Once Upon a Studio — Disney’s 100th-anniversary short film that will play in theaters before Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Wish — is the ultimate celebration of 10 decades of storytelling, artistry and technological achievements. Featuring a pantheon of 543 characters from more than 85 Disney feature-length and short films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, Frozen, Moana, and Encanto, the 10-minute short film lovingly pays tribute to a century of Disney animation. More than 40 original Disney voice actors returned to record new lines for the short, which used modern magic and archive footage to include the original voices of such late actors as Cliff Edwards (Pinocchio‘s Jiminy Cricket) and Robin Williams (Aladdin‘s Genie).
“We were so lucky that everyone we reached out to that’s still with us came back. And then we wanted to infuse the short with some of the nostalgic voices,” co-writer and director Trent Correy told ComicBook’s Jamie Jirak and other members of the press during the Once Upon a Studio trailer reveal on Thursday. Added co-writer and director Dan Abraham, “Some of the folks have passed on. So we got our best sound-alikes that we possibly could, and Trent and I were so persnickety about making them sound [authentic].”
With a blend of all-new hand-drawn and CG animation, Once Upon a Studio sees “an all-star ensemble of beloved characters from Walt Disney Animation Studios come together” for “a joyful, entertaining and emotional reunion as they assemble for a spectacular group photo to mark Disney’s 100th anniversary,” per the logline. After a sprinkling of pixie dust from Tinkerbell, nearly 600 animated Disney characters come to life and step out of animation cels, sketches, and photographs at the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, famously topped with Mickey Mouse’s sorcerer’s hat from Fantasia. (In one sequence, the Three Good Fairies from Sleeping Beauty — Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather — bicker over whether the iconic hat should be magically recolored to pink, blue, or green.)
“We were [particular] because we realized you only get seconds with each character, so they needed to look and sound exactly how you remember them,” Correy explained. “And that was very, very important to us.” According to studio veteran and Once Upon a Studio producer Yvett Merino, whose credits include Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, “There are some lines in there that were actually taken from the original films. Whenever the line was exactly the same from the original film that it came from, we picked [it] up.”
That was accomplished by technogical wizardry: namely, digital artists who stripped the original recordings, cleaned them up, and inserted them into the short as dialogue.
“I really wanted to clip Cliff Edwards for Jimminy Cricket at the end,” Abraham said. “I didn’t want to get a soundalike. So they had to strip away the music from his original recording digitally, some scientist masterminds. We were able to figure that out. So we got Cliff Edwards in there, which was important to us.”
“The thinking behind that was sometimes you only have three seconds with these characters,” Correy added, “so they need to look, feel, and sound exactly how you remember them. So it brings you back to that moment.”
Disney’s Once Upon a Studio will make its broadcast premiere during The Wonderful World of Disney: Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration! Sunday, October 15th on ABC, and will make its theatrical debut accompanying Wish, exclusively in theaters November 22nd.