3. Aladdin used to have a mother, vastly different character designs and a better ending

aladdin

By the nature of their popularity, Disney's adaptations often become the de-facto interpretation of famous fairy tales. If you ask the average person on the street to explain the general story of Beauty and the Beast, they'll inevitably touch upon the horny French candleabra who has designs on a sexy feather duster. The same goes for Aladdin; most Westerners were probably not familiar with the story before they saw the movie, so Disney essentially defined it for them. 

For instance, when you think of the word "genie," the image in your head is probably at least partially inspired by Robin Williams' classic character. Now imagine how much that image would change if Disney had gone with one of their original genie sketches...

genie

Yikes. These range from bizarre to downright creepy. Where the hell did these weirdos come from? Well, it's tough to say for sure when in the process these concepts came along, but they may have come from a lost treatment of the movie dating back to 1988. Back then, there were two genies, just like in the original 18th century story. There was a Genie of the Lamp, as you might have guessed, but there was also the less-powerful Genie of the Ring. Whether one of these was going to be the hideous/bordering-on-racist ghouls you see above is unclear. 

Bear in mind, a lot of things differ between the cartoon and the old adventure added into The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. Though it's still technically a Middle Eastern folk tale, the Aladdin of yore was actually a young Chinese man. The setting itself is a little more unclear, however. No matter the true intentions of Aladdin's first storyteller, Disney figured it was better off tossing everything into one fictional Arabian city and calling it good. Seems like they had a little trouble settling on a version of Aladdin himself, though.

aladdin concept

Notice something about these Aladdin concepts? They all sorta look like guys who came from another country outside the US, as opposed to a handsome teen surfer with a cosplay hobby. Judging by these sketches, it looks as though Disney scanned their options and said: "But what if the Middle-Eastern guy was... whiter?"

It's not just me remarking on this, either. Roger Ebert thought the same thing when the movie released, back in November 1992:

One distraction during the film was its odd use of ethnic stereotypes. Most of the Arab characters have exaggerated facial characteristics - hooked noses, glowering brows, thick lips - but Aladdin and the princess look like white American teenagers. Wouldn't it be reasonable that if all the char acters in this movie come from the same genetic stock, they should resemble one another?

He's got a point. Aladdin and Jasmine do stand out next to Jafar, the Sultan, the guards, etc. Heck, you'd think that Aladdin would share some of the same features as his mom. 

Oh, right. In earlier drafts of the script, Aladdin had a mom. 

mother aladdin

Unlike the "two genies" conceit, Aladdin's mom stuck around well into the production. In many ways she was the heart of the film; in this version, Al's main goal was to make her mother proud. There's even a whole deleted song on this premise, fittingly called "Proud of Your Boy." That's the whole reason the story kicks off in the first place, because a son wants to do right by his mom. 

In the storyboards, we see that Aladdin's unnamed mother pleaded with him to sell her engagement ring. Though he initially complies with her request, in "Proud of Her Boy" we see him tuck her in and return the ring to her finger, determined to get his shit together and support his family. 

It's an entirely unique scene that lends an entirely different dimension to the movie; instead of wanting to rise above the likes of a lowly street rat purely for himself, the early Aladdin has someone that's depending on him, someone he doesn't want to let down. 

Aladdin's mother played such a big part in this iteration that she was even around when he welched on his deal to free the genie. 

aladdin

Putting aside deleted characters for a moment -- what Aladdin is asking for is kind of fucked up. It was already weird that Genie whipped up a bunch of fake people for Prince Ali to parade into Agrabah. But Aladdin is asking to have an entire kingdom full of subservient people created out of nothing. These staggering implications have been discussed plenty on the internet, because, the finished film never addresses Prince Ali's seemingly magical subjects. But a deleted song does

Fans will remember that Jafar doesn't get much in the way of his own ballad. Despite having chomped his way to the Scenery Chewing Villain Hall of Fame, Jafar's pipes only get a brief spotlight when he re-sings "Prince Ali" while he reveals Aladdin's true identity. But originally there was going to be a whole lot more to this scene; a song called "Humiliate the Boy" was going to follow Jafar while he did just that. With Genie's stolen powers (and at this point in the draft, unhindered by a three-wish rule), Jafar goes about degrading his archenemy as much as possible by manipulating him like a marionette. Not only does Jafar strip away Aladdin's princely clothes, but he commands bugs to eat his hair and makes him vomit birds.

So where do Prince Ali's mysterious subjects come in? Well, Jafar wants to know that too. In the middle of the song, we get some answers as to how the Genie whipped up those people out of nowhere. 

aladdin

Upon learning this information, Jafar demands that all of the disgusting creepy crawlies be immediately changed back to their original forms. All at once. 

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So in addition to all hell breaking loose under Jafar's control, Agrabah is now filled with bugs and rats (the latter of which Genie specified were diseased). It's a weird amount of exposition and it might be just a little too cruel for a Disney movie. Though it's nice to have a age-old burning question answered, you can kind of see why they left this out of the movie. 

