Follow TV Tropes


Troubled Production / Animated Films

Go To

"I've worked on 15 feature films and every one of them was a disaster at some point or another. Some stay stuck in the disaster zone and never recover, others turn out to be classics (but may have still been in the disaster zone almost to the end of production)."
—Disney animator David T. Nethery

Animated movies with Troubled Productions.

  • The film version of Astro Boy managed to go through no less than three different directors, several different writers and a budget that spiraled out of control due to constant production delays. The bottom fell out when the film's production company went bankrupt a few months before opening. The final product manages to show the chaotic production with its unevenness and lack of direction in terms of plot.
  • Ralph Bakshi, over the course of his career, has had several films that weren't easy to make, not helped by the fact that his works have very adult themes and imagery, and were made in a time when animation was seen as strictly for children.
    • Fritz the Cat had a whale of a time getting made, mainly due to Robert Crumb's hatred for the project, and Bakshi's then-inexperience at directing a feature-length animated movie:
      • It took forever for Bakshi and producer Steve Krantz to find a distributor, due to its premise of being an animated film filled with sex, drugs, political themes, and graphic violence. Warner Bros. had originally funded the film, but backed out after Bakshi refused to cast big-named actors and tone down the sexual content. Even after he did get funding, Bakshi still wasn't safe from Executive Meddling, as Krantz forced him to change the original ending where Fritz would have died from the Neo-Nazis' bomb.
      • Multiple animators were either fired or quit mid-production, either for political reasons (some refused to draw exposed breasts, and one didn't want to draw a black crow shooting a pig cop), or vulgar reasons (such as those who only joined to draw sleazy animal pornography). Veteran animator Ted Bonnicksen ended up dying from leukemia during production. When Bakshi relocated his studio to Los Angeles, he was greeted with both praise and hate from various animators, with the latter camp even posting unwelcoming ads about him in The Hollywood Reporter.
    • Advertisement:
    • Heavy Traffic marked the last time Bakshi would work with Krantz due to the latter's extreme Executive Meddling and off-the-wall antics. During the middle of production, Bakshi realized that he was never paid for his work on Fritz, with Krantz claiming to him that "The picture didn't make money" (even though Krantz had just purchased a new BMW and a mansion in Beverly Hills after the smash box office success of Fritz). Krantz would also issue memos requesting various changes to the movie, such as censoring/deleting several sex scenes. When Bakshi refused to talk about his next movie Harlem Nights with Krantz, the producer locked Bakshi out of the studio, wire-tapped his phone, and even fired him from his own movie, calling several directors to replace him, and only rehired Bakshi when co-producer Samuel Z. Arkoff threatened to pull funding from the film; all because Krantz was becoming paranoid about Bakshi's loyalty towards him as an employee.
    • Advertisement:
    • While Coonskin had a pretty smooth production (barring an incident where Bakshi had to fire three homophobic animators for picking on a gay artist), its release was another story. The film was incredibly controversial, and led to multiple protests, one of which involved smoke bombing a theater showing the movie, often led by both Al Sharpton and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), both of whom had never even seen the movie. As a result of all the controversy, distributor Paramount dropped the film, instead handing it over to Bryanston Distributing Company, who ended up going bankrupt two weeks after the film's extremely limited release. Also, some of Barry White's lines had to be rerecorded in order to remove "racist references and vulgarity."
    • Hey Good Lookin' was one of Bakshi's most exhausting productions yet:
      • Wanting to make a film that had a mixture of both live-action and animation, Bakshi hired various African American animators and graffiti artists to help with the film’s urban aesthetic. Unfortunately, due to the controversy over Coonskin, a lot of them left production out of embarrassment.
      • During shooting, Bakshi wasn’t satisfied with cinematographer William A. Fraker when filming the live-action segments, so he decided to take the camera and shoot footage himself, which ended up pissing off Fraker so much, he quit the project and was replaced with a younger cameraman who had never shot a film in his life. Otherwise, shooting went smoothly.
      • During post-production, Bakshi found that the cost of the optical effect required to complete live-action scenes with animated characters was larger than the film's given budget. In order to complete these scenes cost effectively, Bakshi and his cameraman Ted C. Bemiller purchased a 35 mm camera to project the footage onto the glass under the animation camera, which was reflected onto where the animation was shot.
      • With the film being completed in 1975, it was set for a 1976 release before being postponed indefinitely. While this was due to fears from Warner Bros. that the backlash from Coonskin would prevent people from seeing the movie, it was also because the executives thought that a movie with a combination of live-action and animation would be “unreleasable”, refusing to put more money into the project, with Bakshi spending numerous years taking on various projects in order to fund the movie himself.
      • Bakshi was almost sued by WB president Frank Wells due to the former having used too much live-action footage, which went against contract. As a result, the majority of the live-action footage was cut, with some scenes instead rotoscoped.
