Chanticleer (cancelled Disney animated film; 1940s-mid 1960s)
Chanticleer was going to be a Disney animated movie based on Edmond Rostand's play Chantecler. It was in development from the 1940s up until the mid 1960s and never saw completion.
Though the film was cancelled, its character designs later inspired the 1973 Disney animated film Robin Hood as well as the animatronics for defunct America Sings attraction in Disneyland.
The film takes place on a Parisian farm in the late 1800s, much like the play. Chanticleer is a vain rooster who has all the animals believe that his crowing is what brings up the sun each morning.
However, a ruthless band of "Night Creatures" led by vicious fox Reynard, is planning to seize the animals on the farm for food. Under the guise of a traveling circus, the band comes to the farm and perform for the animals. This somehow causes them to lose faith in Chanticleer, and they now want Reynard to become their leader.
In another scene, a beautiful Pheasant who is new on the farm is constantly trying to get Chanticleer to notice her, but all attempts to do so fail. So Reynard, hoping that her beauty would distract Chanticleer so that the rooster can't ruin his plan, offers to give her a makeover.
However, Chanticleer eventually realizes what the fox is up to, and he has to duel one of Reynard's henchmen, a Spanish fighting rooster named Senior Poco Loco. During the fight, the sun rises without the need of his crowing.
Chanticleer realizes his arrogance, makes amends and finds the strength to beat Senior Poco Loco and chase away the villains in the end.
In the early 1940s, after the overall success of Disney's first full-length animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt was looking for new material that his animation team could use to adapt for the screen.
In 1943, when he learned about the Chanticleer story, Walt told storymen, Ted Sears and Al Perkins to see what ideas they could get from the material. However, they reported that they had trouble making the rooster a sympathetic character. Walt combined the project with another project going under the title Reynard the Fox, inspired by a French folktale. This gave Walt the idea to create an opposing villain character that would help boost sympathy on the rooster.
Multiple films were already in development, so the project was put on hold for the majority of World War II.
In the 1960s, work was finished on the animated movie 101 Dalmatians. Marc Davis and Ken Anderson decided to collaborate on a film inspired by the growing popularity of Broadway musicals. Going down to the Animation Archive Library, they both came across the Chanticleer concept art and liked what they saw. Hearing of this news, Walt urged the duo to scrap all work done on the project and start fresh, hoping that they could get it done this way. Though they were getting a significant amount of work done, other animators were more interested in The Sword in the Stone.
However, Roy Disney, the headboard of the studio, was trying to convince Walt to halt production on all full-length animations in order to concentrate instead on his two theme parks in Anaheim, California, and Orlando, Florida. Although he disagreed to this proposal, Walt made the decision to cancel one of the two animated projects currently in production; Chanticleer was ultimately the animated project that got shelved due to it being cheaper to animate humans than animals.
In 1981, Mel Shaw proposed a story re-write. This would've depicted Chanticleer as "the most macho chicken in all of France". This was quickly rejected by the heads of the studio for the same reasons it had been in the past.
This Chanticleer animated movie concept was later revived and turned into the movie Rock-a-Doodle, directed by ex-Disney animator Don Bluth. Few elements from the Disney development remained, such as the Pheasant being made into Chanticleer's love interest and the fox being a villain character. The movie turned out to be a box office bomb and was critically panned, so much so that it led to Don Bluth's studio getting shut down. To this day, it is considered one of the biggest failures of Bluth's career.
The music would have been composed by George Bruns. He had written three songs for the film which Mel Leven had lyricized:
- "Chanticleer": Opening to the film; the farm animals would have sung about how much they loved Chanticleer as they woke up in the morning.
- "You No Good Reynard": Meant to be sung by Reynard's wife as she berated her husband for never having given her and the kids a chance at a finer lifestyle despite promising to do so many times.
- "Yesterday is Over": Near the ending of the film, Chanticleer is worried that the other animals would ostracize him for not holding the sun rising power he thought he had. The Pheasant would have sung this song to cheer him up.
- Disney Wikia's page on the film. Retrieved 12 Dec '17
- A blog post about the film's development. Retrieved 29 Jun '19