CONTENT WARNING!

This post contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all readers. The material in question includes:

- Flashing imagery (for the epileptic)
- Frightening imagery
- Disturbing true crime stories
- Terrorism and anti-Semitism
- Graphic violence
- Bad language
- Sexual and suggestive content
- Alcohol and drug references
- Mental health topics (suicide, addiction, etc.)
- Political topics
- Domestic abuse

Although it might sound like word salad, beta content is a real phenomenon that I’ve found myself equally as fascinated by as lost media. Typically, the term only relates to video games, specifically their development and/or release histories. Oftentimes, the prototypes of released or unreleased games will be categorized as “alpha” or “beta” stages, with the latter coming later into development than the former. For this reason, beta content⏤the material from these stages that, at one point or another, gets disabled or removed⏤can also be referred to as cut content, unused content, or scrapped material. I usually find myself just as allured by the obscure and/or scrapped production secrets of movies, music, and other forms of media, however, and these secrets are basically the equivalent of beta content among these forms. Therefore, I tend to use beta content as an umbrella term for the unused production and development secrets that relate to any type of physical or digital media.

I mean, it’s true that SEGA’s final console⏤the Dreamcast⏤predated me by at least a year, but Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut was the first game I played on the GameCube that I knew hit me just the right way due to its warm, welcoming environment, soundtrack, voice acting, and charmingly adorable retro animation. That same connection was formed with both Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Sonic Heroes soon after, and while it lives on just as strong with each game today, I also admire them for their characterization, story structure, and general creativity as an adult (Heroes is admittedly where most of the characterization starts to grow weaker, but it’s still equally rich with creativity.) I’ll be going over those aspects in later posts, however, as some of my favorite areas of them to explore nowadays are their cut content and complex development histories… well, at least in the case of the Adventure games, but we’ll get to Heroes and that… other one I used to play soon enough.

First off, Sonic Adventure went through the most stunning range of alterations over time, as it was the first fully 3D Sonic game and took the series in a completely new creative direction, having introduced totally new character designs, arcs, and even names (take the new name of Amy Rose for the character known previously as Rosy the Rascal); an impressive range of gameplay styles that differ radically for each playable character; and an expansive, intersecting storyline that reveals a turbulent ancient backstory piece by piece. Mesoamerican civilizations and their famous ruins acted as a primary inspiration for the game’s story, as Sonic Team traveled to and explored such landmarks as Chichén Itzá and Machu Picchu during the predevelopment stage. This led to such colorful yet relatively realistic stages as Emerald Coast, Windy Valley, and Lost World, but Windy Valley in particular is known for having been totally redesigned somewhat late into development. It was originally more wide-open and cartoony in terms of its textures and layout, making it feel more like a Saturn-era level than anything else.

#NotMyWindyValley!
“Check out THESE moves, Leon!”

Most of the game’s stages saw noticeable changes between its many prototypes, but the most eye-catching differences can be seen in the earliest official prototype, the AutoDemo. Now, with the non-playable loop of the AutoDemo broken, which has since made most of it fully playable, the only chao garden that the player can access is the Station Square garden, but it’s the closest garden to the version seen in the final game. As for the other two incomplete gardens, the Mystic Ruins garden is shaped differently and has its entrance on the opposite side to the one in the final game, and the Egg Carrier garden has literally zero resemblance to its final counterpart. It’s actually just a strip of land taken from the early version of Windy Valley, and there’s a giant hole in its west side because a bridge is attached to that side in the stage. Like AutoDemo Windy Valley, this early garden can be seen multiple times throughout the game’s reveal at the Tokyo International Forum of 1998.

“Born on an island, in the heavens…”
Oh, no! Is he leading them off the edge Midsommar-style?!

Like the other pieces of cut content for the Adventure games that you’ll be reading about below, my fellow video game modders and I have painstakingly restored AutoDemo Windy Valley and the AutoDemo Egg Carrier garden, respectively. In fact, my fellow modders are responsible for recreating the early versions of Speed Highway and Red Mountain, as well as the three test levels from the AutoDemo. I used to highly anticipate a mod that restores the Egg Carrier garden and its retro, liminal space-esque comfort, but any work on it was quietly discontinued due to the limitations of chao world object editing, so I pulled a Thanos in the post-credits scene from Age of Ultron and decided that I’d do it myself. That mod is available on Gamebanana, as well as all of the other AutoDemo stage mods.

“I can hear the wind in the distance! Almost like it’s less than a block behind me!”
Like all things in life, it’s always over way too soon…
There’s Sonic making Tails feel like a tool, as always!
That hopping chao in the corner’s thinking, “is that a tar baby in his hands?!”

Now, I feel like modding was destined to be a hobby of mine my whole life, because one of the first beta secrets I learned about is also the easiest to restore! That would be a fairly recognizable secret dubbed the Sky Chase Dragon, which was an unused mini-boss during the titular subgame. It’s a mechanical three-headed beast that’s fully animated and mobile, chases the Tornado during act one, appears periodically during act two, exists in every version of the game, and can be easily spawned with an object spawner or stage editor like SALVL2. It can’t be destroyed, and it can’t damage the player, but explosions will go off if you shoot at it. I have a mod on Gamebanana that restores the dragon, although it doesn’t restore it in act two as it’s missing all of its textures in that subgame. I recall reading about the dragon as a little kid, so there’s always been a sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing it in-game.

