Mar 10

Five first drafts of famous characters

Last month I wrote two website posts on “Firsts”. They were first drafts of famous novels and first drafts of famous films which you can read by clicking on their titles. Whilst researching these articles I found so much interesting information that I had enough content for a third post. This will be the last of the “first” posts for a while and my next update should be more varied.

But for now here are five first drafts of famous characters. Enjoy!

  1. Elsa from Frozen

Frozen

Frozen is one of Disney’s runaway successes. The film follows Queen Elsa, ruler of Arendelle who must protect her throne and come to terms with her magical powers, ice manipulation. Frozen earned over $1.276 billion at the box office and is unique among Disney films in the fact that it isn’t focused on romantic love. Instead (spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film) the day is saved by the love between two sisters Anna and Elsa. Although I’ve criticised Disney in previous website posts and videos, I’ll give them credit here in sending kids a positive lesson about love.

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Frozen is loosely based of the fairy tale titled The Snow Queen written by Hans Christian Andersen who also wrote the original story of The Little Mermaid. Fair warning: the plot of The Snow Queen is completely bizarre. In the fairy tale, the Devil, disguised as a troll, creates a magic mirror that shows people the worst in themselves and in others. Whilst attempting to show angels in heaven his device the Devil falls from a cloud and the mirror smashes on Earth. The shards of the mirror scatter across the globe and enter several humans at random, forcing them to only see the worst in themselves and in others. One such boy, Kai, is effected by the mirror’s magic and after being rude to his friend Gerda, and is kidnapped by a Snow Queen who rules the land. During Gerda’s attempt to rescue Kai, Kai is turned into a stone statue by the Queen and is only restored back to flesh when one of Gerda’s tears lands on him. Gerda and Kai escape the evil Queen to find that the everlasting winter she set upon the land has ended and they live happily ever after.

I told you it was bizarre. Although this story sounds completely different to Frozen there are some similarities. Both stories feature magic trolls, a Queen who can control snow and a tear turning a statue back to a person. It’s worth noting that The Snow Queen also influenced the character of The White Witch from the Narnia series.

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Left: A sketch of Elsa as the Snow Queen. Right: The version of Elsa we see in the film

The idea for the film that would one day become Frozen was first discussed in Disney in the year 1937 a whole seventy six years before Frozen was released. Disney could see the potential of a Snow Queen film but the character of the Snow Queen, who enslaved and killed children, was hard to turn into a protagonist. Brainstorming on the project was halted in 1942 so the animators could either create propergander films or join the American military for the Second World War.

The idea of The Snow Queen film was resurrected in the 1990’s by Disney during their Renaissance era shortly after the release of The Little Mermaid. Although the idea was batted around by several directors it wasn’t picked up and Disney once again shelved the plans in 2002.

After the success of Tangled in 2010, Disney once again returned to The Snow Queen. Production was still troubled until the writing team decided that Anna (who had evolved from the character Gerda) should be the protagonist and Elsa’s (formerly the Snow Queen) younger sister. Elsa was no longer an antagonist but a heroine who was ashamed of the powers and the plot was shifted from Kai and Gerda’s relationship (Hanns and Anna) to Anna and Elsa’s relationship.

2.Woody from Toy Story

Woody

Toy Story was the first feature-length film to be entirely computer-animated, a feat that was unheard of at the time of it’s release. It was the first film from the Pixar company who would later go on to create many more animated classics such as Monsters Inc and The Incredibles. Toy Story is also credited as traumatising children around the world by having them believe that their toys were sentient beings. The plot of the film (as if you don’t know) follows the adventures of a group of toys when their owner isn’t around. Since the release of the first film in 1995, two sequels have been made along with two other mini films, countless toys and games and most recently the cast of the films can now be found in Disney theme parks.

In the Pixar universe, the leader of Andy’s toys is Woody the Cowboy. Before the arrival of Buzz Lightyear the spaceman, Woody is the appointed leader of the group and in charge of keeping everybody safe and happy while also keeping their owner entertained while he is playing with them. We later learn in Toy Story Two that Woody comes from Woody’s Roundup, a popular TV show before Sputnik 1 was launched. As the Space Race between America and the USSR started, space toys came into popularity and Woody’s TV show was cancelled (similar to how Andy wanted to play with Buzz and not Woody at the start of the first film). Woody then became a collector’s item before finding his way into Andy’s toy box.

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Originally Toy Story began production as a sequel from a Pixar short film called Tin Toy. Tin Toy established a character called Tinny who had to navigate his way around a child’s nursery. In Toy Story, Tinny would have encountered and battled a ventriloquist’s dummy to compete for the child’s attention. The film’s developers scrapped Tinny because he was too difficult the animate and later evolved him into the character Buzz Lightyear named after the astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The dummy evolved into a cowboy toy with a pull string and was named Woody because he was made out of wood.

At first Woody was a tyrannical leader who ruled over the other toys with brute force. He forced Slinky dog to lick his boots, as pictured above, and pushed Buzz out of Andy’s window in an attempt to kill him (in the film Woody accidentally knocks Buzz out of the window). Tom Hanks, the voice of Woody, was uncomfortable with voicing the character and proclaimed in a recording booth that ‘Wow, this Woody’s a jerk!’ When Disney executives watched the first draft of the film they were horrified with Woody’s character and threatened to close Pixar down. In response Pixar re-wrote the film, made Woody more likeable (although he was still prideful and cunning) and presented Disney executives with a new draft. Thankfully Disney liked the new Woody and Toy Story was given the green light.

