I would assume that for some people, the kick that comes from seeing “The Sweatbox” is because they know Walt Disney Pictures really doesn’t want you to see the film.
I’m excited to see it show up online today because I think it offers a rare honest look at a development process that is anything but easy. So often, even when you see what is called a “detailed” making-of film, what you’re seeing has been sanitized to show you the triumphs of filmmaking without dwelling on the defeats.
That’s nonsense, though, and it does a disservice to the people who work on these movies. You have to be willing to get things wrong in service of eventually getting them right, and that means you have to be willing to make mistakes and try some bad ideas and, in general, screw things up. That’s really the only way to get to the great stuff, no matter how talented a team you’re dealing with.
There was a point in time where you were going to get to see this film with Disney’s full cooperation. Sting was hired to write songs for “Kingdom Of The Sun,” a South American-themed animated film that Disney was working on. This was post-“Lion King,” when the Disney brand was at its strongest, coming off a string of monster commercial hits.
Sting got Disney to hire his wife Trudie Styler to make a documentary, and that’s probably the only reason she had the access she did. And for two years, she worked side-by-side with her husband while he worked to nail down the score, even as the film began to change around them.
When you see this, though, you get a very honest look at the culture inside Disney at the time, and you can see how strange the development process is on these films. Having one team writing songs while there’s still no script means there’s a lot of work done that ultimately goes nowhere, and if you’re not used to that, it can be incredibly frustrating.
I think Styler’s film is a significant one, and I think it would be great for Disney to let go of the anxiety they have about it and just let her put it out. It’s a marvelous snapshot of a particular time and place in our industry, and while I really enjoyed “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” I think there are benefits to a more balanced and unflinching look at the process. I think it would be far better for young fans of animation to understand just how difficult it is to bring one of these films from idea to release, and there’s enough mythmaking by the studio to balance any harm they feel a film like this might do to them.
Here’s the embed for as long as it’s allowed to stay up:
And once it’s gone, my guess is it’ll be gone for good, and that’ll be a shame.
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