“THERE’S A GODDAMN HYDRA CHASING US NOW, SONIC?!”
It’s all good. He’ll just be drifting behind ’em for a while.

The next one is a close second when it comes to the popularity level of Sonic Adventure beta content, but for entirely different reasons. You familiar with that iconic LED cowgirl billboard in the Las Vegas Strip? Well, in the upper level of Casinopolis, there’s a moving billboard closely modeled after it that can be seen in the original Japanese release for the Dreamcast, but it was removed in all subsequent versions for carrying one strange feature. See, if you hit or glide into it, you’ll hear a feminine grunt, which most people hear as a sexual moan. To me, on the other hand, it sounds as annoyed as it does suggestive, making it just subtle enough for little kids not to pick up on the meaning, but that’s up for debate. Point is, the AutoDemo features a far more provocative Playboy bunny statue in its place⏤one that I restored as part of my Miscellaneous Beta Elements mod and boasts gigantic, orb-shaped breasts. Turns out, it really could be worse. Much worse.

Hey, didn’t they get rid of this?
The level of inspiration is very mild.
I don’t even want to know what’s going on in Takashi Iizuka’s head.
Metallic sheen or not, I’m not having a one night stand with a statue!
Isn’t that tornado supposed to be beige?
“…so, I gotta fly higher!”
Why did the AutoDemo action pose mod have to come out after my Beta Edition series?
I bet it was hard to fly around freely with a heavy Santa sack in hand…
Guess that means Gerald didn’t model his creation off a hedgehog who didn’t exist yet!
“They really thought they could trick me with that fake Emerald?! It’s so clearly a different color!”
He’s getting the feeling that this unused texture puts him in second place to Sonic, and he is not happy about it.
Take that, Cream! An oviraptor would’ve been the highlight of this game!
You nearly gave me a heart attack with the Lost Jungle alligator! I don’t need an anglerfish chase, too!

The last beta secret to note with this game is… a little weird. See, Sonic Mega Collection Plus includes a prototype intro for Heroes as an unlockable feature. This mid-production test was rendered using a combination of incomplete CGI animation, storyboards, and the strangest element of all: an early version of the game’s theme song with Crush 40 vocalist Johnny Gioeli slurring through the lyrics after downing ten PBRs, for some reason.

Oh, before you ask… yes. I know he’s spouting gibberish in order to get the rhythm just right. I am not, in fact, too dumb to pick up on that, in spite of prior evidence.

As for the game with such an unlikable main hero and such an interesting main villain that you just end up hoping the main hero will help the main villain enslave humanity, Shadow the Hedgehog was apparently meant to be even darker and more vulgar, having been riddled with more swears and featuring both G.U.N. soldiers and Black Arms alike drawing red blood. While at least one low-quality screenshot exists proving either detail, an extended intro sequence featuring longer shots was cut (à la Event Horizon), as well as a removed shot of Maria falling back from the gunshot that killed her. The only known recording of this removed shot is filmed playing on a television in egregiously low quality at an unknown event.

Yes, he does say “hell” here. Guess that one cringeworthy time after Lava Shelter’s hero mission just wasn’t enough.
Considering all the lore behind them, that florescent pink blood is their least interesting quality…

On the subject of discussing genuinely neat beta assets with obvious cynicism, there’s an unused level referred to as “stage9900” in the game’s files that uses a combination of stage meshes from Heroes and… some underpaid digital artist’s beautiful cyberpunk cityscape, apparently. Because of course they knew they’d get away with that!

How’d I deduce that, you may ask? Why, just extract the background texture…
…run a reverse image search, and voilà! I hope someone got fired over this blunder!

I think it says a lot about my feelings toward the Mario franchise when I choose to discuss only one game instead of four, like I did with the Sonic franchise. I’ll provide my reasons for preferring the latter in a post of its own, but for now, I’ll be going over some of the beta content for the one great Mario game that’s always acted as a source of comfort for me… even though I can’t show the story or characters that much appreciation in hindsight, especially compared to the Sonic Adventure games.

Anywho, the game was first unveiled at Nintendo’s 2001 Spaceworld convention, where a brief trailer showed off a plethora of differences from the final game. These included an early HUD design, oddly shaped piantas, an unknown female human NPC, a skinnier model for F.L.U.D.D., a massive scrapped enemy called “Tramplin’ Stu”, a functioning unused soccer ball, collectibles called Sol coins that were replaced with normal coins early on in development, and most notably, a test environment that appears to contain prerelease iterations of Delfino Plaza, Bianco Hills, and Ricco Harbor. The song used for the startup demo in the final game plays throughout the trailer, as you’ll see in the 2K-upscaled recording embedded below.

Due to how much thought and aesthetic beauty went into a test world that was presumably only built for this one trailer, I’ve always pondered the idea of the test world being modded into the game someday, but that never happened—the closest I got was a quickly compiled landscape of untextured blocks shown in some obscure YouTube upload from ages ago. However, using a test level height map that follows the same layout as the Spaceworld test map, modder Level Select has faithfully recreated the test map using most of the proper textures, custom tree models, red coins in the place of the Sol coins, and such unused items as the soccer ball, an ice cream stand, and our forgotten pal Tramplin’ Stu! Although Bianco Hills is textured but not yet accessible and Ricco Harbor is non-solid, the recreation of “Dolpic Town” is beautifully constructed and available for download in the description of the video below.

