Top 10 Actors Who Almost Voiced Disney Animated Characters
Before the advent of Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios was the leader in quality family entertainment. Now that they're both a part of the same company, it's even better. But back then, the Disney Company attempted to differentiate their movies by asking different famous actors to come in and perform their characters in a film. Inspired by Robin Williams' fantastic performance as the Genie in Aladdin, Disney Feature Animation (at the time) decided to get more ambitious with their casting. These are ten actors who were asked to be a part of a film and never got to make it; either due to scheduling conflicts, money issues or even death!
10. Joe Pesci as Mushu in Mulan
In a weird form of typecasting, Academy Award-winner Joe Pesci was originally cast as the little dragon, Mushu. After a few tries at the character, the filmmakers just felt his voice wasn't appropriate for the character and the movie surrounding him. They attempted at one to split Mushu into two characters "Yin and Yang", with Pesci playing one and the other being planned for Richard Dreyfuss. Ultimately, Michael Eisner put out a call to his old friend Eddie Murphy from their Paramount Pictures/Beverly Hills Cop days. (Eisner helped greenlight the film).
9. John Cleese as Basil in The Great Mouse Detective
Disney wanted a well-known British actor and comedian to portray Basil of Baker Street. They set their sights on Cleese, who at the time was filming A Fish Called Wanda and didn't have time to accept the role. Disney gave the role to Barrie Ingham who had previously starred in Dr. Who and the Daleks and A Challenge for Robin Hood, as the title character.
8. Patrick Stewart as Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast
Out of a film set in France with little French accents, Disney went to a British man playing a French-born captain on an American television series to play a French clock. Stewart, however, was still busy as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation and couldn't accept the role. Disney approached him again with the role of Jafar in Aladdin, with the same result. Stewart later admitted he felt deep remourse for having lost out on the role. He finally did make an appearance in a Disney film, 2005's Chicken Little as the voice of Mr. Woolensworth. He also played the voice of The Great Prince of the Forest, Bambi's father, in the direct-to-video film Bambi II.
7. Chris Farley as Baylene in Dinosaur
In possibly the strangest move on this list, Disney asked comedian Chris Farley to come in and record the voice of a dinosaur in their live-action/animated hybrid that was released in 2000. His character would be a young male brachiosaurus named Sorbus who, despite his gigantic nature, was frightened of heights. After his passing in 1997, the character was rewritten as Baylene, an elderly female Brachiosaurus played by stage actress Joan Plowright. Pretty weird recasting, huh?
6. Owen Wilson as Pacha in The Emperor's New Groove
In the rarely seen behind-the-scenes Disney documentary, The Sweatbox, a brief moment is shown of the recording sessions between David Spade as Emperor Kuzco and Wilson as Pacha. However, this was when the film had a much different story and a much different title, Kingdom in the Sun. In this story, Kuzco is a spoiled ruler who wishes for the simple life; while Pacha is a llama herder who wants fame and fortune. When they finally meet, they discover they both resemble one another. Pacha gets the idea for he and Kuzco to switch places. They agree and from there, the story begins to resemble New Groove. When the director left the project, the story changed into the film we know today. Wilson was replaced by John Goodman, but both he and Goodman soon became Pixar voice alumni with Goodman playing Sulley in Monsters Inc. and the upcoming Monsters University and Wilson playing Lightning McQueen in Cars and Cars 2.
5. John Candy as Redfeather in Pocahontas
What's that you say? A comedy genius like John Candy in a movie that's nearly devoid of comedy? Yes, indeed, Candy did record dialogue as a talking turkey that would accompany Pocahontas through the movie. Candy had worked with Disney once before as the voice of Wilbur in The Rescuers Down Under. At this iteration of the story, the animals could actually talk. Of course, Candy's untimely death in 1994 neccesitated the removal of this character. At the time, this was Candy's last vocal performance recorded; his last live-action film was the Western farce Wagons East and the posthumously released Canadian Bacon.
4. Michael J. Fox as Aladdin in Aladdin
One of my all-time favorite actors (who portrayed my all-time favorite film hero, Marty McFly) was once considered for the role of the animated street urchan of Agrubah, Aladdin in the self-titled Disney classic. Fox was at the time finishing up Back to the Future Part III and about to start work on Doc Hollywood. Though he would definitely have matched the witty smile and charm of Aladdin, Jeffrey Katzenberg (the head of Disney Animation at the time) felt the character wasn't good-looking enough and requested that the character be less Fox and more Tom Cruise. Fox would later star in a Disney animated film, Atlantis: The Lost Empire (a vastly underrated film, in my opinion).
3. Marlon Brando as Sykes in Oliver & Company
Disney aimed high for the casting of one of their least-discussed villains, the cruel businessman Sykes. The CEO of Disney Michael Eisner asked Brando himself to take the role. Brando declined, fearing the film would not perform successfully. As Disney has never released the budget for Oliver, we'll never quite know if he was correct or not, but the film grossed $74 million worldwide. Brando would later perform the voice of an old lady who owns a candy factory in the never-released film, Big Bug Man.
2. Jim Carrey as Bowler Hat Guy in Meet the Robinsons
For one of Disney's most recent villains, they wanted someone as wacky as the character himself would be. They offered the role to Carrey, but he had to make a decision: this animated Disney movie which would further his comedic career or try something different with a psychological thriller. He chose The Number 23. Eventually, Stephen J. Anderson, the director of Meet the Robinsons, took over the role himself. At the same time, Disney Chairman, Dick Cook, was offering a role in the film to Johnny Depp, who wanted to do a movie his children could watch. Cook offhandedly mentioned that the studio was also in development of a Pirates of the Caribbean film. Depp asked if it would be a real pirate film "with swords and everything?" When Cook replied in the affirmative, Depp said, "I'm in." Thus, Captain Jack Sparrow was born.
1. Jack Nicholson as Hades in Hercules
The filmmakers behind Hercules had begun voice over sessions with Danny DeVito and they showed him concept art of the film. DeVito noticed a particular piece of concept art that looked remarkably like one of his friends. The filmmakers confessed that it was meant to look that way but they hadn't reached out to him. DeVito had just finished a movie with him and said, "Why don't I just call him?" The following week, Nicholson arrived in a limo with his young daughter dressed as Snow White. Telling her, "Daddy's gonna work for Disney," Nicholson went to the storyboard room and had the film pitched to him. Liking the idea, Nicholson asked how much he was going to get paid. The Disney people reportedly offered a minute amount to which Nicholson replied, "Boys, I work for real money". Essentially, Nicholson wanted the same deal he got for Batman: his normal fee with a cut of the merchandising profits. Disney was afraid to give him such an amount, so after Nicholson left the character was redesigned to resemble the most hated man at the company at the time: Jeffrey Katzenberg. Disney then chose John Lithgow as Hades, but soon felt that his energy wasn't right for the character. Then they came to James Woods. After a few takes, Woods just couldn't manage it. The filmmakers stepped into the booth, mumbled to Woods, "Do Katzenberg". Woods immediately understood and proceeded to give the performance we all know.
Some pretty interesting stuff, right? Which of these casting choices would you like to have seen work out?