 1994, RCA released the album they were holding onto.
    • Motörhead recorded their first album for United Artists, who refused to release it because they considered it poor quality. After the band rose to fame (with a different record company and everyone other than Lemmy replaced), UA released it as On Parole.
  • Sarah Buxton released her debut single "Innocence" in 2006. It and her next two singles didn't do very well, so her album sat for four years before it was released (although she did put out an EP in the interim). Then her label closed right after the album finally got out.
  • Elvis Costello recorded the Cover Album Kojak Variety in 1990 but didn't release it until 1995.
  • Elton John recorded a 10-song album in 2012 with producer T-Bone Burnett, as the followup to 2010's critically acclaimed, Burnett-produced collaboration with Leon Russell, The Union. It was made as a lean, "back-to-basics" work with emphasis on his piano-playing, largely built around the piano-bass-drums sound Elton adopted in concert in the early 1970's, prior to his successful "glam period". After attempting a May 2012 release date, it was moved to 2013 to allow for better promotional potential. In the meantime, he and lyricist Bernie Taupin noticed a thematic continuity running through most of the songs, wrote a few new songs and discarded one of the originals. The album title was changed to Voyeur, then back to its original title, The Diving Board. It was released in September 2013, and peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200.
  • The Beach Boys' career-defining masterpiece Smile, in probably the most famous example of this trope in music history, sat around for nearly forty-five years past its intended release date of January 1967, always in different states of completion due to Brian Wilson's obsessive tinkering. The album was finally released to mark the band's fiftieth anniversary in a massive 5 CD's + 2 45's + 2 LP's box. (Seven years prior, Wilson had done a solo version of Smile that greatly influenced the eventual Beach Boys release).
  • Eleven years after Chumbawamba's 1992 album Jesus H. Christ was buried by a mountain of legal issues, the band announced on their website that they would be releasing it in some form or another in the near future. This never happened. (Given that it likely would've been shorn of its samples — and thus would've resembled the Shhh album again — this was probably for the best.)
  • Black Bastards by KMD, a group featuring a young MF Doom as Zev Love X, was ready for release in 1993, but was shelved until 2001 due to the label's fear of the album's racial content. By the time it was finally released, DOOM's brother Subroc was dead and DOOM had begun his more well-known solo career.
  • Neil Young's Tonight's the Night was recorded in 1973, but shelved by the record label because they thought it was too uncommercial. It was eventually released as submitted to the label two years later, and while it didn't sell well to begin with, it was almost immediately canonised as a masterpiece.
    • Homegrown, the follow-up to Tonight's the Night, spent 45 years after its 1975 recording kicking around in stasis (due to the raw honesty of its recounting of Neil Young's separation from Carrie Snodgrass making the executives uncertain about its sales potential) before finally being released in 2020.
  • The first Mahavishnu Orchestra's third album was recorded in 1973, but languished in a vault because the band couldn't agree on the value of the album (band leader John McLaughlin always maintained it was the best thing they ever recorded). It was finally released in 1999.
  • Frank Zappa's Läther was submitted to Warner Brothers in 1977, but due to Executive Meddling, was not released as submitted until 1996. The material intended to be released on the four-LP set was instead divided between four albums, one of them itself a double LP set.
  • Johnny Cash's Out Among the Stars was recorded in 1981 and 1984, but the material was shelved by Columbia Records. A small handful of additional recordings were done in 2013 after Cash's death and the album was finally released in 2014.
  • Diana Ross recorded an album titled Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz, after landing the role of Dorothy in the 1978 movie version of the musical. Motown originally intended to release the album about a year after the movie's premiere, but decided against it after the film flopped. It finally saw a digital release in November 2015, exactly one week before NBC televised a new adaptation of The Wiz (which Diana Ross didn't participate in, for the record).
  • The Kentucky Headhunters recorded Meet Me in Bluesland with blues pianist Johnnie Johnson (their second collaboration with him) in 2003, but did not release it until 2015.
  • Prince suddenly cancelled the release of his much-anticipated The Black Album in 1987, after apparently becoming convinced that its content was spiritually evil. As some copies had already been sent out to press reviewers, the album ended up getting bootlegged on a massive scale. Prince finally changed his mind and allowed it to be released in 1994.
    • According to Kevin Smith, Prince had completed over fifty fully-produced music videos with sets and costumes that have never the light of day.
