Walt Disney Animation Almost Made An Alfred Hitchcock Homage Movie Called Fraidy Cat

This is probably a hot take, but Walt Disney Animation's many canceled projects often sound a lot more interesting than the films they end up releasing. Sure, there might have been legitimate reasons as to why these films get canned, but a lot of them either looked visually stunning in concept art or had unique plots that would have been cool to see on the big screen.

One of these fabled canceled projects was "Fraidy Cat," a homage to Alfred Hitchcock's noir and suspense films. Little has been released about the project since its supposed cancelation in 2005, and even fewer pieces of art have been released to give us an idea of what it would have looked like. It's a real shame as well because it sounds like it could have been a hit with critics and audiences alike.

However, 17 years after its cancelation, we have a clearer idea of how far in development the film was before its untimely end. /Film's Shania Russell recently spoke to "Meet the Robinsons" director Stephen J. Anderson for a comprehensive oral history of the film. During their discussion, he revealed that "Meet the Robinsons" was screened alongside two other in-development Disney projects in an internal event called the "Bake-Off." One of them was the original version of what would become "Gnomeo & Juliet," and the other was "Fraidy Cat." Allegedly, they were able to show off an incomplete reel of its first two acts before it got canceled.

What we know about Fraidy Cat

The plot of "Fraidy Cat" sounded very fun and intriguing, to say the least. The film would have centered around a spoiled house cat caught up in a twisty mystery (via the Lost Media Wiki). While this alone makes the film sound great, Stephen J. Anderson revealed some new details of the plot during the "Meet the Robinsons" oral history.

"The cat was, let's say, like a Jimmy Stewart character in 'Vertigo,'" he described. "It was very paranoid, witnessed a murder, and was trying to unspool what actually had happened. And it was done in a very Hitchcock-style noir-ish presentation in the boards."

Now, this is interesting. In previous reports on the film, a murder plotline has never been discussed. On its Disney Wiki page, the crime at the center of the movie is said to be a kidnapping, although there is no source attached that confirms this. Granted, this could be a slip in memory due to having seen the footage almost 20 years ago. However, if these details were accurate, then we really missed out on a great film, and Anderson agrees.

"It would've been really great," he said. "I wish it could have been made, but unfortunately, it didn't make it."

Clash of cattiness

So, why exactly did it get canceled? One might assume that it was for budgetary reasons, or maybe it was too adult-leaning for kids. While these might have influenced the decision, the main reason for its canning is far pettier than you might expect.

"These empty suits chose to bad-mouth 'Fraidy Cat,'" longtime Disney blogger Jim Hill wrote in a blog post a month after its cancelation. "[They said] that the premise of the picture was far too obscure. 'I mean, who today even remembers who Alfred Hitchcock was? So why would kids in 2009 pay good money to see an animated film that pays tribute to an old, fat, dead movie director?'" Wow. Rude.

The two-act reel apparently got positive reactions at its "Bake-Off," presumably the one attended by Stephen J. Anderson during the production of "Meet the Robinsons." However, that didn't seem to matter, because according to Hill, the executives only saw it as a means to expand the Disney brand. Without that clear vision, it wasn't worth anything to them:

"They kept whispering and whispering. Saying things like 'This project has such limited commercial appeal. There's no way that we're going to be able to persuade a major manufacturer to make 'Fraidy Cat' toys' and 'How is this film going to expand the Disney brand? Are there characters here that we can use for a Saturday morning spin-off? Or for a home premiere sequel?'"

Unfortunately, that sounds about right for Disney Animation, even to this day. At least we have the cool concept art to reminisce on.