Here are 50 things you might not know about eight Disney films from the company's second Golden Age, starting with "The Little Mermaid" and highlighting the box office and critical hits "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King," among others.
Ariel has six older sisters named Atina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista and Andrina. Atina is named in honor of songwriter Alan Menken's musical, "Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy," Alana is named after Alan Menken himself and Andrina was named after the aerobics instructor of one of the filmmakers.
The shark at the beginning of "The Little Mermaid" is named Glut. He was originally going to return at the end of the film and be defeated by Flounder, but that storyline was cut.
Also, Scuttle once had a dolphin friend named Breaker, but Breaker was cut and his gung-ho personality was transferred over to Ariel, which made her more lively as a lead character.
"The Little Mermaid" was the last Disney film to use the Xerox process first used (briefly) in "Sleeping Beauty" (1959) and extensively in the films that followed. After "The Little Mermaid," computers took over.
According to directors Ron Clements and John Musker, the bubbles in "The Little Mermaid" were being inked in China when the Tianamen Square protests occurred. The subsequent unrest there trapped their bubbles in the country, and filmmakers feared they would never see their bubbles again.
"We were praying for democracy in China and praying that we'd get our bubbles," the directors say on the film's commentary. "I don't know about democracy in China, but we got our bubbles."
The song "Part of Your World" was almost cut from "The Little Mermaid."
During the film's first screening, children squirmed a lot during the song, sparking serious conversations about cutting it from the film entirely.
However, during the second screening, there was more color in the sequence and the audience didn't squirm, which ultimately saved the song.
Sebastian was originally going to be a stuffy Brit known as Clarence the Crab, but Howard Ashman, who wrote the songs for the movie along with Alan Menken, recommended making him Jamaican instead.
There are various mistakes in "The Little Mermaid," some of which the filmmakers knew about and others which they saw later.
For example, while Sebastian is lecturing Ariel in her grotto filled with human treasures, a thimble appears and vanishes off his foot. This is one they knew about, but didn't have time to fix.
Later, when Ariel and Eric are having dinner at Eric's palace, napkins disappear and reappear, silverware moves and plates vanish. This is one directors Ron Clements and John Musker saw later.
At the end of the film, Ursula the sea witch grows to an enormous size as she battles against Ariel and Prince Eric.
Originally, the plan was to keep Ursula the same size as she had always been for this final battle, but as Clements and Musker tell the story, then-Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg came into the studio having just seen the movie "Die Hard" and said, "Guys, I want more 'Die Hard.'"
They subsequently upped the stakes and challenge of the fight by making Ursula much, much larger.
As mentioned in last week's list, Disney isn't above stealing from its large collection of animation as a way of saving time and money.
Here are three examples from "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King"/"The Princess and the Frog."
During the song "Kiss the Girl" in "The Little Mermaid," the reeds that blow when Sebastian cues up the "winds" section are taken from the 1937 Silly Symphony, "The Old Mill." Watch it below.
The final dance scene of "Beauty and the Beast" was taken directly from the end of "Sleeping Beauty," simply because the filmmakers ran out of time.
For the wedding scene in "The Princess and the Frog," art director Ian Gooding decided at the last minute that he wanted to include some birds. The filmmakers snagged birds from "The Lion King," doubled the number of them that appeared on the screen and made the scene work.
"The Rescuers Down Under" was Disney's first full-length animated sequel.
Actor Jim Jordan provided the voice of the albatross Orville in "The Rescuers," but he passed away two years before "The Rescuers Down Under" was released.
The character of Orville was not re-cast, but rather, Orville's brother Wilbur was created, voiced by John Candy. The names of the two albatross brothers are a reference to Orville and Wilbur Wright, the fathers of flight.
In the film "Beauty and the Beast," if you look closely at the sign Maurice reads in the woods, you might just be able to make out the names of California neighborhoods Valencia, Newhall and Saugus, as well as the cities of Burbank and Anaheim.
The song "Be Our Guest" was originally sung to Maurice when he arrived at the castle after becoming lost in the woods.