  • British Power Pop group Tonight had their first single "Drummerman" reach number 14 on the British singles charts — they completed an album in 1978, but it was shelved (perhaps because subsequent singles weren't as successful). The album, also titled Drummerman, finally saw release on an independent label in 2010.
  • Fear Factory completed what was meant to be their first album in 1991, and its release was meant to launch a record label founded by its Record Producer, Ross Robinson — the band didn't like the details of their record contract and wouldn't sign it, so the album was shelved. Robinson kept the commercial rights to the recording, so the band used a copy as a demo tape, got signed by Roadrunner Records, and re-recorded eight of its songs for their proper debut, Soul Of A New Machine. Eleven years later, the recordings came out on Roadrunner, unsanctioned by the band, and given the new title Concrete — according to Burton C. Bell, Robinson had sold the album to Roadrunner, who in turn released it when the band broke up one album short of their contractual obligation with the label.
  • Meat Puppets had a few. When Curt Kirkwood announced a solo record in 2004, there were a few tracks listed in a Rolling Stone article. Of the three, only Golden Lies ended up being on the album. Of the others, Enemy Love Song was recorded and released on Kirkwood's website as a single, but was rerecorded by the reunited Meat Puppets in 2007. The other two songs, I'm Not You and Nursery Rhyhm, wouldn't get released until 2009. Golden Lies itself is an example, as it was originally the Title Track to the 2000 era group's debut.
  • Necromandus' debut Orexis Of Death, boasting production by Tony Iommi, was recorded in 1973. The album was shelved when their lead guitarist left the group, only to eventually get an official release in 1999.
  • A pretty tragic example happened to Florida based Alternative Metal band Cinder. They were signed to Geffen Records, had an album all set and ready to be released in 2001 and were even touring to promote it. The problem? Geffen got bought out by Universal, which caused Break Your Silence to suffer continuous delays and eventually not be released (helps that while Cinder got some compensation from the label once they decided to terminate their contract, they did not want to buy the master tapes for $250,000). To add insult to injury, they DID end up releasing one song off the album called "Soul Creation" which ended up charting and having a fairly popular video.
  • Nine Inch Nails' long form music video for their EP Broken (called The Broken Movie) was shelved as Trent Reznor didn't want the extreme graphic content overshadowing the music itself; the individual music videos aside from 'Gave Up' (which is apart of the plotline of the video's wraparound segments) were later made available on the second tape of the Closure video album. As for The Broken Movie itself, Reznor gave copies of the video to various friends, albiet with certain sections missing, with one copy in particular being circulated in bootleg form for years before a DVD-quality leak was uploaded to the internet (which Reznor implied to have done himself in a blogpost around the time). The movie was also breifly uploaded to NIN's official Vimeo account in both 2013 and 2014, but both times it was removed.

    Pinball 
  • Krull, based on the 1983 Cult Classic Science Fantasy movie, was a completed game, with full playfield designs, artwork, and sound effects completed. However, the high cost of the game (due to its use of a second, full-sized playfield underneath the main level) and the box-office failure of the movie caused Gottlieb management to get cold feet and kill the project. Only 10 prototypes exist, and are highly sought after by collectors.
  • Similar to Big Bang Bar, Capcom's Kingpin was nearly completed and slated to begin production, only for those plans to be derailed when Capcom closed its pinball division. Unlike BBB, however, attempts to license or remake the game have (so far) failed to borne fruit.

    Video Games 
  • Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the PS1 completed development in 1999, but Sunsoft's U.S. division closed down around the time and the game wasn't released until it was picked up by Crave Entertainment in 2001.
  • The Red Star, a PS2 shoot-'em-up based on the comic book of the same name (which was also scheduled for the Xbox, but never released), was finished in 2004, but was canceled when its original publisher (Acclaim) went out of business. It was later picked up by XS Games and released in 2007.
  • The Dead of The Brain 1 & 2, a PC Engine port of two visual novels originally released for the PC-98, was initially scheduled to be released in 1994, but shelved due to the declining support for the PC Engine in Japan. Dead of the Brain was eventually released in 1999 in limited quantities, more than two years after the previous PC Engine release (Hataraku Shojo), giving it the distinction of being the final official game for the system. It also came out a year after the final PC-FX game, which meant that the PC-Engine technically outlived its successor.
  • Archaic Sealed Heat, a visually stunning strategy RPG for the Nintendo DS developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi's studio Mistwalker. An ESRB rating was filed, and an English voice actor for lead character Aisya was cast (Sabra May), but the game flopped hard in Japan, prompting Nintendo to shelve its Western release for good.
