Newt is the only announced Pixar feature film that failed to make it to theaters. Set to tell the story of a male and female newt forced together in order to extend their dying species, the film was being directed by Gary Rydstrom, who previously directed the short, Lifted. However, Newt was cancelled, which left eager fans, who had become caught up in the idea and gorgeous concept art, perplexed. The reason for why the film was cancelled has finally been revealed.
Pixar President Ed Catmull, as part of several conversations with Fast Company to promote his upcoming book Creativity, Inc., explained in a new article that the studio’s films “suck” initially in development. It makes difficult ideas, like a rat who can cook or an old man who must fly his house to South America, that much more difficult to sell, as much work is needed to produce a great film. Although most films, like Ratatouille and Up, make it through the rigorous process, even if a film (the former) needs to be completely restarted with a new director, there is the rare example that fails to make it to the end.
Opening up about the cancelled Newt, Catmull states:
Newt was another unlikely idea that wasn’t working. When we gave it to somebody new [Pete Docter, director of Up], he said, “I’ll do it, but I have another idea altogether, which I think is better.” And we thought it was better too [Docter’s concept was the basis of Inside Out, which he is directing for a 2015 release]. That was the reason we didn’t continue with Newt.
Catmull makes a few major revelations in just a few sentences, first and foremost that Pete Docter, director of classics Monsters, Inc. and Up, took over as director of Newt towards the end of its life, replacing Rydstrom. Until now, all we had heard was that the film was cancelled, but there had been no news about a director change. It seems that Pixar took a similar step with Newt as they did with Ratatouille, bringing in one of their star directors to take over a troubled film.
Although, it seems that Docter was more inspired by his own idea of a film that would take viewers inside the human mind, which ultimately led to the cancellation of newt, according to Catmull. Following an assessment of the idea, the studio (likely the Braintrust) agreed that it was a better idea to develop the bold concept thought up by Docter than attempt to right the troubles that Newt was experiencing.
There was some speculation that it was Newt‘s closeness to the story of Blue Sky’s Rio (EDIT: and/or ILM’s Rango) that led to the film’s demise. It could be that Newt was axed due to a combination of all these reasons – the similarity to Rio, the inability to “crack” the story for Newt, and the latest revelation that the idea that Docter had for the film that would become Inside Out was just better.
News that the film was cancelled arrived in 2010, and Inside Out is now set for release next year – that would place the development period for Inside Out at about five years by the time it is completed. It is easily the most ambitious film that Pixar has undertaken, confirmed by its incredible preview at the D23 Expo last summer, so the lengthy production process makes sense. Although Newt did not make it to the big screen, perhaps the film was too far gone to save – obviously, we will never know, which has saddened many. Still, it is hard to fault Pixar for the decision to cancel it, especially when we are getting Inside Out, hardly a consolation prize. Docter is one of the most talented storytellers working in the industry today – the last film he dreamt up was Up – and having the opportunity to watch his imagination come to life again is almost guaranteed to be a treat.
Ed Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., is set to hit bookstores on April 8th. You can pre-order it on Amazon now!