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DreamWorks Animation Movies We'll Never Get To See

Over the years, it's become impossible to miss a DreamWorks Animation movie. Titles from this studio are given such massive marketing pushes that you always know when a new Shrek, Trolls, or Boss Baby installment drops into theaters. 

While the DreamWorks Animation's released titles are omnipresent, their canceled films remain far more obscure. Despite putting out so many movies over the last three decades, the studio also has a large number of projects that never got off the ground. While Kung Fu Panda revels in fame, these unrealized DreamWorks titles languish in obscurity.

The reasons for their demises vary greatly, with some fizzling out simply due to their stories not clicking and others falling victim to larger studio politics. Whatever caused them to fall short of the finish line, it's high time these unmade DreamWorks Animation projects got a fraction of the attention of completed DreamWorks Animation endeavors. Who knows — maybe, if we're lucky, these will someday make it to the big screen. 

Tortoise vs. Hare never made it past the starting line

It's now a distant memory in the history of DreamWorks Animation, but there was a time when the studio was turning to the British stop-motion outfit Aardman Animations to help build up its slate. The duo embarked on a partnership in the late 1990s that got off to a fruitful start with the 2000 box office hit Chicken Run. Their next two released films, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away, were less successful. The collaboration also became strained thanks to the cancelation of Tortoise vs. Hare.

Initially planned to be the next Aardman film after Chicken Run, Tortoise vs. Hare was abruptly halted in July 2001 over issues with the film's script. "Chicken Run was in development for 2 1/2 years, but we've had just 16 months on Tortoise," Aardman spokesman Arthur Sheriff said about the film being shelved, which resulted in workers being laid off. "We hate to make all these people redundant, but it means we will be able to flesh out the characters more and make a better film." At the time, Sheriff was confident the film would resume production in six months meet a 2004 release date. Instead, Tortoise vs. Hare quietly went unmade. This partnership finally came to a close in early 2007.

DreamWorks never got its kicks on Route 66

Pixar wasn't the only studio developing an animated film set on Route 66 (Cars) back in the mid-2000s. DreamWorks Animation was, too. First announced in 2005 as a potential DreamWorks Animation movie "for 2009 and beyond," Route 66 was described as a love story between a golf ball statue at a golf course and an enormous blueberry statue at a produce stand across the street. When the blueberry is removed, that big golf ball rolls away on the Mother Road to find his one true love.

The project was the brainchild of comedian Harland Williams (of Dumb and Dumber fame), who had come up with the story for the production. He'd later reveal that the feature would be an ensemble film featuring "a group of eccentric roadside statues." By the end of 2009, total radio silence had surrounded Route 66. The writing was on the wall and Williams himself announced that Route 66 had been shelved. No official reason was ever given for why it faltered, but it can likely be attributed to mega-successful Cars franchise. Arriving shortly after the announcement of Route 66's existence, Cars quickly became the default pop culture property set on Route 66. The prospect of competing with Lightning McQueen likely impacted DreamWorks Animation's enthusiasm for Route 66's unusual love story about novelty architecture.

Moviegoers were refused service at Gil's All Fright Diner

Director Barry Sonnenfeld made his directorial debut helming family-friendly horror with the 1991 Addams Family movie. It was a domain that he almost returned to thanks to the DreamWorks Animation movie Gil's All Fright Dinner. Based on a novel by A. Lee Martinez, it was the story of a vampire and a werewolf who stop by in a supernatural diner and promptly have to stop a zombie invasion. The project hired Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris to pen the screenplay.

Author Martinez expressed excitement for the project in a December 2009 post on his website, noting that, even though a family-friendly adaptation from DreamWorks would cut out the swearing and sex from the story, he still had confidence in the studio's ability to produce a quality motion picture. However, the project quietly went unmade. In February 2021, Martinez opened up on what happened, noting that the film got far along in production, but was canned once DreamWorks learned Sony Animation had their own vampire movie in development, Hotel Transylvania. The animated family movie realm wasn't big enough for two cartoons led by vampires, which led to the closure of Gil's All Fright Diner.

