Disney Animation Studios is releasing a special short for its centennial anniversary. ‘Once Upon A Studio’ makes its debut on ABC on October 15 and is filled with an all-star cast of characters from past and recent Disney animated movies.
During the long lead day presentation at the El Capitan Theater, Moviefone had the pleasure of screening the short film in its entirety. ‘Once Upon A Studio’ features 543 characters from over 85 feature films and short films in all-new hand-drawn and CG animation. Written and directed by Dan Abraham (‘Encanto’) and Trent Correy (‘Frozen II’) and produced by Yvett Merino and Bradford Simonsen.
What is the plot of ‘Once Upon A Studio?’
Directors Dan Abraham and Trent Correy call the short film a “love letter to Disney animation”. Set inside the Disney Animation Building, once all the animators have left work for the day, iconic Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse leap out of their respective paintings, calling out to others to do the same as they prepare for a group photo in celebration of Disney’s 100th anniversary. Heroes, villains, princesses, princes, and sidekicks all gather to celebrate the 100th anniversary.
The Voices Of ‘Once Upon A Studio’
Abraham and Correy wanted to include as many original voice talents as possible for ‘Once Upon A Studio’. Over 40 original voices returned for the short film, including Jodi Benson (‘The Little Mermaid’), Paige O’Hara (‘Beauty and the Beast’), and Josh Gad (‘Frozen’).
For any original voice actors who are no longer with us, the filmmakers pulled sound bites from the original films or used sound-alike to fill the role. When asked whether AI was used to recreate the voices of any of the characters, Trent Correy says, “There was no AI in the making of this short.”
The filmmaker goes on to explain the process of how they got each character to sound exactly like the original.
Trent Correy: We were so lucky that everyone we reached out to that’s still with us came back. And then we wanted to infuse the short with some of the nostalgic voices.
Dan Abraham: And you know, some of the folks have passed on, right? So, we got our best soundalikes that we possibly could.
Correy and Abraham realized they would only have seconds with each character when they appeared on screen, and it was important for them to look and sound exactly as everyone remembered them. Producer Yvett Merino chimes in, “And there are some lines in there that are actually taken from the original film. So, whenever the line was exactly the same from the original film that it came from, we picked that line out.” This was the case for Genie’s line in the short, portrayed by the late Robin Williams.
Dan Abraham: There were a couple moments. Like, I really wanted Cliff Edwards for Jiminy Cricket at the end. I didn’t want to get a soundalike. So, they had to strip away the music from his original recording digitally. Some scientist masterminds were able to figure that out. And yeah, so we got Cliff Edwards in there, which was important to us.
Trent Correy: And the thinking behind that was sometimes you only have three seconds with these characters, so they need to look, feel, and sound exactly how you remember them, so it brings you back to that moment.
The Disney Legends
‘Once Upon A Studio’ is more than just paying tribute to the characters from classic Disney films. It’s also about the people who worked on them and had a hand in creating Disney magic. Abraham and Correy made sure to incorporate Disney legends such as Burny Mattinson, who appears at the beginning of the short.
Burny Mattinson was an animator, director, producer, and story artist for Disney. Employed since 1953, Mattinson was with the company for over 70 years, making him Disney’s longest employee. His work can be seen in films such as ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’, ‘The Jungle Book’, and many more. It was important to the filmmakers to have a legend such as Mattinson a part of the short. Seeing him walking shoulder-to-shoulder with a Disney intern at the beginning of the film symbolizes the tradition at Disney of passing the torch from generation to generation.
Another Disney Legend included in the short is composer and songwriter Richard Sherman. Sherman is known for his work in films such as ‘Mary Poppins’, where he won an Academy Award for the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. Sherman doesn’t make a cameo in the short; however, viewers can look forward to hearing him play “Feed The Birds”. This was newly recorded for the short, and it was done inside Walt’s office, just like how Sherman used to play for Walt in the past.
What Else Is There To Know About ‘Once Upon A Studio?’
- The first version of the short was about 12 to 13 minutes long.
- The original animator for Aladdin’s Genie, Eric Goldberg, worked on this project as Head of hand-drawn animation.
- All animations seen in the short are brand new. The hand-drawn characters remained hand-drawn, and the CG characters were created by CG animation.
- Upon hearing Abraham and Correy’s pitch for ‘Once Upon A Studio’, Jennifer Lee burst into tears, “I don’t know how, but we need to make this.”
- The score for the short is fully new, recorded by Dave Metzger.
- The short film is about 8 and a half minutes long.
Where Can I Watch ‘Once Upon A Studio?’
‘Once Upon A Studio’ will debut on ABC on October 15 as a part of ‘The Wonderful World of Disney: Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration.” The short will arrive on Disney+ on October 16. It will also be shown ahead of Disney’ ‘Wish” on November 22.
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