  • Sega have a very bad habit of doing this with localized games in order to buff up their financial years.
    • Anarchy Reigns was suffering majorly from this due to Sega incessantly pushing back the release date due to their financial troubles brought on by their long-standing history of bad marketing decisions, delaying the initial Summer 2012 release all the way back to January 2013. This is not the first time they've done this to PlatinumGames, but this time it's especially noticeable due to the game's heavy emphasis on online multiplayer. Naturally, this doesn't apply to Japan.
    • Bayonetta was released in North America and Europe months after Japan despite all three versions being identical.
    • Persona 5's localization was set for February 2017, which is already well after its September 2016 release in Japan. It was delayed one more time to April 2017 with the dev team claiming it was in part in order to record previously unvoiced lines. Eyebrows were raised when reviews started coming out in March, reviewers implied they actually had the game for weeks, and said unvoiced lines were still unvoiced...
    • Persona 5's localized situation happened again with Yakuza 6, which was planned for March 2018 and then delayed until April. This wasn't a big deal in itself, and a demo came out in February that let everyone enjoy a taste of the game. It then turned out that the demo actually was an accidental upload of the complete game, and the game was just delayed in order to buff the start of Sega's next financial year instead of legitimately not being ready — which is probably what happened to P5 too. Reviews even still came out in March!
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police, the 3D Sam & Max game from LucasArts, was planned for a 2004 release. The game was estimated to be two-thirds to three-fourths finished and it was even rated by the ESRB, but LucasArts chose to cancel it because they didn't think the interest was large enough, and they fired a great majority of their "creative division" as a result.
  • Half-Life's Sega Dreamcast port was cancelled because of the Dreamcast's diminishing sales in America, even though the port was completed. ISOs of the port have been leaked on the Internet, however, and what were to be exclusive addons to that version, Blue Shift and the High-Definition Pack, were released for PC.
  • Rayman Legends was set for a Spring 2013 release as a Wii U exclusive, but after the poor sales of the Wii U exclusive launch title Zombi U, Ubisoft decided that it should be Multi-Platform instead. Instead of releasing the Wii U version for the Spring and the other versions for September, they released the Wii U version alongside the other versions in September.
  • The Neo Geo game Zupapa was all set to be released in 1994, but publisher Face went bankrupt, delaying the game's release for seven years. Two other unreleased Neo Geo games from the same year, Face's Treasure of the Caribbean and Visco Games' Bang Bang Busters, finally had authorized releases by Neo Conception International in 2011.
  • Putty Squad was to have been released in 1994 first for the Amiga 1200, with versions for the SNES and other platforms to follow. The SNES version was the only one released (not counting playable demos), despite nine magazines giving the apparently finished Amiga 1200 version favorable reviews. After nearly two decades of rumors, System 3 finally released the Amiga version at the end of 2013.
  • Hostile Breed, an ambitious Bug War game for the Amiga, was finished and reviewed in several gaming magazines in mid-1992 shortly before its developer, Palace Software, went bankrupt. A copy of the full game was found in 2010 and released by Amiga Games That Weren't.
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game was only a few months from its release date of October 2008 when Activision, who had acquired the game's originally slated publisher, decided against releasing it. Atari picked up the publishing rights and released the game in June 2009.
  • Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons: A 3D remake of the arcade version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge (albeit it only resembles the arcade original in a vague sense) developed by Baruson Interactive was scheduled to be released through the Xbox 360 marketplace in 2011, but had trouble getting approval from Microsoft's quality assurance division (and for good reasons). It was eventually released in early 2013, a few months after the release of the much better received Double Dragon Neon, becoming the most critically panned digital only release on the 360.
  • Ubisoft currently has a Wii U-exclusive party game that they have already completed, but refuse to release, most likely owing to the complete failure of the Wii U in the marketplace; short of Ubisoft porting the game to the Nintendo Switch, it's unlikely that this game will ever see a release.
  • Chantze's Stone, a LaserDisc-based arcade game by Data East that was scheduled to be released in 1985, but was shelved once the popularity of FMV-based games started dying off. When the genre saw a brief resurgence during the early '90s, once optical media started taking off as a home media, it saw a release on the LaserActive as Triad Stone and on the 3DO and Sega Saturn as Strahl.
  • Gravity Rush 2 lost its December 2016 release date because of a domino effect from other PS4 games hitting speedbumps. First, Final Fantasy XV got pushed from September 2016 to the end of November, which was already a week away from Yakuza 6. Finally, Sony's own The Last Guardian had a last minute delay and took GR2's release date, bumping it to January 2017 despite development being complete on schedule. FFXV getting bumped caused Square Enix to push Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 from December to January too.