Imaginary Enemies never made it into reality

Over the course of its decades of existence, DreamWorks Animation has resisted the urge to explore live-action storytelling. Fully animated movies have always been the order of the day for this studio. However, that doesn't mean they've never flirted with doing live-action projects. The proposed live-action/animated feature Imaginary Enemies would have finally broken that barrier and taken the studio into the real world. This occasion would be marked with a film about imaginary friends, a concept that's long been a fixture of children's entertainment (take Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, for example). In this particular approach to imaginary friends, Imaginary Enemies would have imagined these creatures getting revenge on the grown-up versions of kids who used to blame them for all their mischief.

The hybrid format of the project would have seen the human beings rendered as live-action people and the various imaginary friends as computer-animated beings. Screenwriters Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario were tasked with penning the script for the feature, but that's as far as Imaginary Enemies got. No director was ever assigned to this film, let alone a release date and cast, and it ended up going unmade. In the years since Imaginary Enemies was announced, DreamWorks Animation has flirted with making other movies about imaginary friends, but the prospect of the studio expanding into the world of live-action filmmaking seems unlikely. 

Lidsville remained on the hat rack

Sid and Marty Krofft are well-known for delivering trippy 1960s and 1970s entertainment that appealed to youngsters just as much as it appealed to adults taking an "enhanced" approach to watching these programs. Among those children's shows was Lidsville, which is about a kid being transported to a magical land where hats are alive and can talk. In 2011, DreamWorks Animation announced that Shrek 2 director Conrad Vernon would be helming a feature-film musical adaptation of the program. 

This would not be a grim n' gritty adaptation of the Lidsville lore; rather, Vernon made it apparent that the inherent absurdity of the production would remain intact. "You really have to look at the source material and be true to it," Vernon told The New York Times. "There is something at the heart of every show they did that captured the audience back then, and that's something you can't lose." Vernon also said at the time that he wasn't sure what medium the film would be in, but saw a live-action/CGI hybrid as a possibility. Alan Menken and Glenn Slater were also hired to write tunes for the movie, with Menken saying in October 2011 saying the feature would be taking cues from '60s music. There was a bounty of talent under the brim of Lidsville, but the project never materialized. In June 2016, Sid Krofft revealed that the project had officially been canceled.

Monkeys of Mumbai failed to swing into theaters

In January 2011, the studio behind Shrek announced they were going Bollywood with an animated feature entitled Monkeys of Mumbai. A story about monkeys trying to stop an ancient evil, it was set to feature music from Stephen Schwartz and had Enchanted helmer Kevin Lima in the director's chair. "Ever since Enchanted, I've been looking for a film musical," Lima said about his inspiration for taking on the project. "When DreamWorks Animation approached me with the prospect of doing a Bollywood musical with such renowned collaborators, I knew this was the one." With all this talent onboard, it was time for Moneys of Mumbai to get a spot on DreamWorks Animation's release calendar. The production went through an assortment of 2015 and 2016 release dates before settling on a March 2017 premiere.

However, Monkeys of Mumbai was one of many DreamWorks Animation films pulled from the studios schedule in the mid-2010s. No further details were reported on the production until late 2017, when Lima revealed what went down on the pulled musical. Studio politics killed the project rather than the quality of Monkeys of Mumbai itself. Woes related to the movie's massive budget kept the project from being revived at another animation house, despite Lima and Schwartz's continued passion for the project. Visually distinctive concept art is all that remains of Monkeys of Mumbai: a proposed movie musical that never got the chance to carry a tune.

B.O.O. never went bump in the night

B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherwordly Operations went through many forms in its life. Initially, it was a college comedy called Boo U. B.O.O. star and director Seth Rogen and Tony Leondis, respectively, were already set for the project, but at the time it was about a ghost who has to go back to scaring college. It eventually morphed into an action movie about a secret organization of ghosts who stop evil specters from terrorizing the world: an R.I.P.D.-but-for-kids kind of premise.

Melissa McCarthy joined Rogen to fill out the film's two leads, while the project's ghostly baddie would be played by Bill Murray. Originally set for a June 2015 release, the film was pulled from the schedule just seven months prior to its release. No reason was given for its demise was given at the time, but in 2019, Yahoo did a deep dive into the film's production with two people who had worked on it. Although 60% of B.O.O.'s animation was completed before it was scuttled, there were numerous reasons for its being shelved, including concern over its principal storyline (involving a dead dad trying to reconnect with his son — heavy stuff for a young audience), as well general behind-the-scenes chaos at DreamWorks at the time. Whatever the reasons were, B.O.O. would never see the light of day.