That’s Peach at the side, wondering whether to stop being the damsel-in-distress for a change and trample that Tramplin’ Stu.
Mario coming across a possible ticket off this goop-covered nightmare world.
Hotel Lacrima translates to “Hotel Tear” from Italian, probably because it’s been a popular suicide location among piantas.
There were a lot of boring lulls during development, huh?

Unfortunately, the perfectly wholesome times of Dolpic Town and yours truly nasally singing ’60s soul hits through electronic distortion are over, but plenty of interesting stuff is coming your way, and this is where we get into some of the really obscure secrets. See, the Batman: Arkham games were the first critically acclaimed Batman video games aside from the LEGO games, so they’ve all left behind a lengthy trail of the trials and tribulations that came with working on them. Two of the most obvious traces of this paper trail are pictured at either side of the heading image above: the Worst Nightmare skin for Arkham Origins and the Joker Mayhem DLC challenges for Arkham Knight, the former of which is Joker’s imaginary perception of Batman throughout the main story and the latter being based around causing as much damage as possible and sending the bill to Wayne Enterprises, according to unused text. However, even with the game that started it all, I’ve begun to realize that some of the most fascinating beta elements are almost never talked about—even on modding-related Discord servers. That in and of itself is surprising, as these amount to entire prototype releases with completely different story sequences and even character designs!

As for that first game, Arkham Asylum—admittedly my least favorite title story-wise, as will be discussed in a later post—the better-known beta elements include an entire portfolio of concept art, which is available with other artwork and development info in The Art of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, & Arkham Knight. Between early batsuit designs; costumes for villains like Bane, Scarecrow, and Harley; and mad doctor outfits for a version of Joker with a Heath Ledger/Lee Bermejo-esque Glasgow smile, there was clearly a profound level of effort that went into finalizing comic-accurate interpretations that still match the grim tone of a bleak gothic fortress like Arkham Asylum. I mean, I still prefer the quieter depiction of Scarecrow in Arkham Knight, and I still get the strong feeling that Paul Dini doesn’t quite know how to write Bane properly, but the effort is there nonetheless.

If you’ve ever wanted to see Hannibal Lector as a sterioid-pumped luchador… well, here you go, weirdos.
Credit goes to John Gravato for making Joker’s Death of the Family appearance look like a practical way to let his whole face peel off.

As for other secrets that are relatively well-known, early magazine articles for Arkham Asylum featured screenshots that seemed to otherwise portray the final game accurately, but they curiously showed off an alternate version of Riddler’s cell. Whereas the final version of the cell has green graffiti all over the walls, this one is covered in bloody words and question marks, including an ultimately scrapped French phrase that translates to, “I loved, I suffered, now I hate.” Honestly, I commend Rocksteady for sticking with a more faithful take on Eddie Nygma by making him an obsessive-compulsive smartass as opposed to the type of lunatic who would scribble something like that. Then again, they kept all the other written words, so they wisely didn’t make him perfectly sane, either.

Okay, we’ve officially found the cells for Riddler…
…and whoever Paul Dano played in The Batman.
I want to point out that Harley kissed his nasty forehead seconds before this was taken…
…which explains why he’s smiling much more than he is here. Lord almighty, speaking of Heath Ledger’s interpretation…
Note to Arkham staff: apply a better-fitting straightjacket to each incarcerated neanderthal.
This was reportedly included among the other alpha materials. Are we just not going to talk about this?
The developers wouldn’t have the audacity to include this in the pre-alphas of later games as a running joke of sorts… right?
Remember: you don’t follow Batman into Crime Alley. He follows you.
“That reminds me! I really need to get me a smaller necktie! It keeps tickling my beautiful chin!”
Okay, who ripped the hair off Tom Selleck?!
IceMage’s stunning(ly niche) pre-alpha suit mod for Arkham Knight…
…some other brilliant madman’s DS port suit mod…
…and a Wii port suit mod by the same creator that only I know about, care about, or am willing to geek out over.

Okay… breathe. The pre-alpha version of Origins is much better-known, although its bizarre differences from the final game still deserve to be recognized for how… well… bizarre they are. First off, the Arkham Asylum pre-alpha batsuit is held inside the suit storage tank at the Batcave because… I guess Warner Bros. Montreal had access to the model and figured, “why not?” Equally as interesting (and far more amusing) is that what very well may be close to half of all the voice clips had not yet been recorded at the time, so much of the script is read out verbatim through text-to-speech, in case you’ve ever wanted to hear entire thug exchanges voiced by Siri (the line “>laughter<” being repeatedly worded as “less than laughter greater than” was just surreal and out-of-place enough to make me chuckle.) Yet, the centerpiece of the pre-alpha is the end of the Royal Hotel chapter and the subsequent Joker dream sequence at Blackgate, and the prerelease weirdness starts right off the bat (no pun intended) by forcing Batman to take on Branden and his entire SWAT team, snipers and all, as opposed to wisely grappling out of there and taking off in the Batwing like he does in the final.