      • The second cut of the film was finally released in 1982 to select markets, where it received mixed critical reception and did little business at the box office. While the film would receive a cult following through cable airings and DVD (one of its fans being Quentin Tarantino), Bakshi himself disowned the movie (instead having more positive things to say about his original 1975 cut).
    • The Lord of the Rings was one of Bakshi's less problematic productions, but that's not saying much. Bakshi feuded with producer Saul Zaentz throughout production, the initial screenplay had to be heavily rewritten — with the new writer, Peter S. Beagle, doing so for a derisory sum in exchange for guaranteed work on Zaentz's other productions... which he never received — and Bakshi decided to shoot the whole thing in live-action and just rotoscope over it to save time, only to discover that he'd ended up making the scenes far too complex to rotoscope in any reasonable amount of time, forcing him to use a far quicker and cheaper method that resulted in massive Art Shifts throughout the entire film. Then, he was forced to stop the story after adapting the first two books due to budgetary reasons, only for the film to prove a Box Office Bomb, resulting in the property being handed back to Rankin/Bass — who had previously adapted The Hobbit — to create an adaptation of The Return of the King.
  • Bands on the Run, a movie based on Silly Bandz, was by all accounts a nightmare to make according to Jared Norby (the art director) who explained the film's production via an email to Pan Pizza.
    • The team behind the movie, Elastic Productions, composed of a crew barely out of college, knew what they were making was garbage, but only did it so that they can get some work. The executives behind the movie’s concept wanted to make something to cash in on the Silly Bandz fad by making a micro budget direct-to-DVD movie before the fad was over. While most animated movies have a production time of three years, Bands only had eight months. Norby was the entire art department, who was in charge of character designs, storyboarding, and animatics, all within two months.
    • When the storyboards were sent overseas for, to quote the film's art director, quite possibly the cheapest, shoddiest, most fly-by-night animation studio in all of China to animate, what they got was a product that had way worse animation than the final product, with ugly character designs, animation, and copyrighted texture photos lifted straight from Google Images (including a piece of unlicensed Pikmin 2 concept art). The animation company were also very lazy too; there was supposed to be a scene with a homeless person in a dumpster who was going to play with the titular Bands, but wasn’t given any clothes, so he ended up being cut from the plot, and was left in as an unintentionally creepy-looking, inanimate, naked corpse.
    • With four months left to go before the deadline, the team had to scramble to save the film by making it look at least presentable. The team had to build their own render farms, taught themselves how to animate CGI, and pull all-nighters in order to fix what they could. What certainly didn’t help was that half of the animation files were in Mandarin.
    • The movie ended up being both the first and last film to come from Elastic Productions, as they shut down immediately after. The movie ended up selling poorly thanks to coming out in 2011, right after Silly Bandz vanished from the market and were forgotten about.
  • Blazing Samurai — an animated re-imagining of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles set in a World of Funny Animals, with Brooks himself onboard — was originally announced in 2015 with a 2017 release date; however, the film's production immediately hit a snag when the original producer went bankrupt. While a new producer was eventually found, little else was heard about the status of the film until November 2019, when it was announced that production on the film was going back on track and that it would have a tentative summer 2021 release date.
  • Every single film made by Don Bluth, enough to force him into retirement in 2000.
    • Banjo the Woodpile Cat was an attempt by Bluth and his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits working with him at Disney during The Dark Age of Animation to teach themselves how to make the kind of movies Disney refused to make any more. To do so required a lot of after-hours work done on a shoe-string budget over the span of six years, working entirely out of Bluth's garage and using second hand equipment which was starting to fall apart. At one point, a malfunctioning moviola used for pencil tests pissed Don off to the point that he kicked it, resulting in the machine eating the film, at which point they sprang for a new one.
    • The Secret of NIMH was similarly made in Bluth's garage with a budget so small that the last quarter of production was funded by Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy mortgaging their houses. The high-quality animation Bluth was aiming for required the animators to work 16 hours a day, sometimes even taking work home with them. It was then ultimately given too small of a release to profit on even its meager budget, not helped by the fact that it was competing with ET! However, it was well-reviewed enough to become a Cult Classic, gaining the attention of a certain rival director which led to the creation of Bluth's more successful second film.
    • All Dogs Go to Heaven had a few significant snags. First, Bluth and co. repeatedly hit walls trying to get an adaptation of the original Beth Brown story to work, ultimately deciding to scrap it and come up with a different story based on the title alone. Then, Bluth butted egos with original producer Steven Spielberg over Spielberg always having final say in their collaborations, leading to Bluth eventually deciding to produce the film independently. And lastly was the murder of their lead actress after she had recorded all of her lines, forcing certain violent aspects of the film to be toned down, such as Killer's tommy gun becoming a laser blaster. Bluth also took umbrage with leads Burt Reynolds and Dom De Luise constantly ad libbing, but relented when he realized how much funnier their ad libs were than the script itself. Production was otherwise smooth and the film met its intended release date of November 17th 1989... when it was promptly curb-stomped by The Little Mermaid.
