The gravitational pull of the endless Star Wars franchise is inescapable in modern cinema. Though there have only been six live-action films in the series, the vast ocean of toys, theme-park attractions, animated TV series, books, and more make it impossible to avoid, even before there were rumors of a new trilogy. After the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm in the fall of 2012, the rumors became truth: within just a few years (now under 2 years), a new trilogy of Star Wars films would be unveiled, following up on the events of Return of the Jedi. Since that time, it’s been assumed that Disney wouldn’t just make new live-action films in that galaxy far, far away. Why not make more animated films, or spin-off series, and so on? For now, at least, these are rumors.
Over the last decade or so (possibly even less than that), one trend in Hollywood has been planning ahead (often too far ahead). Marvel and their Cinematic Universe is a good example of this, as they set dates for future projects, from the upcoming Ant-Man in July of 2015 to an untitled project in May of 2016, well before such minor issues as a script or cast members are set in stone. The most obvious current example of this is the impending Star Wars sequel directed by J.J. Abrams. Its existence was announced before a director, a screenwriter, or a cast were. (As of this writing, though plenty of rumors abound, there are still no officially announced cast members, in spite of the film being set for release in December of 2015.)
John Lasseter kicked off Disney’s massive D23 Expo with a look at what is coming next in the world of Disney and Pixar animation. The packed arena presentation was easily the highlight of Day 1 and offered fans a first look at the company’s upcoming slate of animated offerings. Pixar’s highly anticipated roster included next year’s The Good Dinosaur and 2015’s Inside Out. However, it wasn’t all forward thinking taking place on Friday. Late in the afternoon, a handful of Pixar creatives took some time to look back.
Finding Nemo was never one of the films that fans assumed would see a sequel (cue chants for The Incredibles 2). That is a point that Andrew Stanton and Produer Lindsey Collins underlined today at the D23 Expo, stating that he is usually averse to the thought of sequels. However, he also stated that if a good idea came along, he would be willing to entertain it. That happened two years ago for Finding Dory, the sequel to Nemo, as Stanton was able to develop an intriguing storyline. Learn what he cooked up after the break!
Over the course of its 27 years as a full-blown animation studio, Pixar has released a mind-boggling number of classics. Even more impressive is that the films have also been a huge hit with audiences around the world, with nary a flop. In an age where many high-profile (and expensive) films fail to rake in enough cash at the box office, the studio has set an unbelievably high bar for both itself and rivals. Given the number of great films under its belt, sequels are understandable, as both audiences and the filmmakers get the opportunity to see memorable characters again, while also likely creating a project that will be more successful at the box office than original films. The risk associated is finding the right balance between original film and sequel, which Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton believes the studio will have in the coming years.
At the D23 Expo in 2011, Pixar had a huge presence, as it was the studio’s 25th Anniversary. The first scene from Brave was previewed almost a year before the film’s release, character art from Monsters University was unveiled, 2014’s The Good Dinosaur and 2015’s Inside Out were announced, and a retrospective panel was held with the talented pool of Pixar directors. With the 2013 iteration of the convention just over one week away, the schedule for Pixar panels has just been released. After the break, find out what the studio has in store for show attendees this time!
It’s been just over a month since Pixar’s newest film, Monsters University, opened wide across North America. While the financial response has been solid—at this point, it seems safe to assume that Monsters University will end up as Pixar’s fourth-highest-grossing film domestically, just behind Up—the critical response was slightly more mild, though not outright negative or contentious. (The film has a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and 65 out of 100 on Metacritic; neither are bad numbers, of course, and this column has recently pointed out the shakiness of using these critic-aggregation websites as the foundation of an argument against Pixar’s perceived decline. But the rapturous response of some of the studio’s recent films is, by and large, not present for Monsters University, earned or not.) The attitude among some film lovers is either that Pixar’s golden days are permanently over, or that a lack of qualitative consistency is going to be the norm from now on.
Late last week, the Walt Disney Company decided to expand our knowledge of their inner workings just a little bit, specific to the future of their animation studios. Anyone who may have been concerned, for example, that Walt Disney Feature Animation would be going the way of the dodo (this writer is among them) could breathe a bit easier because of this news story. In some ways, the entire story is fairly random—why Disney chose to announce its animation slate through 2018 at the end of May 2013, we may never know—but it’s got plenty of information we can parse through. Specific to Pixar and this week’s column, the topic of concern is multiple films in one year.
Depending on who you listen to, cinema is dying. Or cinema is dead. Pining for the fjords, or soon to be buried, don’t forget: the medium of film is in serious trouble. Recently, director Steven Soderbergh—who’s been very public about retiring for the last couple of years, and is finally heading out after his HBO biopic about Liberace premieres later this month—gave an address at the San Francisco International Film Festival, holding court for nearly an hour on how the difference between cinema and movies has opened an immense and irreparable divide between art and commerce, one that few filmmakers can bridge. Over the weekend, this video was posted around the Internet; in it, Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle categorized the problem he saw with mainstream cinema as being the “Pixarification” of films.
The animation, characters, and script may get a lot of the glory in Pixar films, but it would be a mistake to overlook the role that the music plays. A prime example would be the opening sequence in Up, which took a somber turn right after we fell in love with the characters – it broke our hearts, but combine that with Michael Giacchino‘s superb score, and we were left devastated. Composer Thomas Newman has collaborated with director Andrew Stanton twice before, is reportedly working on next year’s The Good Dinosaur, and we have just learned that he will likely return for Finding Dory. Find more details after the break!