Disney Animation was built on the foundation of adapting public domain fairy tales into big musical movies. Dating back to the days of Snow White and Cinderella, this formula has proven so reliable for the studio that it’s no surprise Disney Animation has continued this practice into the 21st-century. As recently as the 2010s, taking the stories of Rapunzel and The Snow Queen and turning them into animated Disney musicals created a pair of cash cows for the Mouse House. Disney’s embracing of all possible fairy tales for the studio’s library makes it all the more surprising that the company hasn’t tackled a fairy tale as iconic as Jack and the Beanstalk. Though it was the basis for a Mickey Mouse segment in Fun & Fancy-Free, Jack and the Beanstalk has never been adapted into a feature-length Disney Animation title. However, that doesn’t mean the artists at this studio haven’t tried to get such a project off the ground. Disney Animation tried for years to get this adaptation through the unmade musical, Gigantic.
First reported to exist back in 2013, Gigantic was meant to be the second directorial effort from Nathan Greno, one of the two filmmakers behind Tangled. However, it wouldn’t get officially announced until August 2015 at that year’s iteration of the D23 convention. Here, Greno took the stage to give the audience a look at the film and revealed that Frozen songwriters Kristen-Anderson and Robert Lopez would be penning a slew of original tunes for Gigantic.
Concept art, story details, and even a whole musical number were revealed to the public. The plot saw a human, Jack, encountering a very young giant girl who becomes preoccupied with Jack as her newest pet. There were also plans for evil giants to serve as the antagonists and to incorporate the goose who lays golden eggs from the original Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. At that point set for a March 2018 bow, Gigantic was still a ways off from hitting movie theaters, but it was clear there was a concrete creative vision at play in delivering Disney’s take on this seminal fairy tale.
As Gigantic kept on chugging in production, Disney Animation was so confident on the project that they even snuck in a reference to the film into Zootopia. In a moment where scheming weasel Duke is selling bootleg DVDs on the street, he gestures towards copies of films “that haven’t even come out yet!” Among the films shown were animal versions of Moana, Frozen II, and Gigantic, here given the name Giraffic. The general public had no clue what the title was referring to, but for the artists working on Gigantic, it was a reaffirmation that they were part of the broader Disney Animation canon.
Shortly after this Easter Egg hit movie theater screens, a release date delay occurred that pushed the film off its original March 2018 date. The announcement of a Wreck-It Ralph sequel entitled Ralph Breaks The Internet came with the news that this follow-up would now be occupying March 2018. Gigantic, meanwhile, was now set for Thanksgiving 2018. At the moment, it merely looked like an adjustment to accommodate Disney Animation’s busy schedule. With the benefit of hindsight, though, it looks more like the start of postponements that would plague Gigantic until the end of its existence.
By the end of 2016, a new artist had been added to the Gigantic production crew. Meg LeFauve, one of the screenwriters of Inside Out, had been added to the film as one of its directors. Plenty of successful completed Disney Animation titles, namely Frozen and Zootopia, had added directors in the middle of production, so this wasn’t automatically a sign of trouble. At the time, neither official news nor rumors appeared in the entertainment press indicating what had led to Gigantic taking on an additional filmmaker.
At the start of 2017, Gigantic experienced another postponement, this time to Thanksgiving 2020. With Frozen II set for Thanksgiving 2019, there weren’t any other spots on the release calendar for a Disney Animation to occupy. Plus, looking at the development optimistically, taking the extra two years would allow LeFauve’s influence on the project more time to crystallize rather than rush to meet the original 2018 deadline.
Still, as Gigantic slipped further and further into the future, an aura of uncertainty began to cling to the project. Disney Animation fans keeping tabs on this project were hoping for some clarity on what was going on with Gigantic once the 2017 edition of D23 rolled around. The 2015 version of this event delivered all kinds of details about Gigantic, surely, two years later, there’d be even more to share.
The panel dedicated to upcoming animated films from Disney at D23 2017 was packed with high-profile titles, including the reveal of what would eventually become Onward and a teaser for a 2019 Planes sequel that would end up getting abandoned. However, conspicuously absent from the affair was Gigantic. There wasn’t even a hint of the project’s existence during the lengthy event. A recap of this panel from the website Laughing Place even commented on how strange it was that Gigantic was a total no-show. Was this lack of Gigantic material merely reflecting how the film was three years away from release at that point…or a sign of deeper problems with the project?
Within two months, it was clear that it was the latter. In October 2017, Disney Animation announced that Gigantic had been canceled. There was no public reason given for the sudden abandonment of this musical, though rumors reasons highlighted problems with getting the story to run for the length of an entire movie played a key role in its demise. Before its cancellation, there had never been any word on an official cast for Gigantic, while it’s unclear how the story and songs evolved in the two-year timespan between its D23 2015 presentation and its closure. The inherently secretive nature of Walt Disney Animation Studios means that defunct projects like these tend to languish in mystery.
What is known, though, is where the principal artists behind the movie went after Gigantic. Nathan Greno went off to Skydance Animation, where he reunited with former Disney Animation head John Lasseter to develop a wholly new animated musical with tunes by Tangled songwriter Alan Menken. A release date and concrete story details are unknown for the feature, but it does appear that this will serve as Greno’s long-awaited follow-up to Tangled rather than Gigantic. Meg LeFauve, meanwhile, has gone on to pen the script for the upcoming Cartoon Saloon/Netflix release My Father’s Dragon.
It’s also worth noting that, in the years since Gigantic was first announced, Disney Animation has begun to achieve great success with fantasy musicals that aren’t based on old fairy tales. Moana, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Encanto are all made in the molds of old-school titles like Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella, but they aren’t based on specific fairy tales. Disney Animation no longer needs to base its works on older stories to get them to appear attractive to moviegoers. This shift away from relying on adaptations makes Gigantic a bit of a relic, a last hoorah for when Disney Animation felt the need to base its fantasy works on time-worn fairy tales. As the success of titles like Moana, and especially the cancellation of Gigantic, suggest, though, that’s not the only way to make a hit Disney cartoon.
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Both films have received significant delays, with ‘Transformers” being pushed back almost an entire year.
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