Sweatbox, the insane, behind-the-scenes documentary Disney doesn't want you to see

Watch a Disney production originally spearheaded by the mighty Roger Allers (right off of Lion King fame) with a soundtrack by Sting and the voice talents of Eartha Kitt, David Spade, and John Goodman crumble into the wasted opportunity comedy The Emperor's New Groove.


The documentary Sweatbox was filmed by Sting's wife Trudie Styler and never got an official release on a DVD extra presumably because of the horrible light the studio executives were portrayed in. The movie follows the exceptionally troubled production of Kingdom of the Sun, which was later renamed to The Emperor's New Groove.

With Styler behind the camera, the crew had unprecedented access to Disney creators, executives, artists, writers, and of course Sting, who is probably the most disturbed by the last minute calls and complete overhauls foisted by the top brass upon this movie. The documentary made its way online last night. We suggest you watch ASAP before it's thrown back into the Disney vault. Here's an interesting description from Mouse Planet.

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…

By an incredible stroke of luck, Styler captures the phone call to her husband from producer Randy Fullmer where Sting learns that the six songs he has struggled over with collaborator David Hartley have been cut from Kingdom of the Sun.

In the documentary, Allers gives a wistful soliloquy as he explains that he's quitting the project he's been working on for years, rather than continue on a pared down story that Chris Williams and co-director Mark Dindal come up with to meet the studio's demands. Supporters of Allers' original vision still feel that if he had been given the time, money and support that the film would have been a masterpiece. Instead of the more ambitious Kingdom of the Sun, the Disney Studio decides to go with a supposedly more commercial film incorporating some of the same characters and location, Emperor's New Groove.

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.

[Via Slashfilm]



Emperor's New Groove is one of my favorite Disney movies. That sucks for Sting...but one of things I actually like about the movie is that it's not the usual musical...it just keeps trucking through. No stopping for a sappy love/lament song.