It made sense that the castle objects would sing to him because they were so happy to see a human, but during one screening, storyboard artist Bruce Woodside spoke up somewhat sheepishly, saying, "I think this song's in the wrong place…"
According to the film commentary by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise and Don Hahn: "I believe we threw things at him," and then realized that he was right.
The scene used to audition Beast hopefuls was the scene where the Beast says, "She's so beautiful and I'm just — well, look at me!"
The filmmakers said they eventually cast Robby Benson in the role because you could "hear the prince beneath the fur" in his voice.
In casting the role of Lefou, filmmakers had the hopeful voice actors sing either "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or "The Man On The Flying Trapeze."
Watch the video below to fully understand why:
Like Disney voice actors of old, David Ogden Stiers became something of a fixture in Disney films for a period of time.
In "Beauty and the Beast," Stiers voiced both the narrator and Cogsworth (causing the filmmakers to roll on the floor with laughter due to the improvised line, "Promises you don't intend to keep" in the process).
He later went on to voice Governor Ratcliffe and Wiggins in "Pocahontas," Archdeacon in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," Fenton Q. Harcourt in "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" and Jumba in "Lilo & Stitch."
In the early version of the film, the characters in the castle were enchanted, but didn't have faces or personalities. Howard Ashman played a critical role in changing that.
A music box seen briefly later in the film was originally meant to have a larger role as the "cute kid" character, like a musical non-speaking version of Dopey from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
However, writer Linda Woolverton threw in one little scene with a cup named Chip, and he was so cute that they started storyboarding more and more sequences with him. As soon as the filmmakers cast Bradley Pierce as Chip, that was the "nail in the coffin" for the music box.
Angela Lansbury is responsible for giving voice to the iconic song, "Beauty and the Beast," but according to the filmmakers, she didn't want to sing it after hearing Alan Menken's pop-ish demo.
After hearing Howard Ashman perform a more spoken version of the song, though, she agreed to sing it.
Tony Jay performed the role of Monsieur D'Arque, the character who runs the asylum and schemes with Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast." It was such a small role that he auditioned using the entire scene, performing one version in his regular voice and one in his "Masterpiece Theatre" voice. The "Masterpiece Theatre" audition appears right in the film.
The filmmakers liked him so much that they later cast him as Frollo in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the narrator in "Treasure Planet" and Shere Khan in "The Jungle Book 2."
In 1991, using computers to do a scene like the famous dance in the ballroom was fairly revolutionary, but filmmakers gambled with it anyway.
If the characters hadn't worked in the 3D environment, the backup plan was to turn off the computer and leave the background black while Belle and the Beast danced in a spotlight.
During the fight between Gaston and the Beast on top of the castle, Gaston yells the line, "Belle is mine!"
The original line — and the line you see if you read his lips — was, "Time to die!" The filmmakers didn't have time to re-animate that scene, but they thought it was important to bring Belle back into the story.
Also, as Gaston begins to fall off the castle to his death, tiny skulls appear in his pupils.
Robin Williams, the voice of the Genie in "Aladdin," also voiced the narrator who opens the film. Originally the narrator was going to play a larger role in the story and then come back at the end of the movie to reveal that he had been the Genie all along, but that plan was scrapped.
To get the sequence where the narrator runs through all the things for sale in his shop at the beginning of the movie, the filmmakers gave Robin Williams a variety of props and let him improvise.
The song, "One Jump" came from a song originally called "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim," which was about Aladdin and his three friends.
When Babkak, Omar and Kassim were cut from the film, the song no longer worked. However, animators still used the song as a template while they storyboarded, and then Tim Rice went back in and rewrote the lyrics to fit what the animators had come up with.
Early in development, the plan was to make the evil Jafar a character prone to throwing tantrums and losing his temper, while Iago the parrot was envisioned as being a cool British character who could calm him down. However, filmmakers soon realized that Jafar would be more menacing if the traits were switched.
Gilbert Gottfried was cast as Iago because he was a big personality who could balance out Robin Williams' performance as the Genie.
Aladdin's original design was based on Michael J. Fox in "Back to the Future," but after Jasmine was designed, the filmmakers decided to age him up a little because they worried she wouldn't be attracted to such a young-looking guy. Instead of Fox, the filmmakers decided to model him after Tom Cruise in "Top Gun."
