My Peoples (partially found cancelled Disney animated film; late 1990s-early 2000s)
My Peoples was an animated film that began life in late 1999. It was created by Barry Cook, who had previously co-directed Mulan one year earlier. Despite many alterations and retools, the movie had actually gotten fairly far along into production. However, it was ultimately cancelled in favor of the 2005 CGI-animated film Chicken Little, and to this day, only a handful of production materials from the original project have been released.
The film was to be set in the 1940s in Appalachia, Texas. In the original concept, it revolved around a young man named Elgin Harper who falls in love with a woman named Rose McGee, despite an ongoing feud between their respective families. Elgin, who is known for creating folk art dolls out of common household objects, pursues Rose anyway, and Rose's father attempts to cast a spell to make him forget her.
However, the spell actually ends up bringing Elgin's dolls to life, and after one of the dolls (Angel) refuses to help the couple and leaves, the rest of them have to try to make things work.
According to Cook, the film was intended as a "comedy with a romantic subplot, with a lot of adventure." It was to be animated with a mixture of styles, as the dolls would have been CGI while the humans and backgrounds were traditionally animated.
Production and Cancellation
Throughout its production, My Peoples went through various changes under different studio executives, including several title changes. The doll characters were added after an initial rejection by Michael Eisner (then-Disney CEO) and Thomas Schumacher (then-Head of Walt Disney Feature Animation), and after this rewrite, the film was greenlit and production seemed to be moving smoothly. However, after Schumacher resigned in January 2003 and was replaced by David Stainton, more alterations were made.
Stainton was less impressed with the movie than Schumacher was, and the film was retooled so that the dolls would be possessed by ancestral spirits rather than simply being enchanted. Cook was not in favor of the change, but he continued working on the film in the new direction, as Stainton seemed happy with it at the time. This did not last, though, and on November 14, 2003, Stainton abruptly announced the film's cancellation, due to his belief that Chicken Little was more likely to draw in audiences.
The film was far enough into production that various story reels, test animations, and music pieces are known to have been completed. Most of these have not been released to the public, though, and all that currently exists is the animatic of the opening scene (and its song, "Tender Hearts"), a few seconds of animation, and several pieces of concept artwork.
- Animated Views article recounting the film's production. Retrieved 03 May '17.
- Jim Hills Media's article on the film's production and cancellation. Retrieved 05 Dec '18.