The Emperor’s New Groove is so irreverent and zany that it sometimes feels out of place with other Disney movies. But that’s partially because for many years, it was going to be an epic musical romance on the level of The Little Mermaid. The movie’s first title was Kingdom of the Sun, and it was going to be a take on The Prince and the Pauper set in the Incan age — and Kuzco was a supporting character. Sting even wrote eight original songs for the movie (including this Eartha Kitt gem) tied to the main characters, who were going to be voiced by Owen Wilson and Laura Prepon. After Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame underperformed, Disney decided to make a funny movie, not a sweeping tale, and the Kingdom of the Sun concept was reworked into a hilarious comedy. Sting — who only ended up having two songs in the movie — went on to make a documentary about the dramatic production process called The Sweatbox, which features the rest of the original music.
One of the most classic Disney animated films from the ’90s was almost known by a completely different name: Its working titles included King of the Kalahari, King of the Beasts, and then King of the Jungle. And before The Lion King got its eventual name, its plot was unrecognizable. The original script was described by a Disney executive as bearing “more than a passing resemblance to an animated National Geographic special.” In the DVD commentary, animators said that it was going to be about a battle between lions and baboons, where Scar was a baboon and Rafiki was a cheetah. Needless to say, they scrapped that idea and decided to just do Hamlet on the Savannah.
Peter Pan is such a classic now that it’s hard to believe how different it almost was. Disney animators originally considered plots like telling the whole story through Nana the dog’s eyes and completely leaving John Darling behind. Even weirder? Walt Disney himself wanted the movie to be about Peter kidnapping Wendy (!) to be a mother for the Lost Boys, according to The Peter Pan That Almost Was, a DVD feature that accompanied the movie’s 2007 rerelease. Pretty dark stuff for a children’s movie. Walt eventually scrapped all of these ideas — thankfully — and created the iconic movie we now know, saying, “We ought to get right into the story itself, where Peter Pan comes to the house to get his shadow. That’s were the story picks up. How Peter came to be is really another story.”