We can let diehards argue whether Prince Ali's subjects are truly bugs or holograms or slaves or hologram slave bugs. But they should really be more interested in a fan theory that was confirmed in a deleted scene. It all revolves around the merchant who opens the movie. Remember this guy?

aladdin

He's the one who tries to sell the "viewer" the dusty old lamp to begin with. He doesn't show up again in the final film, so for years it's been up to audiences to speculate about his true motives. Was he telling the truth about Aladdin and his magic lamp? Or was he making up some bullshit to offload old merchandise? Well, according to a popular fan theory, that merchant is none other than Genie himself. It makes way, way too much sense, especially considering that Robin Williams voices both characters, along with the fact that Genie and the merchant are the only characters in the movie that sport four fingers instead of five. 

You might have read that co-director Ron Clements endorsed the idea as canon. He wasn't just humoring fans, either -- a piece of an old workprint made it online, showing us what the reveal might have looked like. 

aladdin

As Aladdin and Jasmine fly off on their magic carpet, the merchant blows our minds by changing into his natural form: the big blue genie. Unlike some of the other deleted scenes we've shown, this one boasts what sounds like voicework from Robin Williams. It's kind of baffling that they ditched this for the nonsensical official ending. We'll have to give Disney the benefit of the doubt that we were better off with, uh... Genie turning into the moon and laughing at us? This movie was way weirder than I remember.


4. Woody used to be an irredeemable prick

toy story

Toy Story remains one of the most beloved animated franchises for a reason. Besides wonderful visuals and a killer premise, the movies owe much of their staying power to endearing characters. It's hard not to love an (over)confident cowboy and his meathead space ranger buddy. But like a lot of great films, Toy Story went through a lot of iterations in pre-production before landing on the story we know and love. 

Woody himself seems to have gone through the most changes. Starting out as a ventriloquist dummy, he didn't become a cowboy until later. And when those snake-infested boots were first imagined, a much meaner Woody filled them out. 

toy story

Let's be real: Woody has always been kind of an asshole. The distinction being that he's usually a pretty likable asshole. Tom Hanks has a lot to do with it, but we root for Woody because deep down he'll always do what's right. But where the canonical Woody has a heart, the early versions of Woody has a knotted black void of despair and contempt. In this draft, Slinky Dog isn't Woody's best friend -- he's Woody's most pathetic and loyal lackey. 

It was during these preliminary stages that the "hero" of the movie got a last name: Woody Pride. That's still his full name according to official materials, but the movies haven't directly referenced it as of now. Probably because naming a character after their worst flaw isn't a great idea, as Buzz Oblivious and Jessie Abandonmentissues would attest. Maybe that idea came from Disney executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg, because he was the guy who initially wanted to make Woody a sarcastic dickhead.  

Pixar President Edwin Catmull explains as much in his book, Creativity, Inc.:

Jeffrey pushed relentlessly for more "edge." Woody was too perky, too earnest, he thought. That didn't necessarily jibe with our sense of the story, but being novices, we took his advice to heart. Gradually, over a period of months, the character of Woody--originally imagined as affable and easy going--became darker, meaner... and wholly unappealing. Woody was jealous. (...) He bossed the other toys around and called them demeaning names. He had, in short, become a jerk.

You can see a good example of Jerk Woody in test footage that has been public for a while:

As you may recall, this cruel "prank" recalls Woody's initial plan in the final movie; in both cases, Woody wants to hide Buzz behind the chest of drawers so that he remains Andy's favorite toy. In the movie at least, we're given a build-up to this moment. It comes from a guy who has felt slighted and pushed out by a blustery dummy with fancy lights and deceptive sticker buttons. When Woody plans to knock Buzz out of sight, it's so that he can have another night with just him and Andy. It's a terrible decision, but we see where he's coming from, and we like Woody enough to wish he'd made better choices. We probably wouldn't be able to say that about Jerk Woody.

Buzz himself went through something of an evolution during the creative process. Whereas the movie Buzz is adorably naive, early Buzz was an unbelievable idiot. 

toy story

Realizing that his enemy was in fact a galaxy-class moron, Woody attempted to get rid of Buzz. Only this time he wasn't going to banish Buzz to the area behind the dresser -- instead, he was going to send him to face Andy's infant sister. It doesn't really work out.

It's a silly scene, but it shows that this version of Woody is capable of premeditated sabotage. He's tried to get rid of Buzz once, so it's not really a surprise that he would try again with the behind-the-dresser scheme. What makes the movie work is that Woody is pushed to a breaking point when Andy is about to take only one toy to Pizza Planet, and he makes some questionable decisions on the fly. Whereas the above scene would only make it look like the latest in a series of assassination attempts.

Of course, we know Woody's spontaneous choices go horribly wrong and Buzz is inadvertantly knocked out the window. 

A similar scene was planned in early storyboards for Toy Story, but with important exception: Woody didn't accidentally set off a Rube Goldberg-esque chain of events that knocked Buzz out the window -- Woody straight-up tossed his nemesis to his doom on purpose, using his own hands. 

We feel for Woody in the finished movie because the other toys turn on Woody for his crimes, and we're the only ones who know he's innocent (or uh, at least only guilty of manslaughter). But when the gang accuses Jerk Woody of cold-blooded murder, there's no drama there, because it's a completely valid accusation. If anything, it would be vindicating to see the rest of the toys toss Jerk Woody out that window. 

The development of Toy Story closely mirrors that of Zootopia, whose messed up early drafts also suffered from a cynical and unlikable protagonist. Somewhere out there, a negaverse exists where all these Disney movies were made with their mysanthropic origins intact. Maybe Toy Story 3 really would have ended with everyone holding hands in that incinerator.