Vanished Gritty Disney Documentary “Sweatbox” Appears Online

“Rob Minkoff described screening a movie to executives is like having someone chop your hands off and pull your pants down in front of a crowd. And you stand there with your stumps bleeding, incapable of pulling your pants back up.” – Thomas Schumacher, former head of Walt Disney Animation.

I’ve had a copy of “Sweatbox” in my private collection for years. Recently I found someone had the guts to post it on YouTube a few months ago. The documentary was never released for distribution and with good reason. It follows the evolution of “Kingdom of the Sun”, a Disney animated film that ended up becoming “Emperor’s New Groove.”

Most of the documentary follows Sting and his journey through the artistic process. After the success of “The Lion King”, they tapped Sting to write the music for “Kingdom of the Sun”. They wanted him to be the next Elton John of a Disney animated feature. As the movie made continuous changes, “Sweatbox” documents Sting’s frustration where he’s ready to walk away from the project multiple times.

Originally, “Kingdom of the Sun” featured Owen Wilson as a main character that was later dropped in favor of John Goodman. What I love about “Sweatbox” is the gritty reality of what it’s really like to work in Disney Feature Animation in the early 2000’s. This is not a polished version Disney makes it seem like the process is fun and creative.

You see real animators in fear that their job is on the line. Executives and the heads of the studio make drastic cuts. Characters that they have been working on for years get entirely eliminated from the film. One animator even walks away as Yzma gets reduced to a minor character and most of the major musical numbers Eartha Kitt recorded end up vanishing from the film.

What I love about “Sweatbox” is that this is a more accurate representation of what it is like to work behind-the-scenes at Disney. The stories they will never tell you. That quote at the top of this article? You’d never hear it in a behind-the-scenes documentary Disney would release on their own. Keep in mind, “Sweatbox” didn’t set out to ruin Disney’s image. Sting’s wife (who made the film) just got unfiltered access to show what working on “Kingdom of the Sun” was really like. That is what makes it one of my favorite documentaries about Disney that you’ve probably never seen until now. Check it out below!

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