2012 was a big year for Pixar, as the studio saw three of its feature films make its way into theaters. Granted, two of the films were re-releases (Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.), but it was definitely a historic year for the animation subsidiary of Disney. Coming off of 2011, a year in which Cars 2 failed to wow critics and left some worried about Pixar’s future catalog of films, there was a lot riding on the studio’s 2012 entry, Brave. Additionally, there were a few news breaks about what we will be seeing in 2013 and beyond from Pixar. Catch up on Pixar’s 2012 after the break!
The year of 2011 was challenging for Pixar due to the release of Cars 2, which was the first film from the studio to be left out of the Animated Film category at the Academy Awards. In the previous 15 years, Pixar had built up a reputation like no other, with a successive number of hits that consistently had viewers laughing and crying, while bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. Cars 2 also brought in over half a billion dollars worldwide, along with billions more in merchandise sales. However, some began to question whether the Disney acquisition had clouded the famous Pixar devotion to perfecting the film’s story in a rush to produce a feature that would inevitably sell millions of toys. I questioned the tarnishing of the Pixar brand based solely on one film, especially after an unprecedented number of great ones. I would need further evidence before declaring that we had seen “the downfall of the studio.”
While the Academy Awards was missing Cars 2, Pixar was not absent from the show. La Luna, which was beautifully directed by Enrico Casarosa, was touring film festivals around the world in 2011 and those who were lucky to see it were often blown away by its simple yet touching story of a boy trying to find his own way. In January 2012, it was nominated for an Oscar in the Animated Short Film category. Although it did not capture the prestigious prize, it once again reminded filmgoers and critics that Pixar had the ability to produce great films.
Then, in April, a new project was announced at CinemaCon, a new film to be headed by Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich. The untitled film will center around the Día de los Muertos holiday that is seen in Mexico and in several other cultures. While no release date was announced (it will likely arrive no earlier than 2015), it added yet another original film to Pixar’s upcoming slate. The other original films include The Good Dinosaur (to be directed by Up co-director Bob Peterson) and the Inside The Mind Film (to be led by Monsters, Inc. and Up director Pete Docter), which will reportedly be called The Inside Out – they are scheduled to arrive in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
June brought two high-profile openings – Cars Land had its grand opening at Disney California Adventure and Brave and La Luna made their theatrical debuts. While reactions to the Cars film series has been mixed, the response to the Cars-themed portion of the theme park was overwhelmingly positive, due to the incredible attention to detail by Disney Imagineers, sheer beauty of the area, and the installation of its main attraction, Radiator Springs Racers. The opening was accompanied by huge crowds, but there was a question whether Cars Land would be able to maintain the momentum. More than six months later, Cars Land continues to bring in droves of people, with no indication of an upcoming slowdown.
Brave also started to play in theaters around the world. Most of the media attention was paid to how Pixar would fare after Cars 2 – positive reviews outnumbered those that were negative, but a vocal minority still openly questioned why an incredibly heartfelt film such as Up was not produced. While Brave may not have packed the emotional punch that Toy Story 3 and Up did, it still brought heart with its focus on the mother-daughter relationship of Queen Elinor and Merida. I was not always fond of the film’s humor, but the breathtaking visuals and emotional story at its center stayed with me, mostly due to the realistic portrayal of the relationship. Once again, Pixar passed the $500 million mark in worldwide box office. At the same time, Merida joined the Princesses at Disney theme parks, and the character is a popular choice among young girls when it comes to costumes.
La Luna accompanied Brave in theaters, allowing everyone the chance to watch the stunning short film. The short has gone on to become a favorite among many, with some hailing it as the greatest Pixar short. Considering the likes of previous shorts For The Birds, Presto, One Man Band, and Knick Knack, that is a great honor for La Luna and Enrico Casarosa.
In September, we saw the 3D re-release of Finding Nemo, which held up visually with its detailed underwater environments. Prior to the film, audiences were shown new Toy Story Toon, Partysaurus Rex, which was directed by Mark Walsh. While the short’s story was developed in the main Pixar studio in Emeryville, Pixar Canada in Vancouver handled the technical side to spectacular effect – the Toy Story series has never looked better than in this short. Out of the three Toons that have been released thusfar, it is arguably the best.
September also included Andrew Stanton confirming that he was developing Finding Nemo 2. As Stanton has directed great films such as the first Nemo and the fantastic WALL-E, I am optimistic of the sequel’s prospects. Hopefully, the story will be more than just a retread of Nemo getting lost and being found. I would prefer to see a different story with the characters of Marlin, Dory, and Nemo, akin to what Pixar is doing with Monsters University. It will be a while before any story details are provided, so we will have to wait and see.
Pixar followed Nemo 3D with Monsters, Inc. 3D a few weeks ago. Neither of the two 3D re-releases performed to the level of The Lion King 3D, which went on to gross close to $100 million in just the U.S. and Canada alone. This indicates that The Lion King was an exception, rather than a trend setter. While Nemo and Monsters certainly has its adoring fans, The Lion King is widely seen as more of a classic and also had the advantage of time on its side – it had been over 15 years since the Disney animated film blew filmgoers away with its spellbinding story and amazing soundtrack, while the Pixar re-releases were closer to their original release dates. I have mixed feelings about 3D, but am happy to see viewers given a chance to enjoy the films on the big screen once more. After the less-than-great box office showing by Monsters, Inc. 3D, though, it may be some time before we see another Pixar 3D re-release.
2013 looks to be another big year for Pixar, with Monsters University on tap, along with an unannounced, yet teased, short starring a rainy city and an umbrella. Of course, there will also be major announcements made about the studio’s upcoming film slate. We will have that and more for you right here on The Pixar Times. We wish you a happy and healthy new year!