  • There's a surprising amount of available info for this trope regarding Nintendo games. The company's most common reason for this is simply to spread out their game lineup more evenly throughout the year and prevent their own games from cannibalizing sales from each other.
    • Mother: The English localization of the first game, titled Earth Bound (a title Nintendo later reused for Mother 2), had a finished translation and marketing strategy that were never released due to a variety of factors, namely the impending release of the Super NES. Fortunately for fans of the series, the localized prototype ROM has been around on the internet for a while. And an official release, EarthBound Beginnings, hit the Virtual Console in 2015.
    • Nintendo Puzzle League for the Nintendo Gamecube. It was going to be the first time Panel de Pon would hit the States without having been rebranded as a different property, and the game got an ESRB rating, but Nintendo chose to ax the release for whatever reason.
    • Star Fox 2 was set for release in 1996, but was delayed and eventually cancelled due to the upcoming release of the Nintendo 64. A near-finished prototype ROM from 1995 was leaked online in 1999, but it finally got an official release as part of the SNES Classic in September 2017.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was released in Japan in April 2000, and the localization was finished that July. They sat on it until the holidays in order to go up against the PS2.
    • Kirby Super Star came out in March 1996, but has a 1995 copyright date.
    • Pokémon Red and Green similarly were supposed to be out in December 1995, but at the last minute got bumped to 1996. This is why the series's copyright seen at the start of every game officially lists both 1996 and 1995.
    • The North American version of Fire Emblem Fates has a November 2015 build date. It didn't come out for three more months in order to bolster the 3DS's 2016 lineup.
    • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was set and ready to go for November 2013, but got bumped to February 2014 specifically because 2013 already had a stacked holiday lineup for Nintendo's consoles, while otherwise the Wii U's 2014 would have had absolutely nothing until Mario Kart 8, which came out at the end of May. This actually worked out, since the game uses Donkey Kong's birthday as a framing device and 2014 was the 20th anniversary of the Country sub-series.
    • This has become especially obvious starting in the Wii U and 3DS era when preloads for digital games became more common. Multiple Nintendo games have been available for preload months before their official release date. Infamously, Paper Mario: Color Splash's preload was an accidental unlocked version of the complete game two weeks ahead of its intended release.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD was spotted on eShop servers in October 2015. It came out in March 2016 in order to celebrate the game's 10th anniversary and the series' 30th.
    • Ever Oasis and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions were also uploaded to eShop servers in April 2017, despite coming out respectively in June/July and October.
    • Yoshi's Woolly World was notoriously delayed in North America until October 2015. Europe and Australia got the game in June, four months earlier, and the two versions are virtually identical. It looks like this is happening again with Yoshi's Crafted World, which officially comes out March 29, 2019. It was uploaded to the eShop in December 2018. Funny enough though, this is probably happening for exact opposite reasons — Woolly World to fill out a slim holiday lineup in NA, and Crafted World to get away from the four-hit combo of Super Mario Party, Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.
    • Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore, an enhanced port of the original Wii U game, was announced in the September 2019 Direct to be available in January 2020. It was available to preload that very day. For comparison, Luigi's Mansion 3, which was announced and releases first (in Halloween 2019), wasn't ready to preload until 2 weeks later!
  • Final Fantasy Type-0 had a full localization, complete with English voice recording, underway in late 2011/early 2012. The PSP version never saw the light of day outside Japan, but the localized script and English VA track were used for Type-0 HD in 2015.
  • Atlus's lack of a dedicated European branch or partner caused this to happen to their games for a long time. Shin Megami Tensei IV is the most notorious example. It had the fastest turnaround of any Atlus game from Japan to NA, coming out only two months apart. The European release took well over a year with no information, and finally came out in October 2014. Using the exact same English localization as NA with no other language options added in the wait, and digital only.
  • Vanillaware's debut game, Odin Sphere, was completed in 2006, but publisher Atlus chose not to release it until spring 2007 because Persona 3 was such a breakout hit for them that they didn't want to compete with its sales. As a result, Vanillaware's second game, GrimGrimoire, which was instead published by Nippon Ichi, actually came out first.
  • The aggressive inline skating game Rolling ended up in limbo for several months after developer Rage Software went defunct in early 2003, when the game was nearing completion. It took publisher SCi assembling a team of former Rage devs to finish off the game (under the name "Indy Games") for it to finally release in October that year.