    • Then came several films which kicked off Bluth's notorious curse of Executive Meddling. Starting with Rock-A-Doodle, what few investors he had left forced him to tone down his trademark darkness in favor of a lighter, more marketable and, most importantly, Disney-esque style which completely contradicted his own philosophy of creating films which were dark, but had catharsis. Phil Harris's Captain Obvious narration was forced upon him at the last minute after test audiences, ironically, complained about certain things not making enough sense. It ended up bombing hard enough to close down Bluth's homegrown studio, taking the rights to all of his films with it.
    • Pre-production of Thumbelina was slowed due to seemingly perpetual rewrites which lasted over a year. The original screenwriter had to be fired just to get physical production going, with Bluth writing the script himself and receiving his only solo screen writing credit.
    • For A Troll in Central Park, Bluth made the mistake of shortening production, hoping that it would inspire more spontaneity among his crew. It wound up being his worst-reviewed film.
    • Late into the production of The Pebble and the Penguin, Bluth had a falling out with Warner Bros. over the failure of his last two films, control of the project was seized by MGM/United Artists and everything went to hell: animation was farmed out for rushed completion, resulting in Off-Model or outright incomplete shots being approved, fully animated scenes were cut and several voices had to be re-recorded. Bluth was furious with how badly the finished film looked that he and Gary Goldman outright abandoned ship, Bluth taking his director credit with him, to start up a new animation unit at 20th Century Fox. The first project, Anastasia, went well, but then...
    • For his final film, Titan A.E., Bluth and Goldman were handed an already foundering project which had already blown through 18 other directors and $30 million on pre-production alone. The two were forced to scrap the whole thing and start over with a $55 million budget and less than two years to deliver. Much of the effects and post-production work were done two weeks before its release. Then, just before its premiere, Fox lost faith in the project, foresaw the rising trend of computer animation and closed down its barely six-year-old 2D animation unit. Bluth temporarily retired from animation shortly thereafter, publicly stating that he would "never draw another character and hand the rights over to someone else."
    • And this isn't even taking into account all of his projects which were abruptly canceled during pre-production either from funding being withdrawn or new animation units getting shut down.
    • Bluth and Goldman have since taken to crowd-funding a prequel film to their 1983 game Dragon's Lair in the hopes of making a proper comeback, after years in Development Hell. As of this writing, production has been slow.
  • Disney and Pixar have been notorious for having multiple movies that went through this. Some of them went on to become their finest works, while others they would much rather forget. Moreover, during the reign of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, it was even chronic:
    • Dumbo was their first seriously problematic production. They had to make it on a lower than usual budget due to the studio's financial troubles, and then things really hit the fan when most of the studio's animation staff went on strike over atrocious working conditions, resulting in a lot of the film being completed by junior animators who weren't financially secure enough to go on strike, plus a few more experienced animators who crossed the picket lines knowing that the studio would more than likely be forced to close down if they didn't get Dumbo out on time, though even then only produced work that met the bare minimum standard that Disney would accept. The end product was the biggest critical and commercial success Disney had since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but Walt Disney himself looked back on it with disdain afterwards, and to really stick the boot in, reported all the animators who had gone on strike as potential communists — only the ringleaders were actually dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but it still resulted in more than a few careers being put on hold, if not ended permanently.
    • Sleeping Beauty wasn't as problematic as some of their other productions, but suffered from quite a few conflicts of egos behind the scenes, mostly stemming from lead background designer Eyvind Earle inserting himself into more and more aspects of production with Walt Disney's encouragement, in an attempt to produce a more stylized and modern-looking Disney animated feature. This caused the budget to balloon massively, and despite being second only to Ben-Hur at the 1959 box office, it received mixed reviews from critics and became the worst financial failure of any of the studio's animated canon until The Black Cauldron nearly a quarter-century later, resulting in the animation department being heavily downsized afterwards. It wasn't until after Walt's death that the film was Vindicated by History and Disney would resume making fairy tale films with The Little Mermaid, which kicked off its Renaissance period.
    • The Fox and the Hound had many troubles going on with the production. Several veteran animators either retired or died early in production. Batches of animation drawings were stolen, leaving several scenes to be rotoscoped from pencil tests. Many of the studio's new young animators clashed with original director Wolfgang Reitherman's tough style, and while co-director Art Stevens usually sided with the younger animators, even he was adamantly against their insistence that the character of Chief should die in the film (Chief survives with a broken leg). These clashes drove Don Bluth to lead an exodus of practically half the animation team, delaying its release by six months and turning him into Disney's Arch-Enemy for a long while. Clashes still occurred between Reitherman, Stevens and Disney CEO Ron Miller, particularly with Stevens scrapping a planned song for the film performed by Phil Harris and Charo that Reitherman claimed was needed, believing the film did not have a strong second act; this ultimately led to Reitherman, who had directed nearly all of Disney's animated films since the 1960s and produced them since Walt Disney's death, to be Kicked Upstairs. The film would still turn a profit, but the after effects of its production would carry over to...
