Question 1: In your 1997 film Hercules, who lent his voice to the villain, Hades?
Ron Clements: James Woods, of course. Jack Nicholson was our first choice. We actually wrote the script with the idea that Jack might do the part. We had an earlier experience writing for Aladdin, the idea that Robin Williams would be the voice of the Genie even though we didn’t have any idea if he would do it or not. That worked out, but it didn’t work out so well with Jack.
John Musker: Jack Nicholson came in and we showed him the drawings. He brought his kids and his little daughter at the time was dressed as Snow White. The whole deal. We had a scene of animation from Hercules and showed him the drawings of Greece and said, ‘the one thing in Greece is you’re never far from water and all these rocks.’ He said, [adopts Jack Nicholson voice] ‘Rocks and water! That’s what it is!’. But ultimately they couldn’t make a deal with him because, back then, he had to have a merchandising deal and it wouldn’t work out.
RC: But it worked out because James Wood did a fantastic job. A little different than Jack Nicholson
JM: He took it in an entirely different direction.
RC: I think the movie’s shorter than it would’ve been, because Jack Nicholson talks slow and James Wood talks really fast.
JM: He was like, ‘c’mon, c’mon, c’mon’. He got the concept. Restless. Volatile. So we got that one right.
RC: The space between the teeth.
JM: With Keith David that was a distinguishing characteristic of his. Actually we did it on Moana a little bit with Jemaine Clements.
RC: With Maui as well.
JM: Yeah, but that wasn’t based on Dwayne Johnson.
RC: But Facilier also has a gold tooth…
JM: …which Keith David does not have. And actually Facilier’s name used to be Duvalier in the very first draft. But then there was a real Dr Duvalier who was the dictator of Haiti. And so there was the question that it might send things in the wrong direction.
Question 3: In which decade did Hans Christian Andersen publish his original story, ‘The Little Mermaid’, on which your 1989 film was based?
JM: I’m just remotely guessing… 1880s?
LWLies: Do you want to guess again…
JM: Is it far off?
LWLies: Wrong half of the century.
JM: Really? It was before 1850? I’ll say 1840.
JM: Really? Okay, that’s good to know. 1837, gotta remember that now.
RC: I’ll tell you a fun story related to Hans Christian Andersen. I pitched The Little Mermaid with a happy ending even though Andersen’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. She dies and in the end turns into sea foam. Not happy. It didn’t bother me too much, except when I was doing press in Copenhagen and people seemed to have a problem with changing the story. I started to feel a great deal of guilt about it, something I hadn’t felt before. But we had a premiere and the Queen of Denmark was in attendance and I apologised to her for changing the ending of Hans Christian Andersen’s story. She said, ‘Oh, he never knew how to end his stories anyway, so now it has a proper ending.’ So I felt much better.
Question 4: Dwayne Johnson is among the cast of your new film Moana. As The Rock, what was the name of his trademark finishing move?
JM: The people’s… eyebrow? Let’s see… The people’s… leg lock? The people’s… elbow, forearm? I don’t know what it was, what was it?
LWLies: It was the people’s elbow.
JM: The people’s elbow! I think we get that.
Question 5: Ron, you came up through Disney under the wing of the great Frank Thomas, one of the ‘Nine Old Men’ who cemented what we now refer to as the classic Disney style. Can you name the other eight?
JM: Easily, easily.
RC: I think I can. They were Les Clark, John Lounsbery, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimble, Wolfgang Reitherman, Marc Davis, Eric Larson. Who did I not mention? Milt Kahl. I was an animation trainee when I worked with Frank. He taught me animation.
JM: He still has a little hand-drawn note from Frank on his bulletin board at work, of things to remember when doing animation.
RC: Frank was a perfectionist. He once said that of all the scenes that he animated – and he animated some of the greatest scenes in animation history – there are only a handful that he was really satisfied with.
JM: Frank was also known as ‘the velvet needle’ because he could give you a very sharp, pointed criticism but in a very delicate way.
RC: A very smart man. Very intelligent. He was also a musician. He played the piano in a jazz band called The Firehouse Five, which some other Disney artists were also in. They performed at Disneyland and other places. Chuck Jones called him the Laurence Olivier of animators. And he was a great actor so that was accurate in those terms.
JM: He wasn’t as good as some of the other artists, but his acting was the best.
RC: He did a breakthrough scene in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was the scene of the dwarves mourning the death of Snow White. That was the first scene in animation that made people actually cry. No one ever thought animation had the power to do that before that. He also did the spaghetti sequence in Lady and the Tramp, which has become a sort of classic.
Question 6: Related to Moana, what’s the name of the FW Murnau feature that was filmed on the island of Bora Bora?
JM: Sunrise? Oh wait, don’t tell me… Except that’s probably the only one I know. The island of something? Give me an initial?
LWLies: It begins with T, four letters.
JM: Tabu. I don’t think we saw that one. We did see the Robert Flaherty film also called Moana that was kind of a staged documentary done in 1926. That was shot in Samoa. He lived there for like a year. We saw that in Fiji. It’s a short, only like 20 minutes.
Question 7: In Aladdin, what is the first thing that Robin Williams’ Genie says when he is released from the lamp?
JM: ‘Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck!’
LWLies: Word for word.
JM: I think we actually wrote that one, except for the ‘oi!’ which Robin added.
Question 8: In The Great Mouse Detective, there’s a scene set in a toy shop where you can see a toy of which famous Disney character?
Both together: Dumbo.
LWLies: You know your own films very well.
JM: Well, we worked on them a lot.
RC: But did you know that in Moana there are a number of different references to other Disney films that will be very difficult to spot.
JM: Easter eggs!
RC: This is a test for you. Did you see Olaf from Frozen in the movie?
JM: Sven you saw, that’s pretty obvious.
RC: He’s the reindeer from Frozen, you saw him, maybe. But maybe you missed him?
JM: But regardless of Sven, Olaf is also in the movie, harder to spot. Flounder is in the movie, very hard to spot. Baymax from Big Hero 6 is also in the movie, very hard to spot. Aladdin’s lamp is in the movie.
RC: They’re hidden.
JM: We’re in too but we’re very hard to spot. But we’ve been in all of the Disney movies since Aladdin. We are not in The Little Mermaid, but we are in Aladdin, pretty obviously, early on. Next time you watch Aladdin you can look for us. We were much younger then, but there’s a scene early on where Prince Ahmed is coming into town after Aladdin has just given some fruit to some hungry little kids in a back alley, and he comes over and he’s standing between a roly-poly bearded guy, and a taller, angular guy, and one of them says, “On his way to the palace I suppose?” And the other one says…
RC: “Another suitor for the princess!”
Moana is released in cinemas 2 December. Read the LWLies Recommends review.
Published 29 Nov 2016
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