Rest assured, the insanity starts back up again like an atomic bomb when Joker’s therapy session with Dr. Quinzel begins, with a start to their discussion that is not heard in the final over what appears to be a compilation of storyboards or concept art depicting his birthday party as a child. After that, an unused rant plays over a live-action scene of what appears to be his mocap actor in Joker makeup, and right before the whimsical comedy club fight, you can catch a glimpse of some bald, mustached, shirtless lunatic jumping off the stage (most likely another mocap actor). The Red Hood scene at the end of the sequence appears to be compiled with concept art and storyboards, although a frame from the end of his backstory in The Killing Joke is so clearly added into the mix. After a frame from the beginning of The Wizard of Oz is pasted over the storyboards of Batman and Joker falling from the hotel balcony, we see the mocap actor being analyzed by a therapist who is definitely not Dr. Quinzel, and the nightmare ends with an unrelated live-action previz sequence of the mocap actor in the same Joker makeup shooting a couple comic book nerds with a snub-nose revolver behind an apartment complex somewhere in Montreal. Honestly, I think I might need a therapy session of my own after watching all this.

Oh, and afterwards, a GCPD officer drops the f-bomb during the dispatch that Batman listens into at the Batcave, something that definitely isn’t heard in the final.

So, copyright is apparently never on the developers’ minds when making these prototypes…
I remember the first scene in the Land of Oz, where the Wicked Witch shoots and kills two munchkins.

In spite of how beloved these three Grand Theft Auto games are, this is the first instance of beta content discussion based on how much beta content there is, as opposed to how much of a fan I am of the games involved. I have enjoyed each of these games to an extent, but as an adult who didn’t grow up playing them, I’ve only found myself engaged with the story and characters of San Andreas, so just don’t assume that this’ll be another praise-fest centered around GTA III and Vice City. Trust me, my feelings towards both will be elaborated on thoroughly in a future post, but for now, let’s get into the stuff related to them that I legitimately find engaging.

Yeah… there shouldn’t be a silent, ruthless protagonist in a world this bright.
Imagine coming across this hateful prick in the colorful world of GTA 3D!
Huh. I expected to see such a wasted-away older Tommy in San Andreas…
“Well, it ain’t Billy Graham, pilgrim!” You would only get that line if you’ve watched the Cinema Snob review ’70s pornos.
You can tell Rockstar cared about this guy, as he was ultimately denied the two appearances that he’d probably be happier with.
Who you even s’pposed t’be representin’, fools?!
Hey, either way, he’s modeled after a shermhead!

If piecing together the Arkham Origins pre-alpha wasn’t a conflicting experience in its own right… well, here, I’ll be discussing the beta versions of a game that I’ve played extensively and loved, and another that I’ve never even played once but find fascinating for its scrapped concepts nonetheless. Naturally, however, let’s start off with the one that I’m familiar with in its final form. I’ve always admired Max Payne 3 as a finale for taking the series in such a new and unexpected direction (well, for that and for cutting out the few annoying and pretentious aspects of the first two titles), particularly the new writing for Max and the fish-out-of-water effect of him traveling thousands of miles to an unfamiliar environment like São Paulo. Whereas the politically and economically divided tropical metropolis that he ended up in was a completely out-of-left-field location change for a grim, downbeat detective-noir trilogy, he was once going to be placed in the slightly less exotic locale of dark, snowy, Ukraine-atomizing Russia—that is, a whopping six years before its release! Indeed, concept art depicting a very different setting and cast of characters dates all the way back to 2006, concept art that was at first believed to have been illustrated for GTA IV, and for good reason.

Wanna know what my problem with “the butcher” is?! He’s turning humans into glue! That’s what MY fuckin’ problem is!

This artwork has been confirmed to come from the portfolio of an artist for the original developer, Rockstar Vienna, and the screenshots you’re about to see presumably come from this same in-development beta version before the studio was closed and the project was handed over to Rockstar North. Now, it’s important to take these with a grain of salt due to the uncertainty behind their legitimacy, although the second screenshot does closely resemble the docks during chapter five, and the player character does seem to share Max’s same appearance from this chapter in particular but with different hair.

Nope. Just another generic Gmod horror map.
They might’ve scrapped the original setting, but at least they kept this rusty pile of crap!

So, anyway, it’s true that I don’t know nearly as much of Half-Life 2, but one of the elements that’s always kept me away from it was the rather confusing tone. It so often switches between silly, lighthearted dialogue between characters like Freeman, Barney, Alyx, and Dr. Kleiner and harrowing horror sequences with disgusting alien monsters and headcrab-controlled zombies. So, in other words, to know that it might’ve been more consistently gloomy and dour if it stuck closely to a written and illustrated prequel is somewhat frustrating. The book in question, Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar—on which a relatively recent mod for the game was based—contained concept art for City 17, which was less of an eastern European city center and more of a dark, rusting, flickering neon-riddled cyberpunk hellhole. Just to further cement this stage’s distinction from the final, the Citadel was essentially a vertical concrete art deco sculpture instead of a glistening steel tower, making the entire setting feel like an all-out inverse of the final version.

Welcome to City 17! It’s less private… I mean, safer here! Yeah!