    • The Black Cauldron. Original producer Art Stevens was kicked off the project early on (and subsequently left Disney) after his planned version was deemed too light-hearted. In turn, original directors Dave Michener and John Musker left to work on The Great Mouse Detective, and were replaced by The Fox and the Hound directors Ted Berman and Richard Rich. Production was divided into units that had little contact with one another, resulting in a lack of direction for the animators, a miserable working environment, and a revolving door of personnel. The task of animating the film was also arduous, thanks to the brand-new APT (animated photo transfer) process used in its production, its use of computer animation (the first animated feature to do so), and being shot in Cinerama; as a result, its budget ballooned to $44 million, the most expensive animated feature ever produced at the time. Meanwhile, in 1984, Walt Disney Productions President and CEO Ron W. Miller was ousted by the Disney board of directors (partly due to the constant budget overruns on The Black Cauldron), and replaced in the latter capacity by Michael Eisner, who brought in Jeff Katzenberg to head the animation department. After a test screening of the film's rough cut proved far too frightening for the children in the audience, Katzenberg ordered heavy cuts on the film; when producer Joe Hale objected to the demands, Katzenberg responded by editing the film himself. When informed by Hale of what Katzenberg was doing, Eisner told him to stop, and while he obeyed, he requested that the film be delayed from its intended Christmas 1984 release date to July 1985, so that it could be reworked. In the end, the film's inflated budget and an unusually dark nature that made it difficult to market caused The Black Cauldron to become one of the biggest box-office bombs in Disney history, not only making back less than half its budget, but nearly killing Disney itself. Hale was subsequently fired from the company, with Berman only avoiding the same fate because he left voluntarily around the time the film was released, and neither they nor Miller would ever work in animation again; Rich lasted a little bit longer and was put to work on Oliver & Company, only to be fired himself after falling out with the new studio management. In 2016 the company announced they were looking into doing a more faithful adaptation of the source material The Chronicles of Prydain in live action, but little has been heard of it since as the film's reputation continues to make people wary of having anything to do with it.
    • Oliver & Company had a troublesome start to production, firstly having its budget drastically reduced as a result of the spectacular failure of the aforementioned The Black Cauldron, and then having one of its co-directors, Peter Young, die with the production barely a month old. Richard Rich was put on the project to replace Young, but busied himself feuding with the new Disney management rather than actually getting anything useful done, resulting in him being fired from the company altogether. Things smoothed out once the remaining co-director, George Scribner was allowed to take over as sole director, but a combination of a middling-at-best critical response, poor overseas performance, and it being released on the same day as The Land Before Time, meant it only barely broke even, and has since received little attention among the wider Disney canon. If nothing else, however, many future Disney and Pixar veterans managed to break into the industry by working on this movie, meaning that it did at least help lead to longer-term success for the company.
    • Beauty and the Beast: The animators were given no vacation time during the film's production in order for everything to be absolutely flawless, partially owing to Jeff Katzenberg's admitted impatience with the medium. Several of the artists' marriages were broken up as a result; some artists even claimed to buying new clothing on their break time because they couldn't go home to do laundry, and plenty more up and quit. The grueling work clearly shows, but Katzenberg decided not to do this again when he saw how miserable his staff was as a result.
    • The Lion King first suffered from lack of internal faith - only up-and-coming animators or people who wanted to do animals picked up the project, with most going to work on Pocahontas instead. One of the directors, Oliver & Company director George Scribner, who had even traveled with the other director Roger Allers and other people to Africa for reference, left as he disagreed on turning the film into a musical while his intention was focusing on the natural aspects. The script was so bad that it needed a reworking with the help of the directors of Beauty and the Beast - and still was being fine-tuned during production, with completed scenes being reanimated due to dialogue changes. And just months before release, the Northridge earthquake hit Los Angeles, shutting off the studio and forcing animators to finish their work from home. Thankfully it was all worth it in the end.
    • The Toy Story films have all been well known for having this.
      • The first film was subject to constant Executive Meddling, pushing to make it more adult and cynical. Pixar, this being their first feature, dutifully followed the notes from the executives, even if they didn't agree with them. When a preview cut was declared unwatchable, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then head of animation at Disney, asked with some concern why on earth Pixar had followed all the notes he and others had sent. Production was shut down for two weeks, while Lasseter and the others basically rewrote the entire movie, into pretty much what they wanted in the first place. The movie would survive and get finished in time for release, though Katzenberg's job did not (he ended up quitting Disney a year before the movie's release to start up DreamWorks).
