This video of Disney reusing animation templates has circulated around the internet pretty heavily. The story is usually that Disney did this to save time and money. The Huffington Post, Time, and E! all reported this.
Jim MacQuarrie from Geekdad.com took the initiative to ask if this was, in fact, the case. Did they do this simply to save some money and not spend “extra” time on making hit cartoons?
“That was Woolie Reitherman,” laughed Floyd Norman, a Disney legend who worked on a lot of the films in the above video. He was in the story department on The Jungle Book and has worked on dozens of Disney movies.
Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman directed almost every movie that was accused of recycling footage in the aforementioned video. Those include The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone, Winnie the Pooh, 101 Dalmatians and The Aristocats.
“It’s actually harder and takes longer to redraw an existing sequence,” Norman said. “It’s a lot faster and easier to just do new animation, and it’s a lot more fun for the animators. But Woolie liked to play it safe and use stuff he knew would work. That’s all it was.”
So Woolie did this to be “safe”, to use what had already worked with viewers, not to save money and time.
But Was That Always the Case?
Gary Trousdale co-directed Beauty and the Beast, in which there is a reused scene from Sleeping Beauty.
“The scene from Beauty and the Beast that we re-used was done for time, but not money,” he said. “(Well…time IS money, but that’s another story). We were just days from our final deadline to deliver, and we had an entire dance sequence (the last scene of the movie, not the ballroom) to do. Everyone was booked and busy, and we knew damn well that Woolie had established this precedent, so we took the Sleeping Beauty dance, re-sized and re-positioned it, and gave the note ‘Note to Clean-up: clean up Aurora as Belle, clean up Prince Charming as Beast.’ (No, we did NOT name the beast in human form ‘Prince Adam.’ We were moving so fast by then, it occurred to us at the finish line that we had never given him a name, so Belle didn’t call him by name. It was a direct-to video-production that named him.)”
This dance scene from Beauty and the Beast was recycled from Sleeping Beauty to save time (source: Movie Mezzanine)
Tad Stones, producer of Darkwing Duck, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and Hellboy Animated weighed in on this discussion.
“I came in under Woolie,” he said. “I thought it was a time and money thing but now that I think about it, I don’t know of older examples…”