|Concept art of Angel and Miss Spinster.|
My Peoples was a film developed in the late 1990s by Barry Cook, co-director of Mulan. Despite the fact that he even went as far as to hire voice actors, as well as musicians to score the film, it was scrapped in favor of Chicken Little in the early 2000s.
Set in Appalachia, Texas in the 1940s, My Peoples was to have told the story of two feuding families: the Harpers and the Mcgees, whose two children: Elgin and Rose fall in love. Elgin was to have dabbled in folk-art, creating dolls from various household objects which included the following:
Angel-A heaven-themed doll made from a flour scoop that Elgin created as a proposal gift for Rose.
Abe-An Abraham Lincoln doll made from a scrub-brush who had spoons for ears.
Cherokee-An Indian boy doll fashioned out of an old garden glove.
Miss Spinster-An old lady doll made from the wooden leg of Elgin's dear, departed aunt.
Good O'Boy-a hillbilly-type doll made from car parts.
Blues Man-A doll with the mannerisms of a Blues musician, constructed from the handle of a broken mandolin.
Crazy Ray-A convict-themed doll made from a tree stump that lived under Elgin's porch.
Angel's Dog-Angel's canine companion, made from a spool and clothespin
Cook also considered the possibility of an over-the-top Southern preacher named Preacher Man. However, the executives at Disney were worried that such a character might be considered offensive, so he was cut.
A spell cast by Rose's father, Old Man McGee in an attempt to make Elgin forget his daughter was to have accidentally brought the dolls to life, at which point angel declared that she did not want to help Rose and Elgin get together and proceeded to leave town. Some of the dolls went after her in an attempt to get her to come back while others did what they could to help the couple, which included keeping Herbert Hollingshead, the man Rose's father tried to set her up with away.
Five months after finishing his work on Mulan, Barry Cook began developing a pitch for an animated based short story that he had previously wrote called The Ghost and the Gift which involved three children and a ghost helping an Appalachian couple get together. However, the idea was rejected by both Michael Eisner, the Disney CEO and Thomas Schumacher, the then-Head of Walt Disney Feature Animation. This was because Eisner thought that the story needed more conflict, while Schumacher thought that the cast was "too human" and the film would be better in live-action.
Rewrite and Greenlighting
Looking back over the research he'd done on Appalachia, Cook remembered how many of the residents there dabbled in the creation of household-item induced dolls. Thinking that these unusual creations would make a unique feature, he created a Marquette of Angel, placed it in a violin case, had it delivered to L.A. and instructed an assistant to place it on the conference room table at the next story meeting. When the meeting came, Barry Cook related his revamped pitch to Thomas Schumacher over the phone and told him to open the case. Intrigued, Schumacher greenlighted My Peoples with a budget of $45 million. The reason that it was titled as such was because My Peoples had been the collective name of a group of dolls that were created by a descaled folk artist. Cook also thought that that title would suggest "a welcoming reference to one's family" which was one of the film's major themes.
Decline and Cancellation
In January 2003, Thomas Schumacher resigned as Head of Animation and was replaced by former-Television Animation Head: David Stainton. Immediately, Stainton began to suggest several name changes for the film and found himself unimpressed with the film's story reel, presented to him that following February so that eventually, he ordered the project retooled.
After taking a research trip to the Appaclian mountains, Cook suggested that the dolls be possessed by Elgin's deceased relatives, as a lot of ghost stories were present in that city. Due to this, the title was changed from My Peoples to A Few Good Ghosts. While Stainton was happy with this change, Barry Cook, having a personal attachment to his original storyline wished he could stick with it. However, he knew that as a director, he had to make sacrifices.
Later, In November of that year, David Staintion flew to the Studio's Florida Animation Branch where Barry Cook worked and announced that the film would be shut down, due to Chicken Little having more potential. He also announced that the Branch would be closing down the following year, prompting Cook to look for work elsewhere.
Dolly Parton as Angel
Charles Durning as Old Man McGee
Mike Snider as Good O'Boy
Travis Tritt as Elgin Harper
Ashley Judd as Rose McGee
Lou Rawls as Blues Man
Lily Tomlin as Miss Spinster
Hal Halbrook as Abe
Jean Smart as the Mcgee's neighbour Arvilla Tugthistle.
Diedrich Bader as Herbert Hollingshed
James Carville as Crazy Ray
Billy Connolly as Angel's Dog
Bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs was hired as music consultant and worked together with Marty Stuart and Hank Williams III to compose the film's songs. Barry Cook also wanted fiddler Mark O'Connor to provide some music, but never got the chance to ask him.