      • Toy Story 2 didn't have it any better. The project had started as a Direct-to-Video movie, handled by a smaller part of Pixar who had made the Toy Story computer games while the main staff worked on A Bug's Life. Once they saw what had been done of the DTV movie, they were not only underwhelmed but horrified that Disney liked it enough to give it a theatrical run. Pixar begged Disney to let them scrap it and start over, to which they complied, but also refused to budge their stone-set November release date, only nine months away (this still being an era where computer animation required just as much time to produce as traditional animation). This eventually took its toll on the exhausted and over-extended creative team, who then had to convince John Lasseter, who was planning to take a break after a grueling number of years heading up Toy Story and A Bug's Life, to come in on short notice and help the team retool the film and get it out on time. The team were not only able to complete the film, but also churned out a film that more than held its own to the first; the meddling of Disney, though, helped kick-start the plan for the studio to operate independently, as well as dividing up their staff into smaller sections in order to not burn out their entire crew with each film. Additionally, all its progress was very nearly lost during production when a mistyped command to Pixar's servers resulted in more than 90% of the movie being deleted before the servers could be unplugged. To make matters worse, the backups they had of the movie in-house were corrupted. It looked like the movie was down the crapper, but fortunately, the movie was saved when it was discovered that staff member Galyn Susman had the entire movie and all of its files copied to her home PC so she could work on it from home.
      • Toy Story 3 was stuck in Development Hell for years, going through multiple scripts and directors. Also, when Pixar started animating the film, they thought they could save some time just using their old computer files of the main characters from the previous film. Unfortunately, when they tried, they found out that they neglected to keep them updated with their current operating system and thus were inaccessible for use, and the animators had to remake the characters from scratch.
      • Toy Story 4 was slated to be co-directed with John Lasseter and Josh Cooley during the early stages of production, but 2017 saw a signficant shakeup in production staff that saw Lasseter leaving as he couldn't balance his time directing the film with his job running Disney Animation and Pixar at the same time. He would eventually be removed from the project entirely when sexual harassment allegations forced him to leave Disney and Pixar the following year. Around that same time, original screenwriters Rashida Jones (who was partially responsible for bringing the misconduct allegations against Lasseter into light) and Will MacCormack left the film due to Creative Differences, resulting in a huge majority of the original screenplay (estimated to be 80%, per Bo Peep voice actress Annie Potts) being thrown out and rewritten. There was also the fate of Mr. Potato Head, whose voice actor Don Rickles passed away before he could record his lines. Since Pixar didn't want to replace him or write the character out entirely, they had to go through decades of unused recordings of Rickles as the character in order to construct a new performance for him, and they had to consult with Rickles' estate just to do it.
    • The Emperor's New Groove started as Kingdom of the Sun, a Prince and Pauper epic directed by Roger Allers. Since the writers weren't very successful in adding original material and test audiences weren't reacting well, another director, Mark Dindal, was hired to see if things evolved. As the deadline got closer and Allers and Dindal were basically working at two movies simultaneously (the former with a drama, and the latter with a comedy), the higher-ups intervened and Allers quit. After a six-month interval where Dindal and some writers reworked the movie, the film became the screwball comedy that eventually saw the light of day. The ending then had to be rewritten just before release because composer Sting disagreed with the moral message and was going to quit the project. It was all documented in The Sweatbox, a film shot by Sting's wife Trudie Styler, and this oral history in 2020.
    • Ratatouille was originally developed in 2001 by Jan Pinkava, but Pixar lost faith in Pinkava and ultimately replaced him with Brad Bird.
    • Bolt suffered from this in spades. The film was originally helmed by Lilo & Stitch writer-director Chris Sanders, who wanted to make another quirky animated family film. To that end, he envisioned American Dog, which followed a popular television star dog named Henry who (after being knocked out and waking up on a train to Nevada) enlists the help of two other talking animals, including a cat and oversized bunny rabbit, to drive him back home (while believing he's still in a television show). The film went through several different cuts (and suggestions from John Lasseter and other Pixar directors on how to improve the film), but Sanders reportedly rejected all of the changes. Lasseter then fired Sanders from the project, causing the latter to jump ship to DreamWorks, and the film was drastically reworked (under a constrained timeframe) into the final product. Tellingly, American Dog is not mentioned anywhere on the film's DVD features, and only receives a passing reference in the making-of book The Art of Bolt.
    • Tangled took six years, a change in directors, a complete rehaul of the film's original Fractured Fairy Tale premise, and a cost of $260 million to see the light of day. It currently ranks as the sixth most expensive film in Hollywood history behind Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Justice League (2017), Avengers: Age of Ultron and John Carter. Happily for the future of other Disney fairy tale adaptations, it became Disney's biggest hit since The Lion King.
    • Brave had title changes, the dismissal of director/co-writer Brenda Chapman, and many scenes being rewritten and/or dropped during production.
    • Wreck-It Ralph went through a number of problems along the way. Originally planned to have been screened before Tangled, it had went through a number of cancelled and uncancelled calls along the way before finally getting the go-ahead. As well, the many video game companies (especially Japanese ones) had strict guidelines as to how their characters should act - Nintendo had guides as to how Bowser should drink a cup of coffee, Sega had them reanimate a scene were Sonic loses some rings because they said he could only lose rings if he were hit and the only reason Q*Bert got prominence in the movie was because Namco took offence at Dig Dug being the target.
    • Frozen actually had a relatively easygoing production — at least in terms of the people involved getting along with each other. The problem was instead the story.
