Suspended Animation #381
The Disney Fairies franchise was an artificial creation launched in 2005 to try to start another profitable enterprise for the Walt Disney Company.
Tinker Bell and her newly created fairy friends were to focus on girls younger than the demographic for the princesses or roughly six to ten years old in order to compete with the Barbie Fairytopia franchise that included DVDs, books, games, dolls and more.
DisneyToon Studios had begun work on Tinker Bell and the Ring of Belief. President of DisneyToon Sharon Morill was reportedly especially fond of the Tinker Bell movie and put lots of input into the storyline.
John Lasseter was reported to have seen a work-in-progress screening of the Tinker Bell film. He told CEO Bob Iger that it was “virtually unwatchable” and needed to be heavily rewritten among other changes. Nearly thirty million dollars had already been invested in the film.
The film revolved around Tinker Bell and her friends living in Pixie Hollow, as they all train to become “Wing-Maidens”, who aid in continuing the “Ring Of Belief” that keeps imagination, and their world alive.
When Tinker Bell is deemed unready, she swipes the Pixie Dust for herself, which proves to have disastrous consequences because it ends up breaking the Ring Of Belief, which causes all of the children to lose their sense of wonder and imagination.
Because of Tink’s transgression, all of the magic begins to disappear from the world of imagination. Now Tinker Bell and her friends must restore balance by completing individual quests that not only reveal their inner strengths, but empower them to save the world of imagination.
The film would have also shown how Tinker Bell first met Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Captain Hook and the pirates would also have appeared.
Many of the animators who worked on the film described it as more “epic” than the final version that was made and the film would have included fifteen original songs.
Disney had opened the Licensing International 2006 event in June in New York by revealing actress Brittany Murphy with a long resume of live action and voice over work as the voice of Tinker Bell.
“Tinker Bell is such an indelible character to pop-culture even without a voice,” said Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios. “She is sassy, feisty and independent. Brittany’s distinctive voice and superb talent will bring all these qualities to life, as well as show new sides to Tink’s personality. Audiences will get to know Tinker Bell like never before, and I am sure will fall in love with her all over again.”
Lasseter was dividing his time between Disney’s Burbank facilities and Pixar’s studios in Emeryville. He would hold meetings with the animators, who would work closely with him on changes he wanted made in the film. Reportedly, during his absences, Morrill would review the work being done and frequently order work to continue on the original scenes from the movie.
“For quite some time, when John [Lasseter] would return to check on our progress,” said one of the animators, “he’d be shown one version of the film—his version. At the same time we also had Sharon’s version in the works. We were working on two versions of the same film at the same time and that was delaying progress and running up the budget. In addition, she would sometimes order changes in the Lasseter version that undid what he wanted.”
When Lasseter found out, Morrill was ousted from her position by Lasseter and President of Walt Disney Animation Studios Ed Catmull on June 18, 2007.
Lasseter issued a mandate to produce fewer and higher-quality films tied to Disney consumer products, rather than endless sequels to theatrical releases. Cancelled were films in production including Dumbo 2, The Aristocats 2, Chicken Little 2: The Ugly Duckling Story and Meet the Robinsons 2: First Date and others.
Disney Consumer Products explored creating other new brands in the same manner as the Disney Fairies franchise including Disney Bunnies (that would be centered on Thumper the Rabbit from Bambi with his brothers and sisters), Disney Dwarfs (that would explore the seven little men before meeting Snow White in a universe reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings with scenes like Dopey being abandoned as a baby and raised by full-sized humans), Disney Horses, Disney Mermaids and Disney Trains.
In fact, DisneyToon Studios was already storyboarding a Disney Dwarfs film.
Morrill had also pushed for a a “Disney Princess Enchanted Tales” DVD series that would feature all-new adventures of classic Disney characters like Aurora and Jasmine but that was also cancelled.
Morrill had made billions for the Walt Disney Company during her last thirteen years running DisneyToon but that made no difference. She was transferred to a different area.Many pieces of concept art, merchandise, promotional material, and even early trailers feature various elements from the earlier drafts of the Morrill version of the Tinker Bell film still exist. Brain Freeze Entertainment, who made storyboards for the film, has one of the sequences from the original cut and can be found on their website.
Lasseter threw out all the previous work that had been done on the film. One change made by Lasseter was casting Mae Whitman as the voice of Tinker Bell instead of Brittany Murphy. Officially, a Disney representative stated, “When John Lasseter came on board, the schedule changed, and the new schedule didn’t work for her.” However, it was rumored that Lasseter felt Murphy’s voice was “too old sounding” for Tink.
A Disney animator stated, “We had a big story change shortly after Lasseter came on board. They still wanted it to get on time related to all the other company-wide department, publishing, etc. There’s a bunch of us here who were just cranking to get the movie up and running again to try to meet an impossible deadline to tie-in with all the merchandise.”
Despite all the efforts, the first film did not come out in 2007 with the launch of the other material like books. It was delayed over a year until October 2008 but even with all the budget overruns, it still made money. Three more straight-to-video features were made as well as some short special material for television.