In the making of any movie, lots of scenes get cut, edited, or rearranged. That occurs because filming sometimes dictates changes in the script that actually become more effective than the actual script itself. In “Rocky,” there’s a scene where Rocky and Adrian are supposed to get to know each other while roller skating. In the original script, they were supposed to be among a crowd of other people but during filming it was determined that hiring so many extras would be too expensive so they filmed it in an empty rolling skating rink instead and had Rocky convince the janitor of the rolling skating rink to let them use it for a few minutes in exchange for some money.
That scene of an empty rolling skating rink probably was far more effective than the actual script, which shows you how a script can gradually be improved upon during filming. Another example is “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Indiana Jones was supposed to fight a man wielding a sword. However Harrison Ford was sick during the filming of that scene so rather than have a drawn out sword fight scene, Harrison Ford suggested he just pull out his gun and shoot the swordsman. That simple scene proved one of the funniest and most memorable scenes in the whole movie.
Keep in mind that there’s a huge difference between improving a script compared to radically changing it. If you watch the above video showing deleted songs from various Disney animated films, you’ll see that Disney has often written and recorded songs that are later found not to be as effective so they eliminated the song altogether. However, a few times Disney has wasted time writing songs for characters that change radically. That shows that even Disney wastes way too much time trying to figure out their story rather than simply planning ahead.
It’s always cheaper to change words on paper. It’s always more expensive to radically change characters afterwards.
In “Aladdin,” Aladdin was supposed to have three friends who introduce themselves with a song. Right away you can see the problem with having three friends because now you have three more characters you need to follow and each friend should change as well. Having too many characters is a common flaw with early drafts because too many characters distract from the hero.
The simplest solution is to always use the minimal amount of characters possible and add new characters only when necessary. Tossing three additional friends in with Aladdin is simply a waste that Disney should have caught long before writing and recording a song about three friends. That’s a waste of time and money because they failed to finalize the story first. Instead, they finalized the story by testing out songs to see what worked. That’s the reason why some people take years writing a script. It’s not the actual writing that’s time consuming but figuring out what your story is in the first place. If you don’t know your story, you’ll waste an incredible amount of time trying to figure it out and that’s likely to discourage you to the point where you’ll give up altogether.
Another deleted song from “Aladdin” occurs with Jasmine. Originally she was supposed to be a spoiled brat. However if you think about it, making one of your heroes extremely unlikeable from the beginning is tough because you must make them likable in the end. The fact that Disney wrote and recorded a song where Jasmine talks about being a spoiled princess who does nothing but spend money on herself shows that Disney wasted time writing this song before they even knew the story. You don’t want to waste time figuring out your story only to delete large chunks of your screenplay later. You want to work on your story first as an outline and a treatment that describes what happens without actually writing the script.
Once you can tell a compelling story in text, then you can start writing the actual screenplay. Until you have a solid story in text, there’s no point in rushing ahead like Disney does by recording songs that eventually don’t fit the final story.
Disney can afford to fiddle around in circles until they find the story they want to tell. You can’t. Disney has multiple projects going at once, but even they could simply focus on sharpening their story until they know what they’re doing before exploring different ideas that turn into dead ends later. Disney is simply wasting time trying to discover their story while actually going through the initial steps of producing it. You can’t afford to write your screenplay before knowing your story.
Figure out your story first. Then write your screenplay. Once you know your story, writing the screenplay will be trivial and then you can improve upon the story later. It’s always easier and faster to change paragraphs around than to change entire chunks of a screenplay around. Don’t write before you’re ready. Even Disney hasn’t figured that simple lesson yet.