Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's Next for Pixar? (Pixar and Disney animation schedule for 2012 and beyond)

At Disney’s annual D23 expo in Anaheim, Pixar officially announced two new films coming to theaters in November 2013 and May 2014, plus a few new looks at the rest of Disney’s animated slate.

The first is an untitled movie about dinosaurs set on an alternate version of Earth, in a reality where an asteroid did not wipe out the prehistoric creatures. Presumably, it involves how dinos and humans co-exist in a modern world, but no further details were given. Bob Peterson, who co-directed Pixar’s Up, is directing the feature. Here is the tongue-in-cheek logo from the expo from PixarTimes (via /Film):

The other is even more vague. It’s an animated, untitled family film directed by the other Up co-director, Pete Docter, set in the human mind. The story will take audiences inside the head where we’ll find out “how we forget, why certain songs get stuck in our heads.” The Playlist has learned that Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) is writing the script about “the formation of ideas.”

At the same expo, Disney touted its June 2012 release, Brave, the story of an unruly princess and accomplished archer named Merida (voiced by “Boardwalk Empire” star Kelly Macdonald) who defies a sacred custom and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom... The teaser trailer was gorgeous and reactions to the introductory footage shown at D23 were of genuine excitement, so watch that:

Brenda Chapman wrote this. She also wrote for Lion King, Chicken Run, and Cars, and she directed Prince of Egypt. Apparently Pixar replaced her on Brave, its first female director back in 2010, and she (Brenda Chapman) left the Pixar studio (this has happened before with Jan Pinkava on Ratatouille and Chris Wedge on Bolt). However, IMDB says Brenda is a co-director, so we're remaining hopeful:

Additionally, Disney rolled out a first look at Pixar’s Monsters University, the June 2013 prequel to Monsters Inc. directed by Dan Scanlon (writer on Cars) that details how Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) met in college and became rivals… then friends. Nothing new to see, unfortunately, other than a slightly slimmer Sulley and greener Mike.

Finally, Disney provided an in-depth look at Wreck-It Ralph, their other non-Pixar, animated feature set for November 2012. John C. Reilly voices the title character, an 8-bit video game villain in the vein of old-school games Rampage and Donkey Kong. But Ralph wants to be good and goes on a quest through other arcade games to reinvent himself. The movie will feature familiar characters from arcade favorites like Pac-Man and Q*bert, plus voicework from Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman.

As for other Pixar favorites, no word on the oft-rumored Toy Story 4. Though Woody and Buzz Lightyear will be back in theaters this November in a short film titled “Small Fry” accompanying Disney’s throwback family movie The Muppets. The characters were also in the short “Hawaiian Vacation” before this summer’s lackluster Cars 2.


NOTE FROM EDITOR: Cars 2 only made about $180 million stateside -- the second lowest Pixar performance ever -- but it made it up in international sales and totaled $521 million worldwide, so it actually performed better than Cars 1, Wall-E, and the older Pixar films. Not too shabby. Plus they opened up the Cars toy line to a lot of cool-looking sportscars and international cars... so it was hardly a bust.

Especially when you compare that to this year's Winnie the Pooh. Now that was a bust!

Really Lasseter? Just because it worked in 1977 with Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh doesn't mean it's going to work again in 2011 with some computer effects thrown in.

Anyway, here is the lineup for Disney and Pixar animated films...

1. Arrietty (Studio Ghibli) - February 17, 2012
Sure you probably don't go see these Ghibli films (Disney has a deal to bring them stateside from Japan and put American voice actors over them, but they really don't do that well). However, Disney wants you to see them and they're released into theaters by Disney, so I'll list them. This one is based on The Borrowers (tiny people who steal our things). Voices include Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, and Will Arnett.


2. Brave (Pixar) - June 22, 2012
Brave (previously titled The Bear and the Bow) was written by Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi and directed Chapman and Mark Andrews. It's an original Scottish fairy tale about how young Princess Merida rebels, gets the Lords mad at her, and she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help. Merida then must discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late. Sounds like fun! Voices include Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and John Ratzenberger (wouldn't be Pixar without him).


3. Frankenweenie (Burton) - October 5, 2012
Frankenweenie is an upcoming 3D black and white stop motion film and remake of the 1984 short film of the same name. Tim Burton directed that live-action short film (a Frankenstein dog) and this remake as well. Story: A young boy who makes monster movies tries to bring his dog Sparky back to life after he has been hit by a car. This is Burton's third trip back to Disney (where he started from), and we thoroughly enjoyed Nightmare Before Christmas and Alice in Wonderland. Voices include Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Landau, and Martin Short.


4. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney) - November 2, 2012
Wreck-It Ralph is directed by Emmy-winner Rich Moore, a former animation director of The Simpsons and Futurama. Its working titles were Joe Jump and Reboot Ralph. The film will feature the voices of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman. The film tells the story of Wreck-It Ralph (Reilly), an arcade game bad guy, who is determined to prove he can be a good guy. The 8-bit video game character struggles with the complex question: ‘isn't there more to life than the role I've been assigned?’ In his quest for the answer, we journey with our hero through three visually distinct video game worlds.


