It’s a storyboard I stumbled upon recently. A rough idea for a sequence in a Disney animated motion picture. It’s a little exploration, actually. An idea I wanted to develop simply to see where it might lead. These were things I learned from my Disney mentor, Vance Gerry. Sometimes the most intriguing ideas come to you when you’re simply playing around. And, it’s a good reason not to be overly tied to the script. The Old Maestro referred to this kind of exploration as, “business.”
These sketches were for a motion picture we didn’t make. A film that was in development at Disney Feature Animation back in the nineties. It was a rootin’ tootin’ western full of cattle stampedes, dead cowboys, wacky prairie dogs and a grouchy rabbit named, Texas Jack. You’ve probably never heard of it - and it never got made. I gotta confess this was an animated movie that should have been produced. As far as talent goes it boasted some of the finest artists and designers ever to inhabit the animation building. How can you go wrong with a cartoon western that features gun slingers and funny animals? In case you’re worried about weapons and the PC considerations of animated film making you can rest at ease. Our pistol packing desperadoes were already dead and that meant there were no real bullets to dodge. In a way, it reminded me of my kid days when I watched cowboy movies. The old timers used to call these movies, “Shoot Em’ Ups.” They provided lots of noise - but the cowboys seldom got shot. Oddly enough, back in the eighties the Disney Company even produced a cowboy television show that featured gunplay that was violence free. No actor was ever shot, and it was good, clean Disney fun. Of course, that’s the way it goes when you’re in development. Good ideas come and go and often time your movie never gets produced. Anyone who’s worked in this business more that a few years is already aware of that reality. The Walt Disney studio did eventually release another animated cartoon western. Sadly, it was at a time when traditional hand drawn animation was on the wane and digital cartoons seemed all the rage. The wonderful art form developed and nurtured at the Walt Disney Studio soon found itself on life support.
I still have fond memories of the amazing ideas launched by our creative team. This includes the cool locations such as, “Devil’s Elbow,” the town of Ogalala and the creepy, spooky prairie Ghost Town. These were places I eagerly wanted to visit in this delightful Disney motion picture. Sadly, the writers and directors never could sell this marvelous animated movie idea to the Disney bosses. You can blame me if I sound cynical, but I think the project was simply too much like a Disney cartoon.