The Walt Disney Company recently revealed some seemingly scandalous information about two members of its creative film team. Dan Abraham, a story developer for Disney, and Trent Correy, an animator, admitted to a fateful 2021 meeting in a Taco Bell parking lot that eventually brought Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer to tears.
The secret meetings between Abraham and Correy may have started outside a local Taco Bell, but they continued consistently for eight months in various other locations. So what’s with all the secrecy? What could be so top secret that periodic meetings occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Apparently all this sneaking around came from the duo’s work on an unauthorized project intended to “honor Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 100th anniversary.” Although Abraham and Correy were not tasked with such a feat, they continued brainstorming their passion project whenever they could. They didn’t know it then, but that fall 2021 night by Taco Bell birthed what The Walt Disney company will soon present as a celebratory short film called Once Upon A Studio!
Once Upon A Studio is a highly-anticipated short film from Disney that reportedly includes hundreds of legacy characters, various different animation styles, and live-action elements! In fact, The Walt Disney Company reports there are a whopping “543 characters from more than 85 feature-length and short films” all coming together in one narrative for the very first time!
When the creatives finally revealed what they’d been working on to Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, things went better than they ever hoped for. Here’s how Dan Abraham described pitching the idea to her for the first time:
She had no idea what it was. Because the pandemic was still going on, I tapped through all of our storyboards on Zoom and presented this idea to her. After I was done, she stood up and left the camera. Trent and I looked at each other like, ‘Oh, no… What is happening?’ When she came back, her glasses were on top of her head, and she wiped away a little tear. She said, ‘I don’t know how, but we have to figure out how to make this.’ Trent and I were just beside ourselves! We couldn’t believe it. It felt like such a long shot to work on something for that long—and on something that no one was asking for. It felt so amazing.
Fans had tears in their eyes just watching the recently released trailer for Once Upon A Studio. Apparently the late Robin Williams’ unused voice recordings as the Genie from Aladdin (1992) will even be included. Is it possible to watch it without sobbing?
Everyone will have a chance to find out soon when Once Upon A Short debuts Sunday, October 15, as part of ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney: Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration!.
This is how Trent Correy and Dan Abraham describe their colleagues’ excitement once the project was internally announced:
Correy: I didn’t anticipate that we would have so many people coming up to us, emailing us, texting us, or Slacking us to say, ‘I just need to be a part of this thing.’
Abraham: We found out very quickly just how much these characters mean to the people in the building; characters like Ariel, Mulan, and Pinocchio feel like part of their families.
If Disney workers felt that much love for the project the second they knew about it, how thrilled are fans going to be with the final product? All signs point to a heartwarming, nostalgic, and magical short film experience – but don’t worry, we’ll check back in on October 15th!