      • They spent several years changing the plot over and over. And then once production had gotten well underway, they were inspired by Idina Menzel's performance of "Let it Go" (which was written as a Villain Song accompanying a "Then Let Me Be Evil" epiphany for Elsa, but turned out much more positive and uplifting than they intended even for what was meant to be a sympathetic Tragic Villain) to re-write Elsa as a hero rather than a villain. Making sweeping changes to the plot to accommodate this new characterization, they were left with under fifteen months to finish the film.
      • Due to this change in mid-development, there has been a lot of information and concept art on the "Evil Elsa" plot that's been dumped around compared to most Disney films, including concept art for Disney Infinity, unused models, a lot of concept art, and many unused songs.
    • The unique concept of Inside Out meant twice as much time spent on development. Production design alone lasted five years, the longest for designer Ralph Eggelston, and the emotions' distinct "grainy" surface texture was almost dropped because it was too difficult and expensive for just one character, let alone five. Towards the end of it, Pete Docter was seconds away from a nervous breakdown and quitting. But like many troubled Disney/Pixar productions, it was all worth it in the end, as Inside Out was heralded as Pixar's return to form, and, according to several critics, their new gold standard for movies.
    • The Good Dinosaur was originally scheduled to be released in June 2014, but plot troubles caused its director and producer to be replaced, the original script and recorded dialogue scrapped, and the entire cast replaced. The film's release date was pushed back to November 2015, however a huge lack of interest for another Pixar film as well as the promotion not being strong enough caused it to become the first full-on Box Office Bomb in Pixar's history.
  • Foodfight!, a film featuring Roger Rabbit-esque cameos by advertising mascots starring Charlie Sheen was trapped in development for 10 years. Originally set for a 2003 release until being delayed to 2005, it became even further delayed when the harddrives containing all the animation files were stolen and the studio had to start all over again on an even lower budget. The final result was finished in 2009, given a small theatrical release and started to emerge direct to video in other markets in 2012.
  • The 1939 Fleischer Studios adaptation of Gulliver's Travels went through this. Many staffers, including animators Shamus Culhane and Grim Natwick, recall that the film had a lot of behind the scenes troubles that ended up hurting the quality:
    • To begin with, it had a deadline that was far too short—production began in May 1938, and it was due Christmas 1939; this is less than half of the four years of production that went into Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the film it was meant to emulate to begin with.
    • The studio was clearly under equipped to take on the challenge of making a Disney-like feature length animated film—many of their staffers weren't familiar with the West Coast style of animation and techniques pioneered by Disney. The studio had to expand their staff considerably to even make the film possible, even managing to hire many ex-Disney animators, but this resulted in the East Coast and West Coast animators clashing with each other on their approaches to animation, and the studio's decision to hire amateur, apathetic Miami art students, as well as newcomers who received a few hours' worth of cram-course art trainingnote  resulted in sloppy inking and bad in-between work, which resulted in the film having very uneven animation quality. The Fleischers' move to a new studio in Miami also resulted in many of their talented employees in New York getting left behind (including Betty Boop voice actress Mae Questel), with the few who did make the move becoming homesick, as well as putting up with the hazards and quirks of Florida (such as many mosquito infestations).
    • A feud between story artists over which direction the story would take—it was planned as a Bing Crosby vehicle at one point, and at one point Popeye was intended to be the star of the film, with its tone being more cartoony, as Max Fleischer actually did not wish to follow the Disney approach to animated films. Both of the previous stories were thrown out and rewritten by West Coast storymen, particularly ex-Warners staffer Cal Howard.
    • A feud between Max and Dave Fleischer themselves over whether Dave himself or another person would compose the film's score. Ultimately, outside composers were brought in while songs were contributed by the studios in-house musicians like Sammy Timberg.
    • The fact that the film was being made in the Fleischers' new studio in Miami, Florida (which was far too small to hold the 700+ staffers needed to complete Gulliver) meant that if any equipment broke down, it would have been very difficult to get it fixed in any reasonable time. The lack of film industry in Miami also meant that, unless they wanted to use local actors or their woefully inadequate amateur orchestra (which was impeding the sound quality of the shorts from mid-1938 onward), they had to outsource recording sessions to West Coast studios (which they did for Gulliver, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, and the Superman Theatrical Cartoons).
    • In the end, while the film did modestly well at the box office, Paramount deliberately discounted the money the film made in Europe before World War II broke out there, meaning the film had much overhead left to be paid, leaving the Fleischers in the red. Critical reaction was also mixed, with a cruel remark from rival Walt Disney quipping "We can make a better film than that with our second-string animators".
  • Jetsons: The Movie had a bad production. Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson) had died before production began, so he was hastily replaced by Patric Zimmerman. George O'Hanlon (George Jetson) had to have his lines repeated to him due to his stroke, and could only record for an hour at a time. In addition, both he and Mel Blanc (Mr. Spacely) died during production (George reportedly died of a second stroke in the sound booth), so Jeff Bergman had to finish some of their lines. There was also severe Executive Meddling by Universal such as replacing Janet Waldo with pop singer Tiffany as the voice of Judy Jetson, and by making it a musical due to their growing popularity in the late 80's. All of this caused the film to bomb at the box office, and kill off The Jetsons series.