The Down Under musical Larrikins went belly-up

Tim Minchin's Larrikins was aiming to be a radically different DreamWorks Animation title. Not only would it have been set in Australia, but it was also aiming to be, much like prior Minchin productions, a musical. In 2016, the production hummed right along by casting a slew of famous Australian performers, including Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendelsohn. All seemed to be going well...until news hit in March 2017 that the film had been canceled.

Minchin revealed the news on his blog, making it apparent that he'd been hit hard by this development. "The animated film to which I've dedicated the last four years of my life was shut down by the new studio execs," Minchin said. Minchin elaborated on the heartbreaking circumstances behind the movie's demise in early 2018. "The people who made the decision didn't even have the balls to phone me," Minchin reflected. "It's been awful...I said no to a tour every year, to two or three different fantastic Broadway projects, to TV shows. I said no to so much, because I went, 'I'm the director of a $100m movie and it will all be worth it.' And then, just binned. It was unbearable." Unlike many discarded DreamWorks Animation projects, though, at least Larrikins did get a minor revival in the short film Bilby, which utilized character models and key crew members from Larrikins.

The children's book Beekle went unadapted

For much of his career, Jason Reitman has been a director associated with adult drama/comedies like Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult. The thought of him doing an animated kid's movie might seem surprising, but it's just what was proposed when DreamWorks Animation announced in 2015 that the studio was adapting the kid's book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend.

The premise would have concerned an imaginary friend, Beekle, who goes on a fantastical journey. Beekle had significance for DreamWorks, as it was the first new production greenlit under the studio's new management team, as well as a rare instance of DreamWorks turning to live-action talent to helm one of their features. After a splashy announcement full of major firsts for the company, though, no further details were released about Beekle. The reasons for the project's demise are obscure, especially since Reitman has never publicly spoken about it. Beekle seems to have died on the vine, allowing the filmmaker behind the pie scene in Labor Day more time to move on and make iconic dramas like The Front Runner.

Spooky Jack was an unrealized nightmare

Shortly after buying DreamWorks Animation, Universal decided to engage in some corporate synergy and have the animation house collaborate with the studio's go-to production company for horror movie hits, Blumhouse Productions. Though the outfit behind Get Out isn't famous for family-friendly titles, they were looking to get into that territory with Spooky Jack. Blumhouse head Jason Blum even referenced his inexperience with family-friendly fare in his first statements on Spooky Jack, noting, "It's a testament to the remarkably collaborative environment that Universal fosters among its creative family that we're now jumping into animation in the very capable hands of Chris DeFaria and the talented DreamWorks team." 

Spooky Jack was set to be a tale about three siblings fighting famous monsters, who are just as frightened of children as youngsters are of them. Though no director was announced for the affair, it was set for a September 2021 launch. Despite being such a promising union between two Universal divisions, Spooky Jack quietly got pulled from the schedule in 2019. No reason was given for it being shuffled off the slate, and there hasn't been additional word on the production since. Perhaps trying to pair off the makers of The Purge with the makers of Madagascar just wasn't as much of a knockout combo as Universal hoped.  

A shadow was cast over Me and My Shadow

It's easy to see why DreamWorks Animation would be attracted to Me and My Shadow. Making a movie about the world of shadows has a classic Pixar-quality to it: the exploration of the hidden lives of something we all have. Blending CGI humans with hand-drawn shadows could also have lent the production a unique visual look. Armed with a cast headlined by Josh Gad and Bill Hader, Me and My Shadow was set for a November 2013 release date...and then the trouble started.

After briefly getting delayed to March 2014, Me and My Shadow was put back into development in early 2013. Nearly two years later, Baby Driver director Edgar Wright signed onto to helm a revamped version of the production entitled Shadows. This version of Me and My Shadow got far enough along to be tentatively set for a 2019 release. However, by 2017, Wright indicated that, despite doing extensive work on its script, the project had been shelved due to changes in the executive ranks at DreamWorks Animation. There have been no further updates on the movie since. The concept at the heart of Me and My Shadow is enticing, but DreamWorks Animation has struggled with it for over a decade.