  • The development team for Devil Engine has said that the the Devil Engine Ignition Expansion Pack (which includes, among other things, a completely new campaign) is completed, and it was supposed to be released in winter of 2019 (i.e. December 2019). Unfortunately, with publisher Dangen Entertainment taking the rights to the game away from developer Protoculture Games, it remains to be seen when and if Ignition will finally get released.
  • Rodea: The Sky Soldier was completed by developer Prope for the Wii in 2011, but publisher Kadokawa Games did not release it for over four years in order to create a Nintendo 3DS tie-in, which promptly entered Development Hell. When it finally finished development in 2015, the Wii U had long since superseded the Wii, leading Kadokawa to port the 3DS version to the Wii U, and leave Prope's original version only as a bonus feature for first-run copies.
  • Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans was a LucasArts-style adventure game created by Blizzard Entertainment and Animation Magic (mostly infamous for being the guys behind the cutscenes for The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games) that was meant to be an official sequel to Warcraft II. The game was around 90% complete and set for a release date in late 1997 when Blizzard decided it wasn't up to their standards, and ordered the game to be reworked. Conflict between the two companies meant even further delays, leading to its cancelation in 1998. The plot was instead reworked into a book, and the game was mostly forgotten until it was publicly released in 2016 by a former Animation Magic employee.

    Web Original 
  • In June 2013, Brad Jones announced his upcoming film Shot on Shitteo, a No Budget tribute to 80's exploitation films made on VHS tapes. However, over the course of production in 2015, Jones discovered that the film's lead actor, Jake Norvell, was having an affair with Jones's girlfriend. When Norvell pompously bragged about it, Jones promptly fired him from the film, which became unreleaseable both due to Norvell's contract and the fact that about 5% of his scenes were not completed. Despite an attempt to resume production, which included a teaser trailer promising a 2017 release, Jones later announced that the film was no longer in active development and he had no plans one way or the other regarding its release. He has since referred to Shitteo as his personal The Day the Clown Cried, suggesting he's settled on never releasing it.

    Western Animation 
  • The Animated Adaptation of The Blues Brothers was cancelled by UPN a few months before it would have aired in the fall of 1998, due to the box office failure of Blues Brothers 2000.
  • Bob's Beach. This rather obscure German-Luxembourgish series was already finished and ready to be released in 2005, but for unknown reasons it would never see the light of day until 2012 when Oznoz hosted the two seasons of the show, and it aired on German TV in 2014. The outdated CGI and the 4:3 format of the show (as opposed to 16:9) practically prove that the show is an Unintentional Period Piece from the 2000's.
  • A Captain America cartoon was scheduled to premiere on Fox Kids in the fall of 1998, but the bankruptcy of Marvel Comics meant it was not to be.
  • ChalkZone:
    • The first season was completed in 1999 and was set for a Fall 2000 premiere date (all of season one's episodes have a copyright notice of 2000). Besides the first episode premiering as a sneak peek on December 31, 1999, Nickelodeon held it off until 2002.
    • The fourth (and final) season stopped premiering in June 2005 with six episodes left. It wasn't until June 2008 that Nick decided to burn-off the remaining episodes at six in the morning on Saturdays without any advertisement. This only applies to the US airings — the remaining six season four episodes aired with the rest of the season overseas.
  • TBS ordered an animated Buddy Cop Show entitled The Cops, starring Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks, as a 2018 midseason replacement. Like I Love You, Daddy, the show was yanked before its release after C.K.'s sexual misconduct came to light. Close Enough, an unrelated show meant to premiere in the same block as a companion series, never made it to TV, being held back to become HBO Max's first original adult animated series two years later (and surprisingly had more episodes greenlit afterward).
  • The last six episodes of Dora the Explorer were completed sometime in 2014, but didn't air in the United States until 2019, due to the show's waning popularity and the rise of PAW Patrol's own popularity. This is made more awkward thanks to some of these episodes being intended as the set up to the spin-off show Dora and Friends: Into the City!... with that show having ended its own run in 2017.
  • All of the second season episodes of The Fairly OddParents were produced in 2001 and were planned to start airing in the United States during that autumn, but the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks caused them to be delayed well until early spring of 2002 (though in Australia they aired in the original timeframe as planned.) This also led to Seasons 3 and 4, and the TV movies Abra Catastrophe (produced in 2002) and Channel Chasers (produced in 2003) to air a whole year after being produced in its' own country!
