Disney dreamed up a retelling of Catcher in the Rye starring German Shepherds that never came to fruition. Disney is well known for reimagining many classic stories. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Princess and the Frog are all inspired by previously told fairytales and folklore. With as many stories that the studio has retold, plenty of Disney movies ended up on the chopping block. The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, Carol Hughes’ Toots and the Upside Down House and Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins were all inspirations for Disney films that were ultimately scrapped.
Catcher in the Rye is a literary classic beloved by many for being a tribute to hipsters. The novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, wears a red hunting hat, has a wallflower persona and emphasizes on distancing himself from all of the “phonies.” The coming of age story captures the loneliness and confusion that comes with being a teenager, which are only amplified by Holden’s outcast lifestyle. Despite the fact that this J.D. Salinger novel was published almost 70 years ago in 1951, it remains relevant and continues to speak to the youth of today.
According to Collider, Disney almost reimagined this coming of age story with German Shepherds. Disney producer Don Hahn revealed that the project was titled Dufus and was an unofficial retelling of Catcher in the Rye. Dufus made the list of Disney’s upcoming projects in the late ’80s, over 30 years after the novel was published. Disney’s CEO at the time, Michael Eisner, pitched one of his favorite novels Catcher in the Rye. However, like his protagonist, Salinger was notorious for not wanting any of the “phonies” to mess with his vision. So Eisner wanted the next best thing: a coming of age story in the likes of Catcher in the Rye. Where the German Shepherds come into play is a mystery.
This Disney insider secret was subtly revealed by Hahn in his documentary Howard. Howard is a documentary based on composer and lyricist Howard Ashman. In the documentary, Hahn depicted how Disney attempted to persuade Ashman to sign a contract. Disney wrote a letter to Ashman listing several potential projects to entice him including Dufus. Alongside Dufus were Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid, the latter of which Ashman ended up writing for. Ashman also went onto work on Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast with Alan Menken. Ashman clearly had a successful career with Disney, but Dufus will likely ever see the light of day.
This is probably for the better. While many of the other Disney classics take lesser-known stories and put a spotlight on them, Catcher in the Rye is already a well-known and critically acclaimed story. If Dufus was advertised as a tribute to Catcher in the Rye, it is likely that it would get some flack for attempting to mess with perfection. Fans of Catcher in the Rye can take a sigh of relief knowing that Disney came to its senses and pulled the plug on Dufus.
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