Another issue of mine that Raising the Bar seems to address comes with the autocratic main villain, Wallace Breen. Again, I don’t have much firsthand experience with the game, but from what I understand, it’s how ordinary and welcoming he comes off as that makes him intimidating, almost like reverse psychology. However, not only was he once depicted as a noticeably different character, but he wasn’t even supposed to have an actual name! Ambiguously dubbed “the Consul”, a title that I’ve actually adopted for the antagonist of a comic miniseries of mine, he was far more stoic, blatantly authoritarian, and most eerily of all, alien in nature. As you can see in the artwork below, his design was straight out of a science fiction epic like The Fifth Element or Mass Effect.

“First and foremost, thank you all for attending this year’s community theater pitch meeting!”

By far the most eerie and dystopian element of this stage are the Consul’s video-recorded messages to the people of City 17. The final “Breencasts” are simple shoulder-level camera captures of Breen speaking plainly and professionally, which certainly feel overly and unnaturally welcoming given the current state of the world and the military control over it. I mean, yeah, they’re effective enough… until you watch and listen to the nightmare fuel that are the original “Consulcasts”. In these visually and audibly distorted clips, he declares strict standards for life under Combine rule that each start with “the true citizen…” in the regime’s native tongue, albeit translated by a deep-pitched voice that really doesn’t do the unnerving auditory experience any justice.

It’s about damn time that we finally get to the beta secrets from other forms of media, and I can’t imagine a better example to start with! Like the Sonic games detailed at the beginning, however, the sappy, emotion-fueled antidepressant that is nostalgia does factor into my feelings toward SpongeBob, but I’ve found plenty more to appreciate about it in retrospect as an adult, the unused production material being a perfect example. Just so you’re aware, there’ll be a blog post dedicated to one episode in particular that perfectly exemplifies the show’s best brand of humor in the near future, but for now, let’s talk a little about how the show began.

Tiny elementary-grade Sammy Burke would surely have been fascinated to know that SpongeBob was always technically an adaptation of creator and marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg’s comic series, The Intertidal Zone, and that the titular protagonist was a reimagining of a talk show announcer from the comic named Bob the Sponge. The initial title of the show was SpongeBoy, Ahoy! until it was discovered that the name “SpongeBoy” had already been licensed for a cleaning mop… a mop that, upon investigation, never seems to have existed at any point in history. The collection of concept art illustrated during pre-production features a drastically different overall art style from the final, character designs and all, although certain elements of it still exist in the show’s official pilot episode, “Help Wanted”.

You can see early versions of Mermaidman and Barnacleboy bathing together, but DC had beaten ’em to the punch with the first gay superhero couple.

Speaking of “Help Wanted,” the pilot was originally produced and pitched all the way back in 1997, at a time before the iconic intro and theme song were implemented. Given that fact, the incredibly rare first edit featured an early intro credits sequence using a unique instrumental theme that would later be reused for the title card of the episode “Hall Monitor”. In fact, when watching reruns of the pilot today, the awkward wipe transition that cuts out the 1997 intro is all too noticeable.

You’d be a friggin’ madman to think I’d get into all of the show’s deleted scenes—the goddamn ocean of deleted scenes, even within the first three seasons—so the only example I’ll bother getting into (in this post, at least) is not so much a deleted scene as it is the entire original cut of an episode. See, the season two episode “Shanghaied”, during which SpongeBob and Patrick become the Flying Dutchman’s crew until they learn that they’re at risk of being eaten, has always been aired in the form of a special called “Patchy’s Pick” for no good reason… that is, except for the original airing.

This first airing was a longer special called “You Wish!” and was based around viewers calling into a toll-free number and voting for a specific ending, much like Batman: A Death in the Family as mentioned in part one. These endings involved one out of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward being given a wish by the Dutchman that could potentially save them from getting eaten. Ultimately, SpongeBob’s ending was the winner, but oddly enough, it’s the only ending that concludes with everyone surviving, as both Patrick and Squidward’s endings result in them swiftly getting eaten when their wishes backfire—Squidward’s because he wishes to have never known the other two but is still stuck with them afterwards, and Patrick’s because he asks for chewing gum.

So… considering SpongeBob’s wish… the one that would end up saving everyone… was the ending that ultimately won… could this possibly be a case of… VOTER FRAUD?! Give Rupert Murdoch a call! We got some breaking news for all the conservatives out there!

First the “Rock-a-Bye Bivalve” non-troversy, and now this…

Too bad we’ll never get more of Tucker Carlson and his hypothetical fearmongering. This is so obviously a national crisis! Anywho, political bullshit aside, the “You Wish!” special was clearly a one-time deal, so it was edited into “Patchy’s Pick” for all subsequent airings. Now, like the deleted scenes from “Just One Bite” and “Procrastination”, I definitely recall seeing the original version as a little kid and having been confused by the edited version. Then again, they don’t do a whole lot to hide the edits made for “Patchy’s Pick”, as everyone including me noticed the out-of-sync dubbing over Patchy’s dialogue. You’ll be able to tell just as early on while watching the comparison video embedded below.

