Rarely Seen Disney Doc The Sweatbox Sneaks Online
Want to watch a full-on Disney animation product collapse and be hurriedly rebuilt to a new spec? Check out The Sweatbox, currently available on YouTube. Filmmaker Trudie Styler (the wife of Sting, who was writing songs for the still-unscripted film) had pretty much unconditional access to the production of what was to be The Lion King co-director Roger Allers' follow-up project, Kingdom of the Sun. The first half of the film covers work on that project, which saw Allers working with Mark Dindal as co-director, before unhappy studio bosses demanded drastic changes that resulted in Allers leaving the film, which became The Emperor's New Groove, directed by Dindal. Sting reluctantly stayed with the project ("I'm not a quitter," he declares at one point, "but it's not an ideal situation for me to be in"), and in some ways the film sees the whole process through his eyes.
The documentary, which was named after a fabled screening room without air conditioning at the original Walt Disney studio in Burbank, has rarely been seen. According to a detailed history of the film posted at Disney info clearinghouse MousePlanet, it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002, got an unpublicized one-week Oscar-qualifying run at the Loews Beverly Center in Los Angeles, and played at the Florida Film Festival in Orlando, where animators from Disney's Florida operations are said to have jeered the Disney executives who appeared on screen. (Disney aficianado Jim Hill published his own version of the behind-the-scenes struggle to make Kingdom of the Sun back in 2000.)
The YouTube posting is almost certainly unauthorized, and it's likely to disappear if Disney takes exception to its appearance in the wild. However, it's been up since Tuesday with more than 30,000 views so far, so it's possible The Mouse is fairly unbothered by its availability to hardcore Disney fans — as well as anyone else in the industry who has ever struggled to reconcile a disagreement over creative direction with studio executives and their artistic counterparts on the frontlines of production.