The following article by John Hiscock appeared in a January 2001 issue of The Daily Mirror
The day Disney took the mickey out of Sting - When Sting agreed to write songs for a Disney film, it proved a not-so-wonderful experience.
He's one of the world's most famous rock stars, known as much for his music as for his commitment to environmental issues. But Disney chiefs hadn't reckoned on just how passionate an eco warrior he was when they tried to take the Mickey Mouse out of Sting.
Five years ago Disney executives asked him to write the music for a planned animation, 'Kingdom Of The Sun', but seven songs in, they scrapped the story. Miffed at having his time wasted, Sting still agreed to write more material for the replacement idea. But then he saw the script.
The plot for 'The Emperor's New Groove' ended with the Emperor building a theme park in the heart of the South American rainforest. To Sting, who has worked hard to save the region from destruction, it was as if he had been asked to set fire to the forest himself. He hit the roof.
"I told them I was resigning because it was the exact opposite of what I stand for," he says. "For the past 12 years or so I've been involved with the problems in the Amazon and the destruction of the rain forests. The people who live there don't have any human rights or legal protection, and I've been raising money to try and provide that. More than saving trees, we're trying to save people's lives. I've spent years trying to defend the rights of indigenous peoples and they wanted to march over them to build a theme park! I wasn't going to be a party to it."
Only when the ending was revised to allow the young Emperor to learn new values, did Sting agree to continue with the project.
Today in his Los Angeles hotel room, after having his star installed on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and attending the premier of 'The Emperor's New Groove', he can reflect more calmly on his turbulent dealings with "The Mouse House".
"I had concerns about working for a big corporation," he admits. "But two of my close friends, Elton John and Phil Collins, had worked with Disney and they encouraged me to do it. Like everybody else, I had grown up with Disney movies and I was aware that it had a legacy with a very long reach. I was intrigued by the idea that people would be watching the movie and listening to my songs in 20 or 30 years' time. Also writing for animated characters was a challenge that appealed to me."
The first indication that he might have made a bad move came when the original Kingdom Of The Sun idea was dropped.
"It was a tough day for them when they told me," he says with a wry smile. "I didn't make it easy on them. I'd done so much work and was so proud of those songs. Being told to go back to the drawing board is not something I'm used to at all."
Then came the bust-up over the new script, which ran contrary to his deeply-held environmental beliefs. Although Disney backed down, the finished film only features two Sting-compositions, one of which is sung by Tom Jones. Filmgoers will have to wait until the final credits before they hear Sting's voice on 'My Funny Friend And Me', something which insiders reckon may cost him his chances of a Best Song Oscar. His creative efforts, however, have not been entirely wasted.
"Luckily, some of the songs I wrote for the first film are on the soundtrack album which will be released at the same time as the film," he says. "They are not in the finished film but they are a testament to the quality of the work I put in."
Meanwhile, Sting's wife Trudie Styler has made a documentary on the tortured process behind the making of 'The Emperor's New Groove'. Called, appropriately, 'Inside The Sweat Box', her film records his not-so-wonderful experiences with Disney, shows the changes that were made to the original project, and reveals how Sting's role was reduced. Those who have seen it say she has captured some stormy meetings.
Maybe it's Disney's turn to be stung.
© The Daily Mirror