As Disney currently monitors the box office returns of Frozen 2, it may be hard to believe that we were actually supposed to be watching a very different animated film from the company this year.
Following the massive success of the original Frozen, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez who were fresh off their hit song Let It Go, were tapped to pen the lyrics to Disney’s next big musical. The project was to be a reimagined take on the classic fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk.
The film, which was originally called Giants and then appropriately retitled to Gigantic, was to be helmed by director Nathan Greno (Tangled) and screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Inside Out). Like most of Disney’s modernized fairytale features, Gigantic was going to have one major twist to the original tale: instead of being an overweight middle-aged man, the 60 foot tall giant was going to be an 11-year-old girl named Inma.
And she wasn’t going to be antagonized by Jack either. On the contrary, the feisty child would actually capture the poor guy and keep him as a toy. Although it’s an unexpected direction to take the source material, the story actually sounds like a fresh spin on the old tale that could have been full of comedic potential.
Jack was planned to hail from Spain during the Age of Exploration, and Inma wasn’t going to be the only giant he encountered in Gigantic. In fact, his role as her doll might have been more of a disguise for survival rather than a cruel fate enforced by the girl, as at least some of the other giants in the film, the 120 feet tall Storm Giants, were planned to be villains. Jack’s “doll” ruse might have been one way to go undetected by the film’s antagonists.
The film was actually far enough into production for Disney to confidently announce its estimated release date at their D23 Expo in 2015. It was scheduled for March 9, 2018.
Everything from the film’s concept art to its storyboards were shown off at the announcement of the film, with its logo proudly being displayed behind the presenters. Samples of music personally performed by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez were even briefly shared. Lyrics included musical gems like this:
“I love my little man, I love my little man, you can make him do this, you can make him do this.
You can wash him in a dish, be careful he gets ticklish, my teeny little man.
There are so many things you can do with a little man!
You can toss him in the air, you can pet his tiny hair, my pretty pretty pretty little man.
You can make him do this, you can make him do this, and he even makes a pretty good bookmark!
In a life that’s kind of lonely, I thought if only, I had a little man.“
And yes, throughout that whole song poor Jack was enduring massive amounts of pain as he was treated as Inma’s personal bookmark being slammed between the pages of a hardback novel, and thrown around in a paper airplane. Apparently this was all done before Inma realized that Jack was not a toy. I still think my theory holds up that he might have played along with the “toy” identity for a while as a survival tactic, even if it almost killed him on occasion.
Without getting into too much speculation, some of the lyrics also indicate Inma may have been missing a father figure in her life as she describes being “lonely” and longing for a “little man” in her life. If she was indeed fatherless in the film, it could’ve potentially created a powerful emotional bond between the two throughout the unfolding of the plot.
Beyond the music, storyboards, logo, and concept art, further proof of Gigantic‘s serious progress on the development line is that a reference to it was even included in the popular Disney film Zootopia.
Zootopia was chock full of meta humor. In it, the low-life criminal Duke Weaselton (himself a reference to a Frozen villain) is seen selling animal versions of bootleg Disney movies. All of the bootleg movie titles were animal puns of actual films, such as “Pig Hero 6”, “Meowana”, “Wreck-It Rhino”, and Gigantic-inspired “Giraffic”.
Unfortunately, despite all of this, Disney’s Gigantic was pushed back to a November 2018 release, and then later delayed to a November 2020 release, until it was ultimately cancelled altogether.
So why did Disney yank Gigantic from their film slate? Disney and Pixar Animation President Ed Catmull commented that “It’s impossible to know when we begin a project how the creative process will unfold, and sometimes, no matter how much we love an idea or how much heart goes into it, we find that it just isn’t working.”
Catmull continued, “With Gigantic, we’ve come to that point, and although it’s a difficult decision, we are ending active development for now. We are focusing our energies on another project that has been in the works, which we’ll be sharing more about soon, now set for Thanksgiving 2020.”
The film Catmull was referring to for replacing Gigantic on the 2020 slot has been confirmed to be Disney’s upcoming Raya and the Last Dragon, starring the voices of Cassie Steele and Awkwafina. Which sounds cool in its own right.
Still, it is a bummer that we may never get to see Gigantic. It really does seem like it could have been an instant classic on par with Frozen. Then again, perhaps there is still hope yet. Frozen itself was in production limbo as far back as the 1940s. The creative minds at Disney tried their best to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen to an animated feature, but struggled to make it work until Frozen‘s release in 2013. Even The Little Mermaid took decades for Disney to crack.
So maybe Gigantic will see the light of day eventually. Until then, we’ll just have to make do with 1947’s Mickey and the Beanstalk.