The Sweatbox, A Rarely Seen Documentary About Disney’s Failed Kingdom of the Sun Film Project

The Sweatbox is a 2002 rarely seen documentary by Xingu Films about the making of an animated Disney musical titled Kingdom of the Sun. Roger Allers (The Lion King) and Mark Dindal were co-directing Kingdom but had different ideas of how the story should be told. After several years in development, Allers dropped out as co-director and the film then morphed into The Emperor’s New Groove under Dindal’s direction. MaxGoesFourth recently posted The Sweatbox on YouTube.

Wade Sampson from Mouse Planet discusses the documentary in the 2007 post titled The Greatest Disney Documentary You May Never See:

In 1997, musical performer and composer Sting was asked by the Walt Disney Company to write the music for a new animated feature called Kingdom of the Sun. It was to be directed by Roger Allers who was basking in the success of his work on The Lion King.

When Walt Disney set up his studio in Burbank, there was a screening room with no air conditioning, causing the animators to sweat while their rough work was being critiqued. The room became known as the Sweatbox and it became the name used for the process of reviewing the animation as it developed…

The two executives did come across as nerdy bullies who really didn’t seem to know what was going on when it came to animation and were unnecessarily hurtful and full of politically correct speech. They looked like the kids in high school that jocks gave a “wedgie” to on a daily basis. How much of that impression was due to editing and how much was a remarkable truthful glimpse is up to the viewer to decide…

Following a tense, brutal sweatbox screening for executives Schumacher and Schneider…the original story, which was a sort of a version of the well-known “Prince and the Pauper” story, is torn apart. Director Allers quits. Sting’s songs are suddenly out of key in a movie that is now going to be changed into a raucous comedy…

The documentary includes the animators’ initial research trips to Peru, rough sketches, long discussions of color palate and backgrounds, completed animation that was later totally discarded, intense story meetings, Eartha Kitt’s voice recording and glimpses of Sting’s songwriting process. The first 40 minutes or so document the great detail and effort in putting together Kingdom of the Sun. The remainder of the documentary showcases the breakneck rush to complete the film when it becomes The Emperor’s New Groove. The difference in quality is jarring.

Kingdom of the Sun character models

via Cartoon Brew and Scott Morse

image via Screened

Rusty Blazenhoff
Rusty Blazenhoff