Have Disney Canned Their Philip K. Dick Adaptation, King Of The Elves?

There's absolutely no official confirmation of this yet, but several rumours and a clear change to an official website suggest that Disney have ditched their long in the works adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story, King of the Elves. The film was being directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker.

When I was out at the animation studios in Burbank earlier this month there was a lot of great-looking Elves artwork dotted about the place. What looked like CG tests for the elf characters showed a great deal of detail and texture, more akin to something like Avatar than a more stylised Pixar picture. As the only images I saw of human characters were sketches or hand drawn concept art I'm not sure what the ultimate aesthetic plan actually added up to.

Interesting note: you can see from the storyboard sketch above that this would have been another Disney film with a Black lead character.

To cut a long story short, I'd be very disappointed to see this film frozen out. What evidence is there that it's on the scrap heap?

I was put on the trail by some comments on the TAG blog. This is where Steve Hulett of Animation Guild 839 reports on the state of the industry. Following on from Hulett's report on visiting Disney's 'hat building' on December 22nd, the first comment contained this statement:

King of the Elves was the next big CG flick, and now that that's canned, and Rich Moore's project under wraps in terms of style, who knows if there will be another CG movie.

Incidetantally, I believe Rich Moore's project is a CG film called Joe Jump and would tell the story of a videogame mascot adjusting to a higher-tech new world, but that one's totally under wraps, officially speaking.

The comments continued to discuss the cancellation of Elves.

Has Elves really been permanently shelved? I hear someone say retooling, then someone say "cancelled". Of course, six of one, half dozen of the other sometimes...

Has Elves really been permanently shelved? Yes.

I see that King of the Elves has been removed from the Walt Disney Animation Studios website – anyone know why it got shelved? Why was production so turbulent that a director left, it entered re-tooling, and then was canned?

And it's true. While the page for King of the Elves has not (yet) been deleted, it has been removed from the official WDAS site's navigation and you need to know the URL to skip to it, or sneak your way in via Google.

Now, the visitors to the TAG blog are going to be almost all industry professionals, so I'm inclined to put trust in these comments.

I've sent a few e-mails out to sources who might have more information, but at this time of year I'm not sure that I'll get anything like a swift response.

There's two obvious reasons that King of the Elves may have been axed. The first is that it could be very hard to merchandise; the second is that the source story is actually not really what you'd first think of as a Disney toon. Here's a minor spoiler – the lead character ends up killing his best friend. Sure, he sees him as a Troll, but you know what that Dick chap is like with liquid identities and so on.

It may simply be that they couldn't get an expanded version of the short story to play well. The writing and storyboarding process at Disney, as per Pixar and some of their rivals, is a long and arduous one. Sometimes, a film just doesn't come together.

It's sad to see Elves go but it would be sadder still to see it come out and not be up to quality.