The original “You Wish!” special has basically remained as lost media since the edits were made, although it would be made available with its two alternate endings on the wonderful treasure trove that is the First 100 Episodes box set. Granted, considering there’s still the matter of the since-retired 800 number, it’s been blurred out and replaced with humorous text on the box set version, but the rest of the original special is properly restored as originally aired. Now, while I never would’ve cared as someone who just wanted to see the scenes that were awkwardly cut or replaced, recordings of the special with the 800 number intact have since been uploaded online for all the hyper-perfectionists out there.

If you’re disappointed by this, then I’m afraid you’re a little too hard to please.

Hmmm… I don’t know. Maybe, some people felt bad that the original number had to be shoved into a storage locker with Davy Jones and The Monkees’ dirty gym socks.

Gee, that’s a whole lot of wholesome deleted SpongeBob content for you! Well, I hope you’re ready for a dramatic tonal shift, because there’s one especially noteworthy prerelease secret included with the dumped development assets for the PS1 game SuperSponge, and it’s… well… these very personal sketches doodled by someone deeply, deeply disturbed.

Now that I’m not talking about Pastor Richards anymore… Jesus.

Ummm… it’s, uh… it’s not much more disturbing as the prototype intro cutscenes for The Simpsons: Hit & Run. That’s the kindest thing I can say about it.

Suddenly, the Treehouse of Horror episode “Homer Cubed” ain’t too freaky no more!

Getting back to the wholesome stuff, Dora the Explorer was an educational series that little kid me absolutely despised for… well, seemingly no good or even discernible reason. I guess Dora herself is a little annoying, but not anywhere close to as bad as the Pink Demon herself, Kyu Sugardust (stay tuned for my HuniePop hate post coming up!) Regardless, this show is an interesting case as far as unused material goes, considering it has not just one, but two unaired pilots! The first to be leaked online matches the art style of the final show in almost every way except for the design of Boots, who has a completely different, fuzzier, bright yellow appearance. The pilot is basically a silent loop of Dora and Boots walking together, and while Blameitonjorge has described it as “a little unnerving”, all I can hear when watching it is the walk cycle theme from the SpongeBob lost episode.

Long after this pilot was made available, however, a portion of the second pilot was discovered on the website for Funline, the show’s animation studio. While storyboards and even animation cels imply that more was intended, this is the only footage from it that seems to exist, and it features an early art style that looks relatively primitive. Aside from the same yellow version of Boots from the first pilot, other character design differences are present, like Benny being orange in color as opposed to blue. While I can’t explain why Benny’s color was changed, I can hazard a guess and theorize that Boots may have originally shared too many similarities to Tails from the Sonic franchise.

Hey, speaking of Sonic, there were two cartoon series that aired during the ’90s, and no, I’m referring to the two American series as opposed to that weird, unfunny anime with a creepy neko-girl and Knuckles in a cowboy hat. While the more intense and dystopian second series was fairly successful, its slapstick-riddled predecessor was… well… pretty widely hated, although this first series did have an unaired pilot that may have been released online in its entirety, but without any music or sound effects.

Whereas Sonic is still voiced by Jaleel White (AKA Steve Urkel) like he is in the rest of the series, Tails’s voice actor is unknown, and Robotnik is shockingly voiced by legendary Disney voice actor Jim Cummings as opposed to openly gay ’60s blues musician Long John Baldry. Cue “Let the Heartaches Begin”.

I have to give credit where due to Cummings, as his whole performance is appropriately hammy for the Egghead he’s playing, but I’m afraid he has a long way to go if he wants to recreate the magic of Deem Bristow in the Adventure games. Rest in peace, of course.

At this point, I’ve only intended on covering these two shows in particular… but, as someone with a passion for screenwriting, I’ve found myself captivated by a third example for… well, let’s call them reasons that aren’t for the faint of heart. While Rugrats is a show that predated me by several years, I did grow up extensively with its reruns, which makes this third story all the more emotionally conflicting. Until researching this topic (and by “researching this topic”, I mean exploring the depths of the Lost Media Wiki that I never should’ve roamed to start with), I’d never heard of a somewhat private subject matter in the animation world called a “storyboard jam”, which is essentially an unused storyboard that the animators illustrate to relieve negative feelings like anger or stress in the workplace. Suffice it to say, the end result tends to come out as crude, vulgar, violent, and, as this case demonstrates, uncomfortably sexual.

Well, here’s where that collar-tugging matter of storyboard jams comes into play, as a rather crass Rugrats comic has been making the rounds on the internet for probably close to a decade by now. No, I can’t tell you what this says about the animation industry other than that John Krisfaluci isn’t the only deranged creep with a prolific presence, but the partially released storyboard starts out like a wonderfully dark yet cathartic parody, with Tommy poisoning Angelica’s drink that everyone who knows the show hopes will kill her as slowly and painfully as possible.

Well, if only this was where the storyboard ended, but the true depravity of the animators then has to rear its ugly head for some ungodly reason. When Tommy’s mom Didi scolds him for his actions, her lovable husband Stu pushes her away with an unquestionable level of aggression, coupled with some misogynistic language before swearing at and threatening Tommy to tears. Meanwhile, as Tommy’s apparent epilepsy takes hold for reasons that are never provided, Stu and Angelica… ummm… you know what? Check out the colorized version of the original storyboard below and decide for yourself which federal crime registry these bastards need to be added to!