  • The Croatian animated feature Lapitch the Little Shoemaker took 7 years to make, with the first 5 being while the Croatian War of Independence was ongoing, and the animators were forced to use cel cameras dating as far back as 1938. It was also produced at a time when the country was facing a slump in it's animation industry. However, it became Croatia's most successful animated production and was Croatia's official selection for the 1997 Academy Awards (in the Best Foreign Language Film category) and soon afterwards German companies HaffaDiebold and ProSiebenSat.1 Media took interest in the film and funded a Recut for foreign markets, which was even more successful.
  • Joe Dante described the production of ''Looney Tunes: Back in Action" as "a nightmarish year and a half of my life that I'll never get back", and an experience he wasn't eager to repeat. Hoo boy:
    • Dante's biggest headache came from Warner Bros. Feature Animation, the studio division which handled animated films at the time. Warner Bros., which like other studios was eager to ride the coattails of the 1990s Disney Renaissance, had no conception on how to actually produce animation, and slapped together animation teams without understanding the effort their work took or having any infrastructure in place. The studio rushed films into production before they were properly prepped, truncated their schedules, and engaged in top-heavy micromanagement, leading to high turnover rates and scripts being repeatedly retooled. As a result, of the six animated flicks Warner Bros. Feature Animation put out in its fourteen year existence, five were Box Office Bombs.
    • When Space Jam became the studio's first (and at the time only) success, Warner Bros. spent years trying to get a follow-up film off the ground, floating ideas like having the Looney Tunes star in movies with Jackie Chan, Jeff Gordon, Tony Hawk, and Tiger Woods. (Space Jam would get a true sequel until A New Legacy twenty-four years later.)
    • When Dante joined the production for Back in Action in the early 2000s, he found himself caught in the middle between Warner Bros. execs who weren't really interested in making the movie and studio marketeers who did, with the two sides not agreeing to what the tone and humor of the film would be. Lacking any basic understanding of how the animation process works, Warner Bros. executives demanded for dialogue to be changed even after the animation for that dialogue had been produced.
  • The Road to El Dorado: The film's director, Will Finn, said that the film's production was an absolute bloodbath and that he still has nightmares about it to this day, and he has nothing but grim memories about it whenever it's brought up. It was bad enough that he resigned from Dreamworks to return back to Disney later in its production. He likened the turbulent making of it to being akin to a mashup of Mutiny on the Bounty and The Producers.
  • Sausage Party was no slouch to make.
    • First off, Seth Rogen spent eight years finding a studio interested in the project. Those that were sent the script rejected it due to the religious subject matter and obscene content. Even Sony, the eventual distributor of the film, rejected it at first sight until Rogen re-sent the script to them a couple of years later. Mind you, Seth had no problem pitching The Interview to Sony despite its heavy themes, so that should speak volumes.
    • Once things started rolling, the problems only continued. Director Greg Tiernan was proven to be cruel towards the animators at Nitrogen Studios. He forced them to work overtime 7 days a week without extra pay thanks to the film's low budget. Any animators who stood up against Tiernan's tyranny would be fired and blackballed from the company along with going uncredited in the movie. Speaking of which, only half of the animators who worked on the film were credited. Sadly, Greg got away with his vile actions because there is no animation union in Vancouver, where Nitrogen is located. This means that the man could do as he pleased with his employees. Even worse, those poor people had nowhere to turn to stop the abuse.
      • Some good news did come to the animators eventually: the sued over the overtime pay and won three years after production ended.
    • There were several changes made to the script during production at short notice and with little communication to the folks at Nitrogen, who had little to no idea what to do next.
  • According to the animators who worked on it, Sir Billi suffered from a hellish production, to the point where many have called it the Scottish counterpart of Foodfight. Originally promoted as the first animated film from Scotland — though by the time it was actually released it had lost that honour to The Illusionist, forcing them to instead market it as the country's first computer-animated film — which boasted a rapidly-growing animation industry thanks to investment from both the UK national and Scottish regional governments, the project was able to attract a lot of high-profile talents including Sean Connery, Alan Cumming, and one-time Harry Potter composer Patrick Doyle. Things rapidly fell apart in production, however, as director Sascha Hartmann rapidly proved to be a Prima Donna Director who demanded that the animators use his unappealing character designs with no alterations, constantly made changes to scenes which required them to be hastily re-animated (causing the quality to suffer), and also repeatedly called back the cast to re-record their dialogue, which is noticeable in that Connery's voice is very inconsistent, either from poor health, disillusionment with the project, or both. On top of that, Hartmann not only fired any animator who protested the film's inappropriately adult humour or his approach to managing the project in general, but even reportedly fired anyone who was actually managing to produce stand-out work, as he considered them a threat to his authority as director. By the end of production everything was being churned out hastily by a group of inexperienced animators, which ended up being evident in the less-than-stellar animation used in the finished product.
