It took a village of creatives at Disney Animation to pull off “Once Upon a Studio,” the animated short that celebrates 100 years of stories and magic. Iconic characters like Snow White and Peter Pan feature alongside Robin Williams’ Genie in a cast of 543 characters from more than 85 feature-length and short films. It all came together without any artificial intelligence — including the addition of Williams as the Genie.
In commemoration of the studio’s century-long legacy, Disney invites audiences to embark on an enchanting journey through time, savoring the imaginative wonders and enduring tales that have defined Walt Disney Studios. This remarkable tribute pays homage to a creative empire that has captured the hearts and imaginations of countless fans worldwide. Join us as we celebrate the legendary milestones and timeless magic that have shaped the extraordinary history of Walt Disney Studios.
Employing a touch of cinematic sorcery, Disney artfully resurrected Williams’ iconic portrayal by unearthing previously unused voice lines from the original film. Accompanied by the heartfelt blessing of Williams’ estate, this ingenious endeavor ensures that the spirit of the beloved actor infuses the film with nostalgia and reverence.
The iconic character gained immense popularity upon the release of Aladdin in 1992. Hence, for the commemoration of Disney’s centenary, it was imperative to bring back this beloved character, and only Williams’ eccentric charm would suffice.
“So, Dan listened to the outtakes from the original recording and he found those little bites that we could use,” stated producer Bradford Simonsen. “We went back to the estate and said, ‘This is what we hope to do.’ Eric, who originally animated the genie, is on the show, and he’s going to be part of it.” Witnessing this unfold was truly delightful.
Once Upon A Studio seamlessly blends live-action footage, hand-drawn animation, and CGI animation to revive 543 timeless Disney characters. Among the most recognizable are Mickey Mouse, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Winnie the Pooh and friends, and Peter Pan.
In the short film, these iconic characters spring to life within the confines of Disney’s studios when everyone else has left for the day. Through their mischievous antics, they illuminate Disney’s rich history of animation. “Is that it, they all gone?” whispers Mickey in the teaser trailer. Soon enough, characters start emerging from their frames and artwork, creating a heartwarming nostalgic celebration of a century of animation.
Simonsen emphasized the importance of ensuring that each character feels like they’ve just stepped out of their respective films. “It needed to feel that so the audience response would be visceral,” he expressed. “We utilized our animation research library to provide the animators with model sheets to work from. With Eric Goldberg, who possesses an intimate knowledge of the studio’s history, we conducted tests to ensure that everything blended seamlessly in the scenes.”
Once Upon a Studio premiered on October 15 on ABC and is now available on Disney+ since October 16.
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