If you thought Æon Flux and the trippy production logo was anything to go by that something’s seriously wrong with this studio…

Yes, this feels very much like some sickening fanmade material that is probably still being investigated in the embarrassing dystopian realm that is 4chan’s /b/ board, but the Lost Media Wiki describes its history in the studio with candid detail, with the first panels of the storyboard being shoved away in disgust by the animation director at Klasky Csupo named Steve Ressel… who then proceeded to add even worse panels of his own. The end of this blight on the animation studio that’s really only about half as offensive as the Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon apparently came when the relatively sane-minded production team of The Wild Thornberrys got their hands on it, thus resulting in its either destruction or permanent shelving. Other reports claim that Steve Ressel was a child groomer on a similar level to John K., and at this point, I’m not even surprised by anything. Let’s just say, when I develop a recreation of Rugrats in Iraq, my dad’s unofficial sequel to Rugrats in Paris, Angelica’s terrifying oh-face will definitely be reused for the poster. Anything to detract from its original context.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to pull a Max Payne 3 and drink myself to death while pondering the true meaning of my past experiences. This is one stain on my childhood that’ll never come off.

8. Toy Story

Now that we’re moving onto film production secrets, let’s begin with one of the most fascinating cinematic production histories that I’ve ever heard. Pixar’s grand entrance into the world of feature-length films was very clearly aimed at children and families, but Disney would frequently push for more “edge” during production, gearing it towards an older audience. Because of this, the character of Woody became less of a morally complex protagonist and more of a straight-up antagonist, acting as a bossy and controlling leadership figure among Andy’s toys. The storyboards, voice-acting, and SFX were combined into an early cut of the film that was aptly and coincidentally shown to Disney on Black Friday, leading to it being remembered as the “Black Friday reel”. While Pixar was deeply humiliated by the reel, an infuriated Disney threatened to shut down production… even though they themselves pushed for a vision like the one they got. Thus, Pixar was forced to restart the project, and this would lead to the heavily-improved version that the world would come to know. Although much of the Black Friday reel is still considered lost media, several fully voice-acted portions are provided during a short documentary on the film’s production troubles.

Yet, traces of the edgier original project are not exclusive to the Black Friday reel. In fact, a short test animation shows off early designs for Woody and Buzz, with Woody aptly being a giant-headed wooden ventriloquist dummy and Buzz having a much smaller body and red armor. Even after Tom Hanks was cast as the former, Billy Crystal was considered for the latter before Tim Allen came along, as explained in the commentary recorded over the second half of the test footage. Regardless, Woody’s more antagonistic personality and role in the story is very much present the whole time.

At the end of the day, the Black Friday reel was ultimately an important stepping stone in Pixar’s history. Towards the end of the embedded documentary, Thomas Schumacher points out that the failure of one project allows the next to be so much better. Because of this, an upcoming post of mine will be focused on my comic series, ElectroNuke, a series that takes place in its own DC Universe timeline. Before I planned to share it with the world, it was basically just a crass self-insert fanfiction, and while it’s as hard for me to discuss as the Black Friday reel is for John Lasseter, I do think it’s important for the sake of both history and self-reflection.

Yeah… I should stick to the writing side and leave this side to a professional artist.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s not Shrek. That’s just an old CGI caricature of Chris Farley.” My response to that is… well, you’re half-correct. It’s true that the overweight troll you’re looking at is Chris Farley, but it’s Chris Farley as Shrek. Yes, that was actually supposed to happen, as the plans for Dreamworks’s 2001 animated adventure-comedy hit date all the way back to 1995! Granted, this was nothing like the Shrek we’ve come to know, although that does appear to be the norm with beta content at this point, doesn’t it?

Indeed, long before fellow comedian Mike Myers became synonymous with the lonely outcast ogre, the great Chris Farley recorded a fair amount of dialogue from an early revision of the script, and the character even had a scrapped early design intended for this stage of production, but the entire project was put on pause following the actor’s passing as the result of a drug overdose. Not that it belittles Farley’s death necessarily, but Myers’s performance would go on to become one of his most famous… even if he was basically just recycling his Fat Bastard voice from Austin Powers.

“Remember when you were almost Shrek?”

Chris Farley Show jokes aside, most of his vocal recordings for the original project have not yet surfaced online, a rare exception being his full performance for the hilarious and somber campfire scene that ended up in the final movie, albeit mostly rewritten. Granted, it doesn’t take much listening to identify two major problems: the writing and Farley’s performance. He basically just ended up using his normal voice, thus lacking much of any real emotional range, and the writing simply isn’t as heartfelt or sympathetic as the final revision of the script. One reason for this is that Shrek was intended to have parents, according to the original version of the scene and the collection of concept art and character renders released on Andres Molina’s Twitter page, which surely would’ve taken away from the themes regarding social ostracism and isolation that make the final version of the scene so much more emotionally impactful.

Nice artwork! Belongs in an old Norse saga, but nice.

