A Free Animation Book Idea For You

Finians Rainbow
Concept art from John Hubley’s Finian’s Rainbow

This repost of John Canemaker’s article about John Hubley’s unproduced feature Finian’s Rainbow reminded me of a book idea I’ve had for years. With my full plate of writing, editing, and creative directing various book projects, I know I’m never going to get around to doing this book, but I believe in the idea so I’m going to put it out there and hope somebody runs with it.

Here’s what I’d like to see: a richly illustrated coffeetable book that explores unproduced animated features. Kind of like Charles Solomon’s The Disney That Never Was minus all the dull-as-dishwater Disney projects. There’s a good reason why most of those Disney films were never produced! (An exception might be made for Marc Davis and Ken Anderson’s Chanticleer.) Looking past Disney, there is an extensive catalog of daring and colorful feature animation projects that were unrealized. It’s an eye-opening alternative animation history that spans some of the art form’s biggest names. Anybody who tackles the book should be sure to include:

* Orson Welles’ The Little Prince (developed with Hugh Harman and Mel Shaw)
* UPA’s The White Deer (developed by Leo Salkin and Aurelius Battaglia)
* John Hubley’s Finian’s Rainbow
* John Dunn and Vic Haboush’s Wolgalooly
* Richard Williams’ Thief and the Cobbler
* George Dunning’s The Tempest
* Fred Calvert’s Don Quixote (developed by Ray Aragon)
* Yuri Norstein’s The Overcoat
* Tom Carter Productions’ Huck’s Landing
* TMS’ Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (with various crews that included Hayao Miyazaki, Chuck Jones, George Lucas, Isao Takahata, Ray Bradbury, Frank Thomas and Brad Bird)
* Ralph Bakshi’s Last Days of Coney Island
* Bill and Sue Kroyer’s Arrow
* Brad Bird’s Ray Gunn

The “what could have been” factor of these films is a persistent source of fascination for me. Any number of these projects had the potential to change the course of the art form. Imagine if Orson Welles had released an animated feature at the height of his influence, or if John Hubley’s vision of mature feature animation had come to fruition in the 1950s. Some of these films were indeed produced in bastardized forms (Little Nemo and Arabian Knight are examples), but most perished for a variety of reasons like financing, a director’s inability to finish, a director’s death, the Hollywood blacklist, or in the case of Huck’s Landing, the head of the studio being sent to prison.

Putting together this book won’t be easy. Whoever does it will have to do tons of research and detective work; it would even be wise perhaps to divide it amongst a cadre of historians and writers to ensure that the book is finished in a reasonable period of time. But if executed properly, I have no doubt it would be an entertaining, educational, and thoroughly unique contribution to animation literature.

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