Roads Not Taken: When Disney almost went Discworld

Mort - concept art by Claire Keane

Mort – concept art by Claire Keane

Animation designer and children’s author Claire Keane has posted some wonderful concept art for an abandoned Disney project based on Sir Terry Pratchett‘s fourth Discworld novel, Mort,  on her official web site. While that project didn’t go ahead, BBC America’s TV series The Watch seems to be progressing nicely.

Back in 2010, web site Bleeding Cool received a tip-off that Ron Clements and John Musker, directors of animated projects such as Disney’s Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, Treasure Planet, Aladdin, were working on an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Mort.

Obtaining the film rights prevented them from continuing with the project, so the pair  pitched three new ideas, going on to produce Moana, instead.

Death, Keli, Mort and Ysabel, as envisaged by Claire Keane for an abandoned  Disney version of the Discworld story "Mort"

Death, Keli, Mort and Ysabel, as envisaged by Claire Keane for an abandoned Disney version of the Discworld story “Mort”

Designer and children’s book author Claire Keane, who worked at Disney for 10 years, has revealed some of the concept art for the Mort project, which, for me, evoke memories of Roald Searle‘s St. Trinians and Molesworth illustrations.

Hailing from a family of creative artists and cartoonists, Claire studied graphic design at L’Ecole Supérieure D’Arts Graphiques in Paris, France, then worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation in Los Angles for ten years, designing for Tangled, Frozen, Enchanted and other films. She left the company in 2013 to dedicate her time to creating her own stories and various collaborations through books such as Once Upon a Cloud and Little Big Girl and animation at her studio in Venice Beach, California.

Last year, she directed a project for the Smithsonian Museum National Museum of the American Indian, “Allies in War, Partners in Peace”, which illustrates the Oneida tribe’s loyal, yet all too often forgotten contribution to the American Revolution.

In Mort, the fourth Discworld novel, readers learnt that although the scythe isn’t pre-eminent among the weapons of war, anyone who has been on the wrong end of, say, a peasants’ revolt, will know that in skilled hands it is fearsome.

For Mort however, it is about to become one of the tools of his trade. From henceforth, Death is no longer going to be the end, merely the means to an end. He has received an offer he can’t refuse. As Death’s apprentice he’ll have free board, use of the company horse and being dead isn’t compulsory. It’s the dream job until he discovers that it can be a killer on his love life…

Coming Soon: "The Watch" from BBC Studios and Narrativa

Coming Soon: “The Watch” from BBC Studios and Narrativa

Sky have previously aired productions of The Hogfather in 2006, The Colour of Magic (2008), and Going Postal (2010), and last year, it was confirmed BBC America had commissioned The Watch, comprising eight one hour episodes, based on the stories about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch).

The series, written by Sky Atlantic’s Das Boot writer Simon Allen and co-produced by BBC Studios and  Pratchett’s own production company, Narrativia, will apparently draw on storylines from Guards! Guards! (1989), the short story Theatre of Cruelty (1993), Men at Arms (1993), Feet of Clay (1996), Jingo (1997), The Fifth Elephant (1999), Night Watch (2002), Thud! (2005) and Snuff (2011).

The Watch is being described as “a punk rock thriller” inspired by the legendary ‘City Watch’ subset of Discworld novels. This disruptive, character-driven thriller centres on Terry Pratchett’s misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalised wrongness, from both the past and future in a perilous quest.

Expect appearances by City Watch Captain Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious non-binary forensics expert Cheery alongside Pratchett’s original characterisation of Death.

Independent Production Company Narrativia was launched in 2012 by Sir Terry Pratchett. The company owns and controls the exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to all of Sir Terry’s works, including his Discworld characters and creations.

“With events in our own world making the insanity of ‘Discworld’ seem outrageously familiar, there couldn’t be a better time to bring Terry’s fun, fire and fury back to the small screen or a better place than BBC America,” said writer Simon Allen at the time. “I’m grateful to them, BBC Studios and especially Rob Wilkins at Narrativia who has been a constant source of inspiration on this epic and emotional journey.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Good Omens, a non-Discworld project by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prtachett, debuts on Amazon Prime on Friday 31st May.

• Claire Keane is online at | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Terry Pratchett’s works on film and TV – L-Space List

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