Back in 1999, director Barry Cook started working on an animated film that would use a unique animation style that would blend hand drawn with computer generated imagery, which was a technique that was unseen at that time. Entitled “My Peoples”, the film was based on his short story The Ghost & His Gift, which is a retelling of The Canterville Ghost.
Far from being a straightforward retelling of The Canterville Ghost, Cook infused My Peoples with elements taken straight from his life, such as the Appalachian music and folklore that have dominated his childhood. It was Cook’s vision that Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Florida would have brought to life.
Unfortunately, the industry’s rigorous process took its toll on Cook’s film, as My Peoples underwent a series of changes, from storytelling to titles and everything in between. A lot of the changes have been attributed to shifts in Disney’s management instead of major problems with the quality of the project. Nonetheless, Cook and the Florida team pressed forward, optimistic about the special film that they are working on.
Finally, in late 2003, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner was able to see a private screening of My Peoples. Reportedly, Eisner loved the footage and praised the future as Disney’s next big hit. Unfortunately, the project was soon cancelled and Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida was closed. It was a time that Cook can only describe as heartbreaking.
Continue reading about Cook and the Florida Crew at Josh Armstrong’s Animated Views article.