  • Socialist Hungary's Son of the White Horse (1981) began as a combination of classic European folk tales to show history's repetition, only for paranoid studio heads to shoot down the idea because its message wasn't Marxist, forcing director Marcell Jankovics to rewrite the script so many times that he lost track of his goals. Working conditions and materials were horrible, the staff had to take up extra jobs to buy more equipment, produce their own celluloid paint and redo scenes. Inexperienced animators failed to get a grip on the unique art style and protested for a pay raise, and even then, the task brought some of them to tears. The director and his other colleagues had to help out with the animation, about a third of which Jankovics would later describe as sub-par due to said hardships and because the in-betweeners couldn't draw decent facial expressions. Folklore experts also bashed some of the film's artistic choices. In the end, the movie didn't meet Jankovics's original vision, could barely be marketed and caused him to lose the studio execs' favor, though he warmed up to it over the decades. To add salt to the wound, shoddy home video releases and mismanaged restorations messed up the film's colors until its 2019 remaster finally fixed them.
  • The Tragedy of Man, a highly ambitious and faithful retelling of a 1800s Hungarian theatrical play of the same name, started production in 1983, and the animating process began in 1988. A couple years later, the Soviet Union collapsed, taking Hungary's former studio system with it, along with shoving the country's already waning animation industry further downhill. Without state-sponsored backing, what was initially envisioned as a 6 year project only landed in theaters in 2011 — the time frame was indeed correct, the animation did take about 6 years to complete, with the rest of that time being spent on trying to raise funds. Each of the film's 15 acts, all done in their own distinct art and animation style, were completed out of order and showcased at various film festivals to get funding. Most of the voice actors had to be replaced as the originals got too old for their roles. In the end, director Marcell Jankovics licencing his older animated short Sisyphus for a GM car commercial gave him a financial boost, and he was happy the movie got finished at all.
  • Famed animator Richard Williams had two films during his time in the industry that have proved absolute headaches to make.
    • Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure was produced by a team of Broadway producers who'd never worked on a film, let alone animation, making it difficult for them to know what they wanted. The crew eventually assembled consisted mostly of recent art school graduates and veterans of theatrical shorts who'd never worked on a feature, including director Richard Williams himself, meaning that everyone was at different levels of experience and ability. Williams, who could not work for a budget, balked at the initial proposition for UPA-style animation and insisted that, to get the storybook quality visuals he desired, he would need to have two fully operational units on either coast. This ambitious technique, plus the cost to fly Willaims back and forth between the two to supervise and for animators to mail their scenes to the New York studio, caused the once-minuscule budget to skyrocket, slowed the production down resulting in several missed deadlines. It confused the animators, with one unit sometimes completing a scene the same day it had been assigned to the other unit. Emery Hawkins, who animated the infamous "Greedy sequence," got fed up and quit halfway through reanimating the scene for the second time, forcing two assistants to finish it for him. When the studio told Williams that there was no money left to give the film his trademark Artistic Title, he cursed them out and animated it himself. Williams was eventually fired and replaced at the tail end of production simply to get it finished.
    • The Thief and the Cobbler, as documented in 2012's Persistence of Vision. The film, originally conceived as Williams' magnum opus, took three decades to make due to Williams' incessant perfectionist attitude and constant story revisions that led to dozens of missed deadlines, rewrites, and redone animation. The project was being churned out at a slow pace, until Williams gained funding from Warner Bros. after his success on Who Framed Roger Rabbit under the agreement that the film be completed for a specific date and amount of money. Unfortunately, Williams' perfectionism caused him to miss the deadline and, fifteen minutes shy of completion, turned it over to the Completion Bond Company and was replaced with low-budget animator Fred Calvert, resulting in a great amount of Off-Model animation and Disneyfication. The resulting film was picked up by Miramax, who added unnecessary celebrity voices to the titular characters and songs to cash in on Disney's Aladdin, along with retitling the film Arabian Knights. The film, finally released in 1993, was a financial and critical failure, killing Williams' career and animation studio, causing him to retire from animating. It wouldn't be until a few decades later when dedicated fans would find unfinished footage and edit together The ReCobbled Cut, a film that comes close to Williams' true vision for the film.
  • Wonder Park, prior to its 2019 release, was originally directed by animator Dylan Brown, but when his history of sexual misconduct was discovered, he was booted off the project in 2018, despite having directed a vast majority of the movie. As a result of that, not only was the title changed (it was previously titled Amusement Park), but David Feiss was later pulled in to finish the movie. This entire scenario presented a pickle to Paramount: because Feiss directed very little of the movie, they would still have to give credit to Brown, but at the same time, they didn't want to give attention to Brown after his sordid history just came out. As a result, Paramount decided to credit no one as director, making it one of the extremely rare films to not have a credited director.

Alternative Title(s): Animated Film


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: