Writers Will Finn and John Sanford originally pitched the film as an animated feature film based on the myth of the Pied Piper. Maggie the Cow was originally written as a deaf girl. Michael Eisner immediately hated the idea, because he thought no parent would take their children to see a movie where children are murdered. So Finn and Sanford wrote this movie, which contains elements from the Pied Piper myth.
This film marked the beginning of a five-year hiatus of traditionally animated Disney feature films. During its theatrical release (first-run and sub-run) in the United States, the film reportedly earned less than half of its estimated production cost. This was one of the final factors that led to the decision to make this the last traditionally ("hand-drawn") animated Disney feature for theatrical release. In early 2006, at the urging of professionals both in and out of Disney, plans were being considered for resuming traditionally animated features for theatrical release starting with The Princess and the Frog (2009) which both ended and restarted the hiatus.
The final feature film to use Disney's CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) pipeline. The system - more than a simple software application, it encompassed a complex UNIX-based network of workstations and servers handling the creation, editing, storage, and workflow of multiple animated sequences - was dismantled when the animation unit was shuttered.