Speaking of Molina’s Twitter page, plenty more early production material can be seen both here and across YouTube. Aside from more cartoony designs for other characters like Donkey and the Dragon in the form of sketches and 3D models, multiple unused characters are also present, such as a goblin-like thief that Shrek would’ve encountered in a dark village. This scene would’ve begun with the ogre dancing to and singing “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown, which is unfortunately a heinously overused song in all manner of shitty kids media from Garfield to Home Alone 4. Aside from storyboards, we know that this was planned thanks to an ancient test animation that has thankfully surfaced online in its entirety, during which he grabs the thief and flings him high into the air after showing him some very discomforting facial expressions.

One of Molina’s genuinely nice concept sketches depicting the scrapped thief character. Sorry, I just don’t feel like being a cynic this time.

Well, we might as well get the Star Wars stuff out of the way. Even those with cursory knowledge of the franchise might have seen Ralph McQuarrie’s stunning concept art for the original trilogy at some point in time, which features oddities like stormtroopers with lightsabers, Luke fighting Darth Vader in scuba gear, C-3PO as the robot from Metropolis, Boba Fett as a “stormtrooper super-commando”, Emperor Palpatine as a red-eyed goblin, and plenty more. Even the prequels offer some intriguing concept art depicting scrapped ideas, like a blue-skinned Darth Maul covered in red silk ribbons, the later-implemented sith assassin Asajj Ventress who was swapped out for Count Dooku, and my personal favorite: Padmé preparing to stab Anakin on Mustafar as opposed to acting like the same passive love interest she had always been. C’mon, don’t go soft on him, girl! Put down that soon-to-be galactic tyrant! You’ll be saving the audience a corny “NOOOOOOO!!!”

Well, what if there was concept art for a Star Wars film that never actually happened? No, I’m not referring to the early A New Hope artwork that depicted a female Luke and a totally redesigned cast. Regardless of how you feel about the sequel trilogy, the planning behind it was messy, to say the least, and this was especially the case with The Rise of Skywalker. See, before Colin Trevorrow was ousted and J.J. Abrams took over as director, an entire potential finale to the Skywalker Saga was written called Duel of the Fates, which was named after a famous track in the orchestral score for The Phantom Menace. The leaked script and concept art offer a rejected series of events, such as the introduction of an ancient sith being called Tor Valum instead of Palpatine being dug back up, Kylo Ren extracting the so-called “life force” from his enemies (paste Tobe Hooper’s LifeForce joke here), a final battle on Coruscant, new Imperial walkers, a rebel pilot about to be executed on a laser guillotine by Captain Phasma, and even General Hux (the current supreme leader in this script) committing seppuku with Kylo Ren’s lightsaber… because… Japanese? I don’t know. Maybe, that was just symbolic of Trevorrow’s disgrace and subsequent replacement.

So, Tor Valum’s planet is basically Exegol, just without strobe lights?

Speaking of films that a lot of people hate, Rise of Skywalker is where the family-friendly content officially ends, because we’re getting into a movie that makes its viewers want to throw up more than anything. That would be the romping 1980 family classic Cannibal Holocaust, and it feels rather appropriate to me that a stomach-churning movie that no one asked for has a stomach-churning deleted scene that no one asked for. Director and alleged snuff filmmaker Roggero Deodato desperately wanted a scene in the first quarter of the movie where the Yanamomo tribe would feed one of their enemies to piranhas, although the scene was ultimately shelved as he (a) didn’t have access to an underwater camera and (b) couldn’t properly train the piranhas. Now, the screenshot you’ll see down below is one of the only known remnants of this scrapped sequence, and its existence implies that filming for the sequence began before they realized the piranhas couldn’t be trained, which is pretty goddamn disturbing to think about in retrospect. Then again, this is the same film that shot and killed a piglet for no good reason in a scene that didn’t call for it. The amount of ethical problems surrounding the production sees no boundaries.

A rare still of the actor endangerment scene, upscaled to absolutely nothing.
R.I.P. The Mouseketeer. He’s happily playing poker with Farfour in the kingdom above.
I’m sure it’s the least unexpected thing to be found at a Norwegian psych ward.
I guess Sadness just wasn’t controversial enough to be redeveloped…

I guess a finishing question worth answering would have to be, “why am I, of all people, so fascinated by all this?” Lord knows how constantly I happen upon lost anime, and I can’t go as far as to call that fun or intriguing, but I personally believe that my connection to the topic is, like a lot of things, more emotional than anything. Although I don’t watch most of Blameitonjorge’s newer uploads, his editing style and chosen music tracks elicit this sense of mystery with an impressive variety of tones. The mystery might be eerie or unnerving, but other times, it might be rising, hopeful, and victorious. Then, with certain pieces of lost media like Spider-Man vs. Kraven the Hunter, the soundtrack makes you feel genuinely lost and reflective by the thought of them never seeing the light of day. However, no matter the tone, it’s always mystifying—the combination of his elegant, intricate editing and all of his instrumental synthwave and hip-hop harmonies certainly make that so. It’s just a damn shame he had to peddle that ridiculous “erratas” conspiracy theory and promote an emotionally destructive therapy scam like BetterHelp. I tolerated your focus on lost anime out of sheer respect for you and your content, you son-of-a-bitch!

So, with all of this lost media, beta content, and the strange world of mysteries that they both flourish in under my belt… I’ve got places to be. If you excuse me, I have to go make sure the entire HuniePop franchise becomes lost media. I owe at least that to mankind.

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