 

3.Edward from Twilight.

Twilight

I appreciate that not everyone will remember Twilight (and some of you will never forget it) but during the mid 2000’s Twilight was everywhere. The Twilight saga follows the story of Bella Swan who joins a new school and falls in love with Edward Cullen a vampire. After Bella and Edward fall in love, Bella is hunted by a rival vampire who Edward and his family must protect her from.

Before we continue it’s important to note that I although I have heard many negative things about the franchise, such as it strongly implies that girls need to be in a romantic relationship in order to feel whole, I have never read the Twilight books or watched the films (much as I have never read or watched 50 Shades of Grey) so I’ll be avoiding those arguments. If you want to discuss those points, I’ve linked a John Green video below where he reviews the first two books of the saga and discussed the positives and negatives effects they have had on society.

I’ve been told that the films of the Twilight saga are very faithful to the source material and although this is normally a good thing, the first draft film version of Edward actually sounds more interesting. At first the film rights to Twilight were given to Paramount who wanted to attract more male viewers. To do this they decided to make Edward more edgy and actually had him kill both human and vampires on screen. Edward’s actions would have resulted in him being hunted by an Korean FBI agent who specialised in hunting supernatural creatures. Bella would also have learned martial arts and fought alongside her boyfriend. This version of the film sounds more like Wolverine than Twilight (and it even sounds like a film I would have watched) but Paramount sold the film rights to Summit Entertainment who created a more faithful adaptation.

4.Yoda from Star Wars

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Even though Yoda is one of the most iconic characters not just within Star Wars but perhaps in all of cinema, in the Star Wars universe little is known about his backstory. We know he was taken into the Jedi order at a young age and became a Jedi Master after one hundred years but we don’t know what planet Yoda originally came from or what species of alien he is. It had also never been explained why Yoda speaks backwards, although this was most likely done by George Lucas to make Yoda more memorable. Regardless Yoda was known across the galaxy as the Grandmaster of the Jedi order during the Clone Wars and for his unmeasurable powers with the force.  Yoda was so popular with audiences that he made a surprise return  in the Episode Eight: The Last Jedi as a force ghost.

When writing Episode Five Lucas needed someone to carry on Obi-Wan’s teachings to Luke so he could battle Darth Vader. At first Lucas pictured a giant warrior but, perhaps realising this would look like another Chewbacca, decided that this new character would be of a smaller stature and commissioned several concept artists to brainstorm designs. These are some of the results:

 

 

 

Unfortunately the designs looked more like garden gnomes so Lucas decided that Yoda would be alien.

 

 

 

Yoda’s face was created by blending Stuart Freeborn’s face (a make up artist who worked on Star Wars) and Albert Einstein’s. At first Yoda was portrayed by a puppet in episodes five and six (interestingly one of Yoda’s walking scenes in episode five was portrayed by an uncredited Warwick Davis) before being a mixture of CGI and puppetry for episode one. In episodes two and three Yoda was completely CGI which allowed him to perform cartoon choreography to battle Count Dooku and Darth Sidious. When Yoda returned in episode eight he was, once again, portrayed by a puppet.

5. The Na’vi from Avatar

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In James Cameron’s film Avatar, the Na’vi are the native inhabitants of the planet Pandora. When the human colonists arrive they attempt to mine a rare resource from the planet upsetting the Na’vi’s habitat and putting them at risk of extinction. This results  in a war between the two species. Although the film only focuses on one clan of Na’vi, the Omaticaya clan, there are at least thirteen other clans that also call the moon of Pandora their home. Hopefully we will see more of these in the next Avatar film.

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The only real complaints aimed at Avatar is that the plot is the same as Dances with Wolves (in which a white American soldier joins a clan of Native Americans and fights back his former allies) and that the Na’vi look like human sized smurfs. Although I don’t think that this last criticism is justified, I would pay to watch Papa Smuf leap on a pterodactyl, the Na’vi’s original design was much more… bland.

I want to make it clear that although I love Sci-Fi shows like Doctor Who, I do not believe in aliens. That is to say I don’t believe in aliens in flying saucers or spaceships. There may be life on other planets such as microorganisms but that’s it. There are people who believe that aliens have visited this Earth and they have divided these aliens into different races. The most common race (this race making up more than 50% of alien face to face encounters) are called the Greys. The Greys are the same aliens involved in the Roswell UFO Crash where a film was created of an alien autopsy, a screenshot of which is below.

Alien

Although the autopsy footage has now been confirmed to be fake, the idea of The Greys has caught on and in the original draft of Avatar, Pandora was filled with these aliens although they had blue skin and orange highlights in their hair. It was only when Cameron developed the ecosystem of Pandora did the Na’vi’s designs adapt to it.

 

I hope you enjoy reading this website post. Do you know any interesting first drafts of famous characters that I didn’t talk about? Let me know in the comments down below or on social media and have a good one.

 

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