You know the classics, you repeat every line and sing along with all of your favorite songs – but did you know that there’s a Disney underground of characters that never quite made it beyond the drawing board? Unlike Simba and Ariel, which made it to the big screen, these 10 character concepts were left on the drawing room floor, never intended for the public eye to see.
Mheetu (The Lion King)
As the name suggests, Mheetu was meant to be a tag-along character in Disney’s The Lion King. When it still carried the title King of the Jungle, Mheetu was meant to be Nala’s younger brother, an innocent and gullible lion who would grow as a childhood friend of Simba. One segment had Nala and Mheetu trapped in a concentration camp owned by Scar, but the concept was later deemed too dark for the movie. Mheetu was also slated to be involved in the wildebeest stampede, lured into it by Scar, who had hopes of killing Simba. With characters like Timon and Pumbaa taking up the spot of Simba’s closest friends and guides, Mheetu became a purposeless character and was eventually cut from the film.
Deafy, Wheezy, Jumpy, Baldy and Awful (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)
We all know Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey, but if you think those are the only dwarves out there, you’d be fooling yourself. Sort of. During production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney was adamant about the titular characters having names that fit their personalities, and to land on the seven that we’ve grown to know, a list of about 50 were produced. Among those that actually made it to story outlines were Wheezy, Jumpy, Baldy, Deafy and Awful. Of those, the most perplexing is Deafy, who isn’t actually deaf but rather a happy sort of fellow.
Senorita Cactus (Toy Story 2)
The cast of the original Toy Story was filled with an incredibly memorable line-up of toys, leaving Toy Story 2 with the difficult task of topping it. While it did a fine job of adding clever new members to the ensemble, sacrifices had to be made for the sake of the story. One of them was Senorita Cactus, a toy that was supposed to be a member of Woody’s Roundup. In the original, Senorita Cactus replaced Jessie and acted as a second antagonist. After a change of heart and plot, the production team removed Senorita Cactus and replaced her with Woody’s female counterpart, Jessie, to fill the strong female counterpart roll.
Aladdin’s Mother (Aladdin)
Besides the street rat trio, Aladdin was also supposed to have a mother to interact with. Aladdin supported his mother by stealing, a fact that she was aware of and none-to-pleased with. Essentially, she didn’t add much to the story and, again, to dwindle down the long list of unnecessary characters, Disney removed her from production. Though, the film’s DVD release came with a scene of his mother and genie urging Aladdin to be honest with Jasmine about being poor.
After leaving the safety of Gepetto’s workshop, Pinocchio is thrown into a world of nightmares. From the Coachman to Monstro, the young wooden boy goes through the staple unpleasant experience Disney often instills on its protagonists. During production, Pinocchio was to cross paths with the mean-spirited Gendarme, a 6 foot, 8 inch tall captain-of-the-guard. With a big hat and long cape, Gendarme was to tower over the other characters, certainly making him imposing for someone as small as Pinocchio. Eventually, he was cut from the film, though his presence is referred to on several occasions.
The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle (Alice in Wonderland)
Alice in Wonderland is a timeless classic, so chances are you know all of the characters and would know if one or two were left out, right? The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle were far from some of Alice’s more memorable companions in the rabbit hole, so it’s understandable if you didn’t notice their absence from the Disney animated feature. This Gryphon and the odd, calf-turtle hybrid were featured in early treatments of the film, but by 1951, they were completely absent. Despite being removed from the production, the two characters were featured in Jell-O commercials alongside Alice in the 1950s, finally giving them some recognition after the Disney slight.
Disney’s take on the story of Pocahontas was fleshed out with some liberties, such as the Powhatan Princess’ animal sidekicks. Two of Pocahontas’ aids, Meeko the raccoon and the hummingbird Flit, made it to post production, but a third was left behind. The turkey, Redfeather, was originally meant to follow the princess on her trek, but was eventually cut from the film after John Candy, who was voicing Redfeather, passed away. Disney decided afterwards to have all of the animal characters to be mute and Redfeather was never revived for the feature film.
Louis the Bear (The Rescuers)
The tale of “The Rescuers” was an adaptation of Margery Sharp’s novels which follows a band of mice that help those in need. Disney took Sharp’s concept of heroic mice but was quick to leave behind some of the core plots throughout the novels. One of the most notable being in the first novel where an imprisoned poet receives aid from Bernard and Bianca. Instead, Disney’s dream team brainstormed different characters in distress, one of which being a bear needing rescue from a zoo. Early concepts of Louis the Bear show him performing on a unicycle, but Louis never made it off of the drawing board. Louis Prima was in line to voice the bear, but after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, the idea faded into Disney’s archives.
Babkak, Omar and Kassim (Aladdin)
If you watch the animated version of Disney’s Aladdin and the stage production side-by-side, you’re going to notice some differences, the most glaring of which being the omission of three jovial characters from the animated feature. Babkak, Omar and Kassim were Aladdin’s buddies – a trio of street rats who, along with Aladdin, sang barbershop melodies and, well, didn’t do much else. During translation to the animated feature, Babkak, Omar and Kassim were deemed unessential, especially since they only served to further drive home Aladdin’s status as street rat before getting roped into Jasmine’s affairs.
The 1940’s were still a time of racial ignorance, so a character like Sunflower didn’t really turn any heads. As time went on and the world grew slightly more accepting of varying races, the insensitive, racist stereotype that this Fantasia protagonist fulfilled was realized. 28 years after the film’s release, the black Centaurette was removed from the film entirely, with Disney hoping people would forget. In The Pastoral Symphony segment, Sunflower is seen tending to her fellow, lighter-skinned Centaurettes, assisting them in grooming. Although the young character did actually make it past the drawing board, today, has been wiped entirely from all things Disney.