new DISNEY doc awakens old Controversy The SWEATBOX

by Eli Reyes

Don Hahn

The Toronto Film Festival has just added the directorial debut of famed Disney producer Don Hahn(Lion King/Beauty and the Beast), the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, which chronicles the "Disney animation team's stagnation in the mid-1980s, to a startling rebirth with a staggering output of hits – Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and more – over a ten year period. Director Don Hahn, who was a key contributor on many of these works, brings an insider’s perspective to the film."

Hahn has described the documentary as...

an incredible almost Shakespearian story of an era that started with CalArts in the 1970s and ended with Lion King, the biggest box office success in history to that time. The talent of today’s industry: Lasseter, Musker, Bird, Clements, Keane, Selick, Burton, Rees, Kroyer, Bluth, all of them came from that era.

When /Film reported the addition of this in depth and honest look behind the scenes of Disney, they brought up The Sweatbox, which was a documentary that was thrown into the Disney Vault years ago.

Here's a nice summary of The Sweatbox from ToplessRobot:

In 1997 Sting was tapped to write songs for an in-progress Disney film called Kingdom of the Sun, his wife, director Trudie Styler, came along to film a behind-the-scenes special about the movie. In the years that followed, the film’s story was shredded, director Roger Allers quit, Sting’s songs were dumped, and a fairly dark film about prince-and-pauper switcheroos and a sun-devouring demon became the goofy road movie we know as 2002’s The Emperor’s New Groove. And Styler captured all of it in The Sweatbox, itself named after the room where in-progress Disney films are reviewed and “re-tooled” by executives.


The film apparently showed Peter Schneider and Thomas Schumacher, the then heads of Disney's Feature Animation department, in a very bad light; bullying the animators, using some "not so politically correct" language, and having absolutely no clue what they were doing.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 13, 2002 and opened shortly afterward for an unpublicized one week run in only one theater at LA's Beverly Center Cineplex, in order to be eligible for an Academy Award nomination.

Small parts of the documentary that only featured Sting's musical process would surface on the DVD for Emperor's New Groove.

Disney has kept this thing under lock and key for years. Even back in 2002 when Pixar requested a screening of the film for it's employees, Disney agreed. But only under the condition that the copy of the film come with it's own bodyguard, that would not let it out of his sight.

A Disney insider sent Jim Hill an Email describing the documentary's woes, but goes on to describe the film not just as...

...a record of how one film suddenly went wrong during its production. It's actually a film that captures the end of an era. Back when Disney Feature Animation was still at the height of its powers. Before the continuing staff cuts and this division's continuing morale problems brought the "Second Golden Age of Disney Feature Animation" to an abrupt close.

The public needs to see this film!!! Heck, just send us a copy and we'll be happy. We'd never make copies...

You can read more on it here.