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Disney has kept The Sweatbox locked out of sight for the past decade, but the 2002 documentary was posted online yesterday by an eighteen-year-old cartoonist in the UK. First, a little background on the film from Wade Sampson:

In 1997, musical performer and composer Sting was asked by the Walt Disney Company to write the music for a new animated feature called Kingdom of the Sun. It was to be directed by Roger Allers who was basking in the success of his work on The Lion King. Sting agreed, on the condition that his wife, filmmaker Trudie Styler, could document the process of the production with their own production company, Xingu Films…Sting’s wife was given unlimited access when it came to Production No. 1331 (aka “Kingdom”). She and her camera sat in on story meetings for the movie, rolled while actors auditioned as well as taping Sting while he recorded the score. No one expected two years into the production, it would shift direction drastically.

The Sweatbox is at turns infuriating, hilarious and enlightening. You’ll cringe in sympathy with the Disney artists as you see the gross bureaucratic incompetence they had to endure while working at the studio in the 1990s. The film not only captures the tortured morphing of the Kingdom of the Sun into The Emperor’s New Groove, it also serves as an invaluable historical document about Disney’s animation operations in the late-1990s. If any questions remain about why Disney fizzled out creatively and surrendered its feature animation crown to Pixar and DreamWorks, this film will answer them.

UPDATE: I just checked another copy of the film and it appears that the version of The Sweatbox posted on YouTube is an earlier cut of the film. The final theatrical version was 86 minutes long with a significantly different opening. I haven’t watched both side-by-side to draw further comparisons between these two versions.

(via @crazymorse)

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A man rides a horse through a bonfire in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, in honor of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals. On the eve of Saint Anthony’s Day, hundreds ride their horses trough the narrow cobblestone streets of the small village of San Bartolome during the “Luminarias,” a [...]

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Damian Dovarganes / AP

Craftsmen in protective fire suits pour molten bronze metal into ceramic molds to cast of the Screen Actors Guild Award "The Actor" statuettes using the lost wax process, at the American Fine Arts Foundry on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in Burbank, Calif. The 18th Annual SAG Awards, which honors outstanding motion picture and primetime television performances will be held in Los Angeles on Jan. 29.

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A craftsman breaks ceramic molds to reveal the bronze cast of the statuette.

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

A worker deburs an Actor stauette.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Artist Joaquin Quintero applies patina finish treatment to Screen Actors Guild Award "The Actor" statuettes.

Watch the casting process.

Related Content: 2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees list

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Two animated features opened quietly in Los Angeles this weekend. Both are well worth seeing in a theater and deserve our support. Both are hand drawn films – one from France, one from Japan – both offering a diversity of style, storytelling and substance not seen in the standard American studio product.

A Cat In Paris opened its Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles this weekend at the AMC Burbank Town Center 8 (201 E Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA), with shows daily at 4pm and 7:30pm. The film made its international premiere at 2011 Berlinale and has been nominated for a European Film Award in the Best Animated Feature category. It has garnered raves on the US and international festival circuit including appearances at San Francisco Int’l Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, London International Film Festival, and Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Redline opened in limited release in Los Angeles this weekend at the Downtown Independent (The film opens in NYC on January 6th before hitting blu-ray & dvd on January 17). The screenings will alternate between dubbed English and original Japanese (with sub-titles). It’s one of the best anime features I’ve seen in a while – wildly imaginative and occasionally surreal – Speed Racer on acid would sum it up quite nicely. Advance tickets can be purchased here.

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