5. From up on Poppy Hill (Studio Ghibli) - Probably early 2013
A girl struggles to keep the old history of a building while people are destroying old buildings and rebuilding to prepare for the Olympics.


6. Monsters University (Pixar) - June 21, 2013
Monsters, Inc. 2 is going to be a prequel which focuses on Sulley and Mike's studies at the University of Fear, where they start off as rivals but soon become best friends. It's directed by Dan Scanlon (who directed Mater and the Ghostlight). Voices include John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, and Julia Sweeney.


7. Untitled Stop-Motion Film (Henry Selick) - October 4, 2013
They aren't telling us what it's about, but basically Disney made a deal for Henry to make his own stop-motion movies for Disney without Tim Burton (since Tim split and directs his own animations now). Henry previously directed Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Monkeybone, Life Aquatic (the animated sequences), and Coraline. I find it interesting that Disney's investing here, because DreamWorks just pulled out with Aardman after Wallace & Gromit didn't sell so well (but it did win the Academy Award for animated feature).


8. Untitled Movie About Dinosaurs (Pixar) - November 27, 2013
All we know is that it takes place where dinosaurs and humans live together in modern times. Should be interesting. Bob Peterson, who co-directed Pixar’s Up, is directing the feature.


9. King of the Elves (Disney) - Holiday 2013 Based on a fantasy story by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report), it is being directed by Chris Williams, director of Bolt. Likely either this one or the Dinosaur Pixar film will slide to 2014.


10. Untitled Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind (Pixar) - May 30, 2014
It’s directed by the Academy Award winning primary Up and Monsters Inc. director, Pete Docter (see image above), and it is set in the human mind. The story will take audiences inside the head where we’ll find out “how we forget, why certain songs get stuck in our heads.” Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) is writing the script about “the formation of ideas.”

There you go! Previous films that have been removed from the Disney animation slate include:

1. Newt

It was the story of a newt from a lab who, um, had to mate with the female and populate the world. Wow, talk about a difficult story to navigate. Maybe the lack of a clear or compelling story is why Lasseter pulled the plug.

2. Snow Queen

The Snow Queen has been put on hold, though even tabled projects can make triumphant returns, like the years-in-development Beauty and the Beast for example. In other words, Lasseter is probably having trouble seeing a compelling story come out of this idea. So hopefully they'll sit on it for awhile and dig a great story out of it.


3. Jack and the Beanstalk

Similar to the Snow Queen, this project has taken off either. I think Lasseter and Catmull were a little disappointed with Tangled and Princess and the Frog. Well, I think the problem is that they aren't experienced making those films. Heck it took Walt Disney's personal team to do them right. And in the late 80s / early 90s Disney luckily had the right combination of people to make them. However, that combination quickly dwindled away (two died and Eisner foolishly fired two), and Lion King was the last one made with all the key players on the team (and after that it became a disjointed team). So, yeah, Lasseter and Catmull aren't just going to walk into Disney and figure out the fairy tale formula. It doesn't work that way. Tangled and Frog didn't do poorly because the market "run a course" (as Catmull says here). It was because you didn't make them to be as magical as Little Mermaid and the other films were. Look at Tangled... the songs weren't creative or all that fun (still good though), there wasn't any Genie-like character (Rafiki, Timon, Pumbaa, Lumiere, Fairy Godmother, Cinderella's mice, Dopey, Sebastian... take your pick). It was a great movie, but the filmmakers don't know the fairy tale formula.

In fact, the directors of Little Mermaid and Aladdin (who also directed Hercules, Treasure Planet, and Princess and the Frog) also don't know the formula... they know their part in the formula. But they relied on other people (Ashman, Roy Disney Jr, Katzenberg, and a few others) to fill the rest of the team in order to make the magic. Lasseter does this today with his style of animated film, but fairy tales are completely different. You have to build the dream team to understand them... just like Disney did and just like Katzenberg did in the late 80s (Katzenberg is the one who brought the broadway people in and pushed the conversations forward). He's now performing his magic tricks at DreamWorks (he's the Lasseter of DreamWorks).

So, anyway, Lasseter and Catmull are a little frustrated and deflated by fairy tales, so they put Jack and the Snow Queen on the back burner while they try other genres.


4. Yellow Submarine

Disney humorously purchased Image Movers from Robert Zemeckis (which Zemeckis built for Polar Express, Monster House, and Beowulf). They then used it for some gain to make Christmas Carol and lost a ton on Mars Needs Moms. That's when they pulled the plug on future projects, including Yellow Submarine, which was a remake of the Beatles animation (a much longer and robust version). The problem with Image Movers was that it just cost way too much to make the more realistic style of animation. It just isn't practical, and it only takes one miss to sink the whole boat (thus they got shut down).

That said, Zemeckis is directing Yellow Submarine himself, so he took Image Movers to Universal to continue production. Apparently Cary Elwes has a good Harrison impression. Can't wait to see it! Interestingly, Zemeckis directed Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol himself, but he passed on Mars Needs Moms. Should have been a sign!



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