This column doesn’t often traffic in the oft-familiar conversational tack you’ll see online, amounting to someone saying, “Boy, this carton of milk really spoiled badly! Here, smell it, and take a swig, too!” Essentially, the Pixar Perspective doesn’t often wade into the world of hate-reading, which isn’t too far removed from hate-watching certain TV shows or movies, or even hate-following people on Twitter or Facebook. It can be easy, fun, and cynically enjoyable to read something so purely terrible or backwards-thinking, specifically knowing that said article or blog post or book is designed to push your buttons. Typically, it’s better to be above such a visceral pastime, even when the topic centers on a certain animation studio in Emeryville, California. Today is not a typical one, unfortunately.
Take a gander, if you will, at this article from The Motley Fool, passed along by friend of the column Scott Mendelson of Forbes.com. The headline signals trouble: “Disney Needs To Explain Why Pixar is Taking A Year Off.” This very column, recently, pointed out that unless someone has a financial stake in Pixar or Disney’s well-being, it’s more than a bit strange as well as pointless to focus so much on their recent game of release-date-centric Musical Chairs. So kudos to Steven Mallas, writer of the article at Fool.com, because he is, in fact, a Disney shareholder, a fact he goes out of his way to mention multiple times therein. (How many shares he has in the company is a mystery for the ages, no doubt.) The entitled tone evinced in that headline—and, to be fair, he may not have come up with it, though considering that this is closer to a blog post, you never know—may be part and parcel with what are strictly financial concerns.
Entitlement aside, however, the article immediately falters because, as anyone remotely familiar with the situation is aware, Disney has explained why Pixar is “taking a year off,” in his terminology. As discussed here recently, The Good Dinosaur was originally slated to open in May of 2014 but for various creative reasons, it’s been pushed back to November of 2015 and its original director, Bob Peterson, has been moved off the project. Perhaps Disney CEO Robert Iger would be more detailed in a shareholders’ call about why the film has been pushed back, but it’s hard to imagine, considering that the contents of such calls are publicized; for Iger to expound on the production problems in such a way that might shine a negative light on Pixar would be, at the very least, highly unexpected. But hey! Maybe that headline wasn’t Mallan’s doing! Maybe the article below it wouldn’t be riddled with a tone of obliviousness and condescension!
Sadly, no dice. Mallan’s headline isn’t just snappish, it’s misleading, as the article focuses equally on what he perceives as being other problems to Disney’s monetary future, such as the similar delay of the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean from 2015 to 2016, Jerry Bruckheimer ending his first-look agreement with the company, and a release-date shift forward for Ant-Man “—whatever that is,” according to Mallan. (Here is a fun tip to anyone who wants to find out “whatever” Ant-Man is. Go to the nearest computer, smartphone, or tablet. Access the Internet and type in Ant-Man. And lo, you shall find your answer! It’s just that easy! This is especially recommended if you purport to be concerned about the financial future of a company in which you are personally invested. Publicizing your lack of knowledge in such a way as to be mocking and almost arrogant is, conversely, definitely not recommended.)
But Pixar concerns Mr. Mallan most of all, that Good Dinosaur release date shift throwing him off something fierce. “Disney at this point has to be cautious and not allow any potential for maximizing its assets to slip away,” he writes, connecting his baseless fear that Disney’s on a downward spiral to 2014 now being devoid of a feature film from Pixar. First, why is this baseless? While it is true that Pixar won’t have anything new in 2014, Disney doesn’t rely wholly on Pixar to make money. (And let’s be clear: being disappointed about an absence of Pixar is totally fine. You don’t need us to tell you that; we’re disappointed too, although that disappointment is coupled with the awareness of why a delay had to happen.) Here are the names of some of the films opening in 2014 from the Walt Disney Company: Muppets Most Wanted, Maleficent, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Tomorrowland, Into the Woods, and Big Hero 6. Anyone who seriously thinks that Disney needs Pixar to weather some kind of financial storm in the next 2 years needs to review that list of films and wonder why The Good Dinosaur—or anything from Pixar—is more of a sure thing than more of Captain America or Kermit the Frog.
And really, to Mr. Mallan, it doesn’t matter so much that The Good Dinosaur has been delayed as much as it matters that there’s nothing on the 2014 slate from Pixar. Before the next quote, let’s reiterate something very important: Steven Mallan is, by his account, a shareholder in the Walt Disney Company. He writes as follows: “From what I’ve gathered, the primary reason for the move of the Dinosaur flick is related to quality control; presumably, this means that the magical muses over at the Pixar brain trust went on strike, or something like that.” There’s more—and don’t worry, we’ll get to it—but let’s parse what may well be the single stupidest sentence written about Pixar Animation Studios this year. Although Pixar’s employees may consider adding the title “magical muse” to their business cards and resumes soon, Mallan seems to lack a fundamental understanding of how animated films are produced, which, again, is something he may want to research considering his monetary stake in the company. It’s like being part-owner of a basketball team and wondering why a player with a broken leg isn’t hoofing it up and down the court and scoring at least 30 points every night. It’s hard to imagine Mr. Mallan actually thinks that some of Pixar’s employees went on strike, which would likely impact Disney’s stock holdings in the present, not the near-future; this reads as being phenomenally condescending, all the more so because mocking the people who contribute to Disney’s stock going up or down is maybe not the best course of action.
