Disney is exceptionally proud of its reputation as one of the premier animation studios in the world. The House of Mouse has made some of the best animated movies ever, creating a raft of widely beloved cartoon characters.
For its efforts, Disney has won a total of 135 Oscars and been nominated for countless more. Still, there are other Disney movies in the vault that were very successful that, for whatever reason, the House of Mouse doesn’t like. This brings us to Runaway Brain, a Mickey mouse cartoon that Disney tried to bury.
In case you’ve not seen it, ‘Runaway Brain’ is a short film that sees Mickey Mouse desperate for cash to impress Minnie Mouse. To earn money, he agrees to an experimental procedure that sees him swap bodies with the feral giant Julius.
The experiment is a success, and Mickey ends up in the giant’s body while Julius is transplanted into Mickey. Unfortunately, the scientist who performed the procedure dies in the process, and Julius runs away with Mickey’s body. The whole thing ends with a fight over Minnie and Mickey being zapped back into his rightful body by some lightning.
Pretty inoffensive if slightly scary stuff, right? Well, the Academy thought so. They nominated it for an Oscar, and Disney clearly didn’t have a problem with it because it was attached to The Goofy Movie in international markets. Yet after 1996, the short disappeared; it was never aired on the Disney Channel, and even now, in 2022, it’s unavailable to watch on Disney Plus.
So why? According to Polygon, it all boils down to the internal politics of Disney in the ’90s and how certain people wanted to protect Mickey Mouse’s image. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was chairman of Walt Disney Studios during the production of ‘The Runaway Brain’, loved the short and insulated the team working on it from critics in the studio who didn’t like its monstrous depiction of Mickey Mouse.
When he left in 1994, the crew’s protection went with him. This led to Disney Animation executives Thomas Schumacher and Peter Schneider, who’d never really been fond of the project, demanding numerous cuts and changes to the short horror movie, despite a successful test screening.
According to ‘Runaway Brain”s director Chris Bailey Schumacher and Schneider actively hated the project, and a fear that the possessed Mickey was too scary led to Disney under marketing the film. That meant when Bailey left Disney after the film’s Cannes debut, it had no one to champion it, and it was forgotten.
Disney did attach it to a few films, but for the most part, they’ve been keen to forget it exists. Polygon reports that a Disney source told them that the House of Mouse tries to keep the film hidden. Still, that’s not entirely true, and Runaway Brain has been released on home entertainment.
As we say, it’s not available on streaming services. Still, it was released in a Walt Disney Treasures collection and as a digital download with the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection. It’s also been referenced in the Kingdom Hearts games, so who knows, maybe Disney will let it out of the vault again?