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Frames of Time...

041_04 - My First Feature Script, Almost

When Michael Eisner came to control the Disney studio in the mid 1980s, the animation department was not doing well critically (THE BLACK CAULDRON) or financially (THE BLACK CAULDRON, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE). He decided the way to kick start ticket sales was to create some sequels from previous Disney classics. There was talk of a sequel to BAMBI, but it was thought the studio would not be up to duplicating the style and thus be open to ridicule. Eisner asked what was the studio's previous biggest blockbuster. It was 1997's THE RESCUERS. The decision was made to create a RESCUERS 2.

I had several friends at the Disney studio. All were being assigned to this new production. There was only one problem. Studio execs hated all the stories that were being pitched to them. The two main ideas were a re-do of the first film, having it set in a bayou, the other had a setting in San Francisco. A couple of friends thought I had good story sense. I had done some minor assistance on THE FOX AND THE HOUND at the request of Ron Clements and Randy Cartwright. One finally suggested I do a take. I took two.

One of my friends, Shawn Keller, had done a number of gag drawings of the characters running around in remote control cars. This was mainly because, at the time, many of the animators spent their break time racing their rc cars around the parking lot. I took his drawings and conceived a plot in San Francisco where Bianca and Bernard become separated by a notorious criminal. The end featured a wild race through the streets of San Francisco with the characters in remote control cars trying to avoid people, traffic, etc.

This one was rejected almost immediately. The reason being, the studio decided that they didn't want a "standard" background for the story. They wanted something exotic as the locale. As far as the development execs were concerned, San Francisco, as a location, was out.

My second story, seen above, took place in the Southwest Desert, perhaps Arizona or Nevada. The story, again, had the two stars get separated. This time, instead of a criminal, I had come up with a charming Desert Rat, kind of an Indiana Jones type, who tricks Bianca into helping him rescue a family, by claiming Bernard is lost in the desert. When Bernard discovers that Bianca is truly missing, and in the desert, he gives chase. As Bernard has comical adventures with a Kangaroo Rat, Bianca and the Desert Rat seem to be growing fonder of each other. The story also made heavy use of the native animals and location varieties.

This story they liked. There was only one problem. The studio had decided the Crocodile Dundee movies of several years earlier meant Australia would be suitably exotic, and trendy. The news saddened me.

However, this was not the end of the story; or at least of my story development at Disney. It seemed, of all the writers and stories that had been submitted, each one had one or two aspects the development team liked. Mine had all the elements in a single pitch! They had wanted a scene in the desert. They had wanted a clever lizard (probably because RESCUERS had the alligators). They had wanted a chase, etc. But the clincher was that they had wanted a romantic triangle. My charismatic Desert Rat was almost identical to their thinking for an Australian rat.

Because I had clicked on several cylinders, the head of the development department asked me if I had other ideas. This began a series of meetings that ran almost a year. During that time I submitted a proposal for a revised BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which at the time was in a similar story dilemma. After a few false starts based on ideas the studio said they wanted, I finally went in my own direction and pitched a tale that drew immediate interest. Not only was the head of development excited, but also Tim Disney, son of Roy Disney, liked the project.

Like so many Hollywood tales, no film ever resulted from these meetings. But the stories about the tales will be talked about on other days.

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