Of the various behind-the-scenes stories that have now become apocryphal to the Pixar legend, it’s hard to beat the one associated with Finding Nemo. In the final few years of his time at the top of the Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner was convinced that Pixar’s winning streak both at the box office and with critics was about to end with this animated feature, the first led by director Andrew Stanton. Eisner couldn’t possibly fathom, he told shareholders, how this movie about a clownfish desperately scouring the ocean for his missing (and only) son with a forgetful blue Tang at his side could ever hit it big with audiences worldwide. When he made these comments in 2001, he did so based on a work-in-progress screening that was, in three respects, vastly different from the final product: Marlin was voiced by William H. Macy, instead of Albert Brooks; the angelfish Gill was, in spite of being the leader of the fish in P. Sherman’s aquarium, lying about his sordid past; and Stanton chose to dole out a series of flashbacks explaining what happened to Nemo’s mother, Coral, instead of beginning the film this way.
In the last couple weeks, Pixar Animation Studios has unveiled—or had Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger do so—a few hints as to the future of its continuing franchises. (This, of course, because even Pixar has proven unable, ever since Toy Story 2 opened in 1999, to end any of its stories definitively, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo and onward.) Earlier in the month, it was revealed that there would be a new short from the world of Cars featuring most of the original characters, including Lightning McQueen and Mater; last weekend, the newest Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, had a Monsters University short attached to its release; and the biggest news of all came last: sometime in the near future, there will be a third Cars film and a second Incredibles film.
“Gravity’s $ucce$$ will lead to a new round of 3D films NOT conceived for 3D…” These words, from Pixar stalwart Brad Bird via Twitter last fall, are unshakably true; if we have learned anything from Hollywood over the years, it’s that they will ride a passing fad into the ground, well past its expiration date. The industry’s leaders presume that if one unique aspect represented in one popular film works, that same aspect will work in every upcoming film. Though there are various add-ons Hollywood loves to graft upon its products, such as an IMAX presentation for something that wasn’t shot in the IMAX format, the most prevalent remains 3D. There are a handful of major films, from Gravity to Avatar to Hugo, that have been aided enormously by being presented in this immersive format; however, for each Gravity, there are 10 Need for Speeds right behind, films that were post-converted to the 3D format not because they require it, but because the studios want to make a quick buck.
Mondo has become the face of the movement to create limited-edition posters of films. Designing great posters requires the ability to tell a short story about what viewers can expect through a limited amount of space. Setting out to develop posters for classic films, when millions have seen them and have grown fond of them, is not as easy as it sounds, but Mondo has quite a number of talented and creative artists by its side. New limited-edition Pixar posters are coming soon, including for WALL-E and Up. Take a peek at them after the break! (UPDATE: Online sale info has been added at the end of the post!)
At the Oscars this year, no Pixar films were nominated for awards but the studio and its filmmakers were present in the spotlight, through montages featured in the show and TV ads playing during the telecast. Most notably, a new Google ad made its debut, which focused on its search engine, and had Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton providing narration on how to tell a story. Watch the ad after the break!
Now that Pixar’s moved itself off the 2014 release calendar, it’s quickly becoming apparent how painful that absence will be. (Necessary, clearly, and hopefully beneficial. But it’s also very painful.) The best possible evidence is to look and see what other animated movies are getting unveiled in 2014. If you’ve gone to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 since it opened a couple weeks ago (and if you haven’t, you may want to stay home, even—or especially—if you’re a fan of the far wittier original), you may have seen a peek of the future of animation, with trailers for such films as Free Birds—opening in just a few weeks—and The Nut Job. (The former is a presumably wacky story about turkeys trying to save themselves from being Thanksgiving dinner, and the latter is about a squirrel breaking into a nut store, and why are neither of those jokes?) Though there’s plenty more coming in 2014, such as The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2, what little has been displayed of what’s to come only serves to emphasize how impactful Pixar’s absence will be.
Pixar may have a problem with a lack of female representation among its directors, but that’s not the case with many of its female characters. The concern over the disparity of active female characters in mainstream filmmaking has grown (rightly) louder over the last couple of years; though this has been a problem in big-budget films for a very long time, it’s become truly galling because it shows a perceived lack of progressivism in a culture that is often painted as being potentially too progressive. No doubt, there is a disturbing inequality in the number of male versus female directors, writers, and producers in Hollywood. Pixar may not be perfect, but to presume, as some have, that it is similarly failing in representing strong female characters in its films is wildly inaccurate.
Trends always crop up in movie news, whether they’re based in fact or not. As such, the trend last week was cinema icons announcing their retirement. (Or, in the case of the most famous purported retiree, Jack Nicholson, sources said that he had already retired, then other sources backtracked and said the initial claim wasn’t true. Even though he’s got nothing in the pipeline. So you never know.) Specific to this column, Hayao Miyazaki, the master behind Japan’s Studio Ghibli animation studio, announced that his newest film, The Wind Rises, would be his last. Now, it’s worth noting that Miyazaki has said in the past that he’d retire, but this time, at least, he seems fairly serious about leaving behind the director’s chair. Many words will be written about Miyazaki’s influence and about the great films he’s made over the last 30 years from Princess Mononoke to My Neighbor Totoro. If he’s going to stick to his guns this time, if The Wind Rises is Miyazaki’s final directing effort, then it may be high time to wonder who will take up his mantle of making animation for everyone, not just for kids.
Think back, if you will, to May 30, 2003. Just over ten years ago, Pixar Animation Studios released Finding Nemo into theaters to widespread critical and commercial success. But, for the purposes of today’s column, we won’t be considering that film as a whole, nor will we focus on its impending sequel. No, what we’ll look at today is what was attached to the Finding Nemo prints at theaters nationwide: a teaser trailer for The Incredibles, the first Pixar film from Brad Bird. The teaser featured footage that—as is customary for such advertisements—never appeared in the finished film. (Of course, the gag at the crux of the teaser—that the former Mr. Incredible had let himself go to the point where he couldn’t fit inside his old super-suit anymore—is used to fine effect in the movie, just in a different context.) Nevertheless, this first marketing salvo for The Incredibles demonstrated in less than 2 minutes the kind of movie audiences could expect: there would be physical humor borne from character development and there would be an old-fashioned design and ethos to the world this mysterious Mr. Incredible inhabited. The rest, we’d have to wait and find out about…in nearly 18 months.
Planes is not a Pixar movie, but it badly wants to be. More to the point, the Walt Disney Company wants you to think that Planes is from Pixar. Though the Pixar Animation Studios logo does not appear in the film—and it shouldn’t, because the movie was animated by the people at DisneyToon Studios, even if the short film that inspired Planes was created by those at Pixar’s Canadian studio—there are more than enough hallmarks of Pixar’s work present within that could fool you. The first thing on screen after the Walt Disney Pictures logo is the moniker “World of Cars,” with the last word designed a la the title cards for Cars and Cars 2. John Lasseter, the head of Pixar Animation Studios, Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, and the man who’s almost singlehandedly spearheaded the Cars movement to the point where it has its own land in a theme park, co-wrote the story for Planes and is its executive producer. To cap it all off, John Ratzenberger, long known as Pixar’s good-luck charm, makes a cameo appearance. (No, he doesn’t voice the Mack truck from Cars, but a different character, even though cars exist in the world of Planes. Try not to think about it too much.)