Top 10 Disney Scenes You Didn't Know Were Improvised
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Top 10 Disney Scenes You Didn't Know Were Improvised

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer sher
Sometimes the best moments weren't in the script. With so much talent behind the most iconic Disney films, there are bound to be improvised moments, and these are the best of the best. For this list, we're looking at live-action and animated scenes where actors ad-libbed a line, an entire scene or multiple scenes that made it into the finished Disney product. However, we'll be excluding moments from Marvel & Star Wars films, as those may need to become lists of their own. Join MsMojo as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Disney Scenes You Didn't Know Were Improvised.
Sometimes the best moments weren’t in the script. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Disney Scenes That Were Actually Improvised.

For this list, we’re looking at live-action and animated scenes where actors ad-libbed a line, an entire scene or multiple scenes that made it into the finished Disney product. However, we’ll be excluding moments from Marvel & Star Wars films, as those may need to become lists of their own.

#10: Bucky & Binky

“Brother Bear” (2003)

While far from the most popular or critically acclaimed Disney film, “Brother Bear” still managed to pull in $250 million at the box office. The flick features Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai, a young man who is transformed into a bear as punishment for needlessly killing one out of anger. At one point in the film, Kenai erroneously refers to the character of Bucky as Binky, to which his friend Koda promptly replies: “First of all, his name’s Bucky, not Binky, and it wasn’t a pine cone, it was a pine nut! And it was huge! Even bigger than your fat head.” The line was made up on the spot by actor Jeremy Suarez and it ultimately managed to make the final cut. Talk about one quick-witted child voice actor!

#9: Jason Bateman: Hustler

“Zootopia” (2016)

“Zootopia” was a massive success for Disney, raking in over a billion dollars at the box office and taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 89th Academy Awards. A funny and heartwarming look at a world in which animals can not only talk, but also have their own elaborate, human-esque society, a rabbit police officer and a fast-talking fox team up to solve a criminal conspiracy. At one point early in the film, they both visit an ice cream parlor, only for Jason Bateman’s character to concoct a scheme in which he pretends to lose his wallet, forcing Judy Hopps to pay for him. Well, it turns out that Bateman came up with the entire scenario in the recording booth!

#8: A Jar of Dirt

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest” (2006)

The lead character from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series is a veritable quote machine. Jack Sparrow, as played by Johnny Depp, has produced a slew of iconic one-liners that people are still using today. Incredibly, many of the character’s most famous quips were ad-libbed by Depp, including the hilarious “jar of dirt” song from “Dead Man’s Chest”. Depp also came up with his character’s pervasive use of the word “savvy”, as well as one of the final lines from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”: “Now, bring me that horizon.” Who needs a script when you have Johnny Depp coming up with all the best stuff anyways?

#7: Fast Talking Hades

“Hercules” (1997)

Fun fact: the role of Hades was originally offered to three-time Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson, but he passed on the project after co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker refused to meet his (admittedly) steep financial demands. They ultimately settled on veteran actor James Woods, who did a fantastic job as the fast-talking lord of the underworld. Woods played the character as if he were a sleazy used car salesman and the result was the iconic villain we know and love. Woods, who’s prone to improvisation, ending up ad-libbing many of his scenes and lines, a by-product of his character’s lightning fast manner of speech.

#6: Josh Gad: Ad-Lib Machine

“Frozen” (2013)

As the highest grossing film of 2013 and among the highest grossing of all time, we think it’s safe to say that people enjoyed Disney’s “Frozen”. The film tells the story of a young princess who, along with her companions, embarks on a journey to find her magical sister. Josh Gad plays Olaf, a snowman who dreams of summer and the film’s primary source of comic relief. Gad was given free rein when it came to improvising, and many of his ad-libbed lines made the film’s final cut. In fact, the scene in which Anna and Kristoff meet Olaf was almost entirely improvised by Gad.

#5: “A Sad, Strange Little Man”

“Toy Story” (1995)

One of Disney’s most beloved franchises, “Toy Story” kicked things off all the way back in 1995, brought to life thanks to the incredible voice acting performances of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz respectively. The film was a breeding ground for improvisation, leading to some of the movie’s most iconic lines being created on the spot. For example: the unique insult Buzz uses calls Woody (a sad, strange little man) was made up by Allen. The scene in which Woody pretends Buzz is okay by waving his disembodied arm about? Hanks ad-libbed the entire thing. Oh, and Buzz’s meltdown while playing dress up and drinking tea? Yeah, you can thank Allen’s awesome improv skills for that too.

#4: The Tea Party

“Alice in Wonderland” (1951)

A staple of early Disney classics, “Alice in Wonderland” is remembered for its humor and its psychedelic animation. Incredibly, one of the film’s most iconic scenes was the result of extensive improvisation on the part of actors Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna. In their roles as the Mad Hatter and March Hare, the two were given free rein when it came to the “mad tea party” scene. Left to their own devices on a sound stage and supplied with all the relevant props, the veteran comedians showcased their innate abilities for slapstick humor and zippy one-liners. We highly recommend re-watching the entire scene when you have the chance.

#3: Dressing in Drag & Doing the Hula

“The Lion King” (1994)

Near the climax of 1994’s “The Lion King”, Simba, Timon and Pumbaa find their path to Pride Rock blocked by a ravenous pack of hyenas. Simba suggests that they create a distraction, to which Timon sarcastically replies: “Whadda ya want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?" The line was made up by Timon voice actor Nathan Lane and it ultimately led to the creation of a whole new scene in which Timon and Pumbaa perform a luau. This tradition of ad-libbing was passed on to the next generation of Timon and Pumbaa as well, with Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner coming up with tons of original content for the 2019 version of “The Lion King”.

#2: Cogsworth’s Zinger

“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)

After years of enduring his boss’ curmudgeonly demeanor and violent outbursts, Cogsworth the clock had become just a teensy-bit jaded. However, when Belle serendipitously arrives at the castle, Beast begins to loosen up, and asks Cogsworth for help coming up with an appropriate way to thank their new houseguest. It was at that point that Cogsworth’s voice actor, David Ogden Stiers, ad-libbed the now famous line: “The usual thing, flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep.” Not only was the line hilarious, but it also fit perfectly with Cogsworth’s character. Such is the skill of a seasoned actor; they can seamlessly jump into the mind of the person they’re portraying. Or in this case, an anthropomorphic clock.

#1: Pretty Much Everything Out of Robin Williams’ Mouth

“Aladdin” (1992)

Despite Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg suggesting that John Candy, Steve Martin, or Eddie Murphy play Genie, “Aladdin” co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker stuck to their guns and insisted on hiring Robin Williams. The result was one of the most ad-libbed characters in Disney history. It’s been claimed that Williams improvised more than 50 characters while recording and would often do 20 or more takes of a single line, impersonating a different character each time! This proved to be a blessing and a curse, as it provided the animators with a plethora of options but occasionally forced them to create entirely new scenes – including the hilarious Pinocchio gag. It’s truly a historic voice performance from the master of improv.
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