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Emperor's groove

What is the Story Behind Disney’s The Sweatbox?

The Walt Disney Company, more commonly known as just Disney is an American multinational entertainment conglomerate based in California. The company was founded on October 16, 1923, by brothers Walt and Roy Disney and was initially called the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Disney has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years, from its humble beginnings to becoming one of the biggest entertainment moguls in the world. The company had made hundreds of projects, but have you heard about The Sweatbox?

The Sweatbox is a Disney documentary that tells the behind-the-scenes story of “The Emperor’s New Groove”. The documentary was supposed to be released in 2001 but ended up being scrapped by Disney for being awkwardly honest.

Who Made The Sweatbox?

The Sweatbox, is a behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, and John Paul Davidson. The documentary ended up evolving from an informative making-of to a riveting, no-holds-barred, occasionally funny, often heartbreaking look at how the Disney sausage is made, and sometimes unmade, throughout production. 

After premiering at film festivals in 2002, The Sweatbox proved to be so awkwardly honest that Disney refused to officially release it, though it can occasionally be found on YouTube and torrent sites. (Source: Disney Fandom)

How was The Sweatbox Made?

The Sweatbox was named after the screening room at the Disney studio in Burbank. It was called so because it had no air conditioning, causing the animators to sweat while their rough work was being critiqued. 

The process of reviewing the animation as it was made became known as the Sweatbox, and because the documentary was about the said process the same term was chosen for the title as well.

As the first part of The Sweatbox documentary unfolds, you might expect an in-depth look at the making of an animated film about forty minutes in. In the film, you would see the fateful day o when an early story-boarded cut of the film is screened for the heads of Disney Feature Animation.

They despise the movie, declare that it isn’t working, and begin the process of completely rewriting and reimagining large sections of the plot. Characters are completely redesigned, voice actors are replaced, and the entire plot is rearranged.

Dorse A. Lanpher, Visual Effect Animator

A review of the documentary explains the entire plot. Saying that executives like Thomas Schumacher and Peter Schneider would declare that they hate something and say it does not work. Then proceed to scrap and reinvent a huge chunk of the story. Characters would change, and the whole plot is twisted.

The Sweatbox is infuriating, hilarious, and enlightening all at the same time. When you see the gross bureaucratic incompetence the Disney artists had to endure while working at the studio in the 1990s, you’ll cringe in sympathy with them. The film not only depicts the torturous transformation of Kingdom of the Sun into The Emperor’s New Groove, but it also serves as an invaluable historical document about Disney’s animation operations in the late 1990s. If you’ve ever wondered why Disney lost its creative edge and ceded the feature animation crown to Pixar and DreamWorks, this film will answer them.

Amid Amidi, Award-Winning Author/Historian

(Source: Disney Fandom)

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