Animation that had already been done was tweaked to make him look older, and Aladdin's full Tom Cruise makeover makes its first appearance in the scene where the Genie turns him into a prince.
Disney is sometimes criticized for supposedly having inappropriate messages hidden in its movies. The scene where Aladdin flies up to Jasmine's balcony is one of these scenes — according to lore, Aladdin says, "Good teenagers take off their clothes."
In the film's commentary, the filmmakers adamantly deny this accusation, saying, "We DID NOT record that. We WOULD NOT record that."
Rather, if you listen closely, you hear the voice actor for Aladdin ad libbing dialogue, saying, "Good tiger, take off, scat, go."
Brad Kane, who provided the singing voice for Aladdin, is perhaps best known for delivering the Trix commercial line, "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids."
Scott Weinger, at age 17, was cast as the speaking voice for Aladdin. He sent a taped audition to the filmmakers in 1991 where his mother played the part of the Genie as a hip, Jewish, Brooklynite. When Weinger got the part, his agent teased him by saying that Disney had been disappointed in his performance, but that they had loved his mom.
The part of the Genie was always written with Robin Williams in mind. He recorded for 20 hours in four different sessions and yes, as you can probably guess, there was a lot of improvisation. For example, Robin Williams called Aladdin "Al" even though it wasn't in the script, and the nickname stuck.
Scott Weinger, who voiced Aladdin, sometimes had to leave the sound booth because he was laughing too hard to record.
Robin William impersonated a number of different people in the film, including Ed Sullivan, Groucho Marx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, William F. Buckley (twice), actor Peter Lorre, Robert De Niro, Ethel Merman, comedian Rodney Dangerfield and Jack Nicholson (even though that impression was originally written to be John Wayne). There's also a nod to Lucille Ball.
When the film was dubbed for foreign releases, the impressions were sometimes changed to the personalities of people popular in those countries.
"Aladdin" layout supervisor Rasoul Azadani traveled to Iran during the filmmaking process, taking 1,800 photographs that were used to make the backgrounds of Agrabah realistic.
"The Lion King" was — and still is — one of Disney's most successful and beloved animated films, but nobody at the studio saw it coming.
Producer Don Hahn remembers pitching the movie, saying, "It's kind of 'Bambi' in Africa with Hamlet and Elton John music," and that people would shake their heads and walk out of the room.
Former Disney animator Andreas Deja said the film was considered a B-movie, and that people were more interested in working on "Pocahontas."
However, the addition of the sequence where Mufasa appears in the clouds and speaks with Simba made Deja predict, "This is not a B-movie anymore. This is an A+."
Nathan Lane (Timon) originally came in to audition for the role of Zazu, and Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa) came in to audition for a hyena.
Don Hahn remembers that when Lane and Sabella saw each other at the session they went, "Oh, wait a minute," went out into the hall, and came back shortly afterward to audition for hyenas together.
It wasn't until the hunt for the voices of Timon and Pumbaa began that the filmmakers put on that hyena tape and thought, "Yes!"
One of the first songs Elton John wrote for "The Lion King" was called "the cheese sandwich song," because John wrote it while everyone was out making cheese sandwiches for lunch. That song, with the addition of the opening African chant by singer Lebo M. and other artists, became "The Circle of Life."
Elton John agreed to do the music for "The Lion King" partially because he is a fan of the love songs in Disney films.
John wrote "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" as a traditional Disney love song, but the filmmakers decided to be different and had Timon and Pumba sing it. After seeing a version done this way, Elton John told them, "I think you've ruined the movie."
The Timon and Pumbaa version was tossed.
The Northridge earthquake hit California during production of "The Lion King," impacting the ability of people to get to the studio to finish the film. Rather than bringing people to the film, then, they brought the film to the people.
As Don Hahn put it, the next big Disney film was being finished in garages around Southern California.
Lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz — known for writing the hit Broadway musical "Wicked," among others — first worked with Disney on "Pocahontas" alongside longtime Disney favorite Alan Menken.
