What 12 Disney Movies Were Almost Called

You may think you've never heard of the Disney classics King of the Jungle, Lady, or Moving Buddies, but trust us—you have. Before they hit the silver screen, some of Disney's greatest hits had very different names.

1. What it was almost called: King of the Jungle
What it was called: The Lion King

As the script for King of the Jungle evolved, it became apparent that the setting would be the savannah—not the jungle. Hence, a title change was in order.

2. What it was almost called: The Yellow Car
What it was called: Cars

Though the story of a small, yellow, electric car being shunned by gas-guzzling showboats seems miles away from where the Cars story eventually landed, they’re actually the same at heart. Both feature a unique car that rolls into a strange town where the local vehicles are suspicious of him—but by the end of the movie, the strange car has gained their acceptance.

3. What it was almost called: Rapunzel
What it was called: Tangled

Chalk this one up to marketing efforts. Fearing that titling the tale “Rapunzel” would lead to little boys turning their noses up at the movie, Disney changed the name to something they felt was more gender-neutral.

4. What it was almost called: Anna and the Snow Queen; The Snow Queen
What it was called: Frozen

There’s been much speculation that the same thing happened when Disney abruptly changed The Snow Queen to Frozen in 2011, even though the film had been referred to as the former for decades of development hell.

5. What it was almost called: High Score; Joe Jump
What it was called: Wreck-It Ralph

The idea for this movie had been kicking around since the 1980s, when it was referred to as High Score and Joe Jump. When the movie came back to light in 2009, it had a new focus: a character named Fix-It Felix Junior who didn’t want to go into the family business of fixing things and decided to go out into the virtual world to discover himself. When that story flipped to focus on the video game’s antagonist, Wreck-It Ralph, the name of the movie changed as well.

6. What it was almost called: Moving Buddies; Spurs and Rockets; Each Sold Separately
What it was called: Toy Story

According to director Lee Unkrich, other possible names included Made in Taiwan, The New Toy, Wind-Up Heroes, and To Infinity and Beyond. Everyone agreed that none of those names (and hundreds more, apparently) lived up to the working title, Toy Story.

7. What it was almost called: A Bug Story
What it was called: A Bug’s Life

Because Toy Story had just been released in 1995, Disney execs canned this title because they didn’t want to get stuck naming everything “A ____ Story.” You know: A Car Story. A Snow Story. A Dwarf Story. A Stepmother Story.

8. What it was almost called: The Bear and the Bow
What it was called: Brave

They even had the title designed for The Bear and the Bow before deciding to change the name to how they referenced the movie when they were talking amongst themselves: Brave. Another big change: Reese Witherspoon had been slated to star, not Kelly Macdonald.

9. What it was almost called: Lady
What it was called: Lady and the Tramp

When Disney artist and writer Joe Grant first came up with this story, it was primarily focused on his real-life dog, a cocker spaniel named Lady. Walt loved the sketches of Grant’s pooch, but felt that the storyline wasn’t there. Several years later, Walt read a short story called “Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog,” and bought the rights, intending to make it into a feature. Eventually, the two ideas were combined. Though Dan the dog went through a series of names, including Homer, Rags, and Bozo, writers eventually settled on Tramp.

10. What it was almost called: The Frog Princess
What it was called: The Princess and the Frog

A subtle difference, for sure, but the change was necessary. When the details of the film leaked, including the name, critics pounced. They thought the name of the princess—originally Maddy instead of Tiana—was both unlikely and too close to the derogatory “Mammy.” Maddy’s occupation—chambermaid—was also frowned upon. And finally, some thought that “Frog Princess” was a slam to French royalty. All of those things were quickly changed.

11. What it was almost called: Kingdom of the Sun
What it was called: The Emperor’s New Groove

When the title to this David Spade-as-a-llama movie changed, nearly everything else did, too. Though the movie was nearly half finished by the time the overhaul was completed, not a single scene from the original movie was saved. Kingdom of the Sun would have featured Owen Wilson starring as the peasant doppelganger of Spade’s Emperor Kuzco.

12: What it was almost called: China Doll
What it was called: Mulan

Originally, Mulan was slated to be a direct-to-video flick that one blogger called “a Chinese take on Pocahontas II, in which an oppressed and miserable Chinese girl is saved from that life by a British Prince Charming and taken to live happily in the West.” When consultant and children’s author Robert D. San Souci suggested that Disney further develop the story using an ancient Chinese poem called “The Song of Fa Mu Lan,” they listened.

Begins and Ends: European Cities
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.


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