  • The planned Garbage Pail Kids Saturday Morning Cartoon, 13 episodes of which were actually made, was cancelled by CBS before it premiered in 1987. It was released Direct to Video in 2006.
  • Hey Arnold!
    • "Parents Day", a season 3 episode that aired in the UK in late 1998, didn't end up airing in the US until May 2000, as part of season 5.
    • Season 1 had 26 episodes produced for it, but only 20 were actually used. Out of the remaining six episodes, five aired at the end of season 2, and one aired in late season 3. This created some continuity errors, since Arnold's teacher Miss Slovak was Put on a Bus and replaced at the beginning of season 2, meaning Slovak was still appearing after Mr. Simmons stepped in.
    • Copyright dates indicate season 5 had most of its episodes completed in 2000, and the final two episodes "April Fool's Day" and "The Journal" (an hour-long special) in 2001. Eight aired in Spring 2000 (not counting the aforementioned "Parents Day"), three in January 2001, five plus "The Journal" in 2002, three in 2003, and the final episode was not aired until June 2004. The commercial failure of the Hey Arnold! The Movie in 2002 may have contributed to this.
  • Fox ordered an adult comedy series entitled Murder Police for its 2013-2014 season. However, the series was ultimately shelved months before then, with most (if not all) of its episodes fully completed.
  • The Simpsons: "The Man Who Came to Be Dinner" was supposed to be the season 24 finale, but it got pulled because the production crew felt the episode's plot would be better used for a sequel to The Simpsons Movie. They later changed their mind and it aired in the middle of season 26. (A similar occurrence happened during production of "Kamp Krusty".)
  • Star Wars: Detours, a comedic take on the Star Wars universe, with Seth Green as a showrunner. The full series was completed and a trailer was released in 2013, around when Star Wars: The Clone Wars was finishing its run. Unfortunately, that was about the same time Disney bought Lucasfilm. Reportedly, Disney didn't want younger audiences to be introduced to classic Star Wars characters via goofy parodies before seeing them in the new film trilogy. The series was postponed, though the showrunners of Robot Chicken say the series will be released at some point (and Lucasfilm has at least renewed the trademark as of June 2018). Eventually, the show was announced to finally release on Disney+ on May 4, 2021.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling was meant to come out in 2018 to commemorate the original show's 25th anniversary. Nickelodeon released a sneak peek trailer to both YouTube and Comic-Con in 2017 and while the special itself was completed in early 2018, Nickelodeon never announced an specific date for its premiere. This delay left fans confused and annoyed, and not even creator Joe Murray knew when the special would be released, considering that the change of executives Nickelodeon underwent that year (with Brian Robbins stepping in as CEO) and the dismal ratings of Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie as a result of it airing against Trolls Holiday may have played a hand in the special's delay. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus faced similar delays for presumably similar reasons. IMDb claims that the special aired on April 3, 2019 in Uruguay, but there was no other evidence to back this up. On May 10th, 2019, Viacom announced that the broadcast rights to both Static Cling and Enter The Florpus have been sold to Netflix as part of Nickelodeon's attempt to focus more on digital platforms. The specials were finally released in August of 2019 to acclaim from fans.
  • The Looney Tunes revival short, (blooper) Bunny!, was completed in 1991 but Warner Bros. refused to release it until 1997, reportedly because director Greg Ford refused to cut Daffy's line about WB not having "an original bone in their body," a line which the studio executives were greatly unamused by. It was given a quiet release on Cartoon Network before airing on The WB once one of the network's executives encountered a party guest who had seen the short and loved it.
  • Most of the episodes of Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat were produced in 2000 (hence the 2000 copyright date in the credits) but had their initial airings in 2001 and 2002.
  • It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown was finished in 1992 and was set to premiere on CBS during the late spring season, but the network ended up canceling the potential airing for unspecified reasons. This marked the first Peanuts special not to air in prime-time. Subsequently, Paramount released the special on VHS in 1996 (on a double feature with Charlie Brown's All-Stars) and it finally made its TV debut in 1998 on Nickelodeon.
  • Crunchyroll Original production High Guardian Spice had been reported by series creator, Raye Rodriguez, to have finished production in November of 2019, though as of this writing, it has yet to see the light of day. The only publicly available footage of the show was showcased in Crunchyroll's sizzle reel for their Originals, most recently shown during the 2021 Anime Awards.

Alternative Title(s): Shelved For Release, Zero Episode Wonder

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