If Mr. Mallan is reading this article, or if anyone reading is legitimately unaware of why The Good Dinosaur has been delayed, then…well, if scrolling up a couple paragraphs won’t cut it, here. The film has production issues. Its director had to be moved off the project, and no single person has replaced him since. That “brain trust” (Hey, he got that one right! There is a brain trust at Pixar! Good for him.) came to the conclusion that meeting the May 30, 2014 release date was simply not feasible in terms of meeting Pixar’s standards. That, in effect, should be the key takeaway for Mr. Mallan: Pixar’s financial success is tied completely to its creative success. Why have people been giving Pixar grief over the last few years? Because the company has, to them, not equaled the qualitative, not quantitative, success of films like Up and WALL-E and Ratatouille, and this is potentially troubling. People expect Pixar to be the best. Fairly or not, they are held to an exorbitantly high standard, one that is rewarded with hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales, merchandising, and home media. The Good Dinosaur could come out next year; if it feels rushed, incoherent, or worse, that may be reflected in poor sales. Then gadflies like Mr. Mallan would scratch their heads and wonder where it all went wrong.
Speaking of wrong, let’s continue with Mr. Mallan’s piece. “As a shareholder, I see the billions spent to acquire the animation company and I expect every year to see at least one Pixar movie. At least one. Two would be even better…”, he whines. (Perhaps you think “whine” is unfair. Repeating the phrase “at least one” is an effective way to sound like you’re complaining, however.) First of all, it’s time once again to implore Mr. Mallan to open a new tab on his iPhone’s Safari browser, moving away from constantly refreshing his eTrade portfolio for a minute, and go to Wikipedia. Or Google. Or IMDb. All of these sites would clue him into the fact that in 2015, Pixar will be releasing two—yes, count ‘em, two!—movies: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. They are slated to release at least one movie per year until 2018, with two in 2015 and 2017. This inexplicable notion that, by not releasing one film in 2014 and compensating with six over the next 4 calendar years, Pixar—and Disney—is tarnishing its brand and standing in the markets has no basis in reality,which is typically helpful when referring to the stock market.
Here’s another piece of bile from Mr. Mallan: “Did Disney buy Pixar so that it would eventually release two movies a year, or did it buy the business so that Lasseter and his minions might occasionally take a year off?” Again, even though Mr. Mallan is a Disney shareholder, it’s awfully hard not to read this as some kind of overgrown temper tantrum. How dare John Lasseter and “his minions” take 2014 off? (Mr. Mallan, perhaps, is aiming for wit, by referring to Pixar’s employees as minions, a la the gibberish-speaking sidekicks in Despicable Me 2. Or maybe he thinks Pixar made Despicable Me 2.) How dare they push The Good Dinosaur to 2015 so they can hang out at their fancy offices in Emeryville? Why, they’re probably going to spend 2014 in Hawaiian shirts, pajama bottoms, and taking part in water balloon fights! They certainly won’t be working around the clock on multiple feature-length projects, including one that should’ve been completed by this coming May! They’ll just be a load of slackers! Don’t get us started on what’s happened since Disney acquired this bunch of freeloaders in 2006. Pixar’s only made eight whole films in that time, one in each of the last 8 years, and they only made, combined, $5.237 billion worlwide! Disney’s purchase of Pixar cost $7.4 billion, so they still owe the Mouse House some money!
OK, taking a breather from scaling the heights of Sarcasm Mountain, there is one last quote worth parsing through before closing this column out. Elsewhere in the screed, Mr. Mallan writes, “Since we’ve been led to believe that John Lasseter and his minions are geniuses when it comes to creating cartoons on computers, works full of story magic and visual intensity, and since a lot of shareholder bucks were thrown his way, I would imagine — and hope — that CEO Iger would agree with me that aggressive questioning about the delay is in order.” Why is this column so important? It’s the rambling of someone who believes he’s entitled to The Truth or at least Some Important Answers, when he is in fact not entitled to either. Unfortunately, this someone holds a more valued place in the eyes of many Walt Disney Company executives: he’s a shareholder. He has invested money in Disney. And he, if this article is any indication, has literally no idea how Disney operates. In all honesty, when reading a sentence like the one above, it’s almost enough to wonder if Mr. Mallan has, y’know, seen a Pixar film. Or any film from Disney. He speaks with the arrogant and authoritative tone of someone who makes decisions without having any context for how those decisions affect the world around him. “We’ve been led to believe” that Pixar is full of geniuses, he says, as if John Lasseter and company are among the world’s greatest con artists, snatching our hard-earned cash out of our wallets to watch some kind of illusion. People have voted with their money and endless praise to Pixar. This is not a bad investment, even if Mr. Mallan appears to think so. Also, to imagine that Robert Iger didn’t have some kind of voice in the conversation about moving The Good Dinosaur to 2015 is laughable. Mr. Mallan writes his piece with the tone of someone who Wants Things Done and believes he’s the man for the job, because up until now, no one has dared voice his concerns.
People have voiced concerns about the delay for The Good Dinosaur. People at Disney did voice those concerns, most likely, before anything was announced to the public. It’s a legitimate shame that people like Steven Mallan are seen as having a louder or more important voice, when everything they say is tinged with a proud lack of awareness. It is not so hard to learn about what Pixar does, how they achieved worldwide success before being purchased by Disney, and how they continue to influence the company’s financial bottom line. The Good Dinosaur has been pushed out of the 2014 release slate, and nothing from Pixar is replacing it. Somehow, we shall all soldier on. The sky has not fallen, even if Chicken Littles like Mr. Mallan would like to convince us otherwise. For the rest of us, maybe, there is but one lesson from this outrageously wrongheaded article: invest in Disney and use your knowledge for good.