The first song they wrote together was "Colors of the Wind," and that song helped define the movie and the directions it would ultimately take.
According to Stephen Schwartz, he and Alan Menken wrote a discarded song for the character of Grandmother Willow that was titled, "Knock Wood."
He called it "probably the worst song Alan and I ever wrote together," and "a totally aberrant attempt to write something amusing and kind of 'down home' for Grandmother Willow."
"Fortunately," he concluded, "it has been forever consigned to obscurity, and I don't want to do anything to change that situation."
In animating, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" the filmmakers were told that the computer they were using could not crash because it could handle so much information.
That didn't turn out to be exactly true.
In putting together the opening sequence that zooms over Paris, through the city streets and up to Notre Dame, they indeed managed to crash the computer ... twice.
In the beginning of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the character of Frollo kills Quasimodo's mother. The Archdeacon warns him that his immortal soul is in danger due to his actions, and as Frollo stares up at a statue of Mary and considers this warning, Mary's eyes snap open.
During the song "Out There," there's a transition shot from Quasimodo's model city to the real city. If you look in the left corner of the shot, you can spot a house with a satellite dish.
The filmmakers say the satellite dish's owner was simply "way ahead of his time."
Captain Phoebus was the first Disney leading man with facial hair and maintained that distinction until he was joined by Flynn/Eugene from "Tangled."
The guilds of France would traditionally put their symbol on the windows they provided or sponsored in churches, and Disney followed this tradition by including windows dedicated to the layout, computer and animation departments in the big stained glass window visible during the song, "God Help the Outcasts."
Captain Phoebus' horse was named Achilles specifically so filmmakers could use the joke, "Achilles, heel."
If the studio had expressed concerns about the song "Hellfire" being too scary, the filmmakers were prepared to argue that it was nowhere near as scary as the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence done years before in "Fantasia." However, it never came to that.
In the 1997 film "Hercules," Hercules defeats the river guardian and meets Megara. His trainer, Philoctetes, lectures Hercules after the fact, telling him he can't let his guard down because of a pair of "big goo-goo eyes."
On the original release of "Toy Story" in 1996, however, the line was, "a pair of big blue eyes."
In the time between the release of the trailer and the release of the film, Meg's eye color had been colored purple, which explains the change in dialogue.
Gerald Scarfe, the artist behind the animation scenes in the 1982 film "Pink Floyd — The Wall," was hired by Disney to do production design for "Hercules."
Filmmakers described his style as bold and simple, which is reflected in the animation used in "Hercules." See one of Scarfe's renderings of the title character here.
The hunt for the voice of the villain Hades was long and complicated, and resulted in some massive character shifts in the end.
Hades was written with Jack Nicholson in mind, but due to money issues, the filmmakers couldn't get Nicholson. They auditioned actors like Ron Silver, James Coburn, Kevin Spacey, Phil Hartman, Rod Steiger and Robert Evans, and John Lithgow was eventually cast. However, Lithgow "wasn't meant to be," according to producer John Musker. When the role didn't click, they kept looking.
James Wood ultimately got the role because of how he interpreted it. Musker says he "played Hades as a Hollywood type, a fast-talking, easily put upon, breezy hipster. He took the scenes — which he hadn't prepared at all and which he was seeing for the first time — and improvised wildly. He was hilarious, and miles away from the Jack Nicholson purr which we had built the lines around."
Actor Charlton Heston performed the stern, solemn narration at the beginning of "Hercules."
John Musker, the film's producer, said the narrator was written to open the film in sober tones, and then to turn control over to the sassy Muses with the line, "You go, girl . . ."
According to Musker, though, Heston thought the line should be a more respectful, "Go ahead . . . young lady."
"Mr. Heston did it his way a number of times, but ultimately, despite sincere skepticism if not outright bewilderment, grudgingly tried it our way as well," Musker wrote on howardashman.com.
Actress Carole Shelley provided the voice for Lachesis, one of the three Fates in "Hercules." It wasn't the first time Shelley had provided a voice for a Disney film, though. Years before, Shelley voiced another — very different — character: Lady Kluck from "Robin Hood."