Tagged: pixar

“Cars 2” Is Pixar’s First Misfire

Pixar has yet to make a bad film. This isn’t an opinion, but rather a pretty obvious fact. Their remarkable run of feature films began with “Toy Story” in 1995, and it wasn’t like the movies in their original years or their intermediate era were anything to ignore (“Monsters, Inc.” remains a thoroughly charming movie, “Finding Nemo” an emotional experience and “The Incredibles” is their most flat-out fun movie). But as they kept producing winner after winner, their ability to mix artistic achievements with commercial success proved seemingly impenetrable. Even more impressively, Pixar began making movies that seemed like they just couldn’t work as well as their previous films and then wildly exceeding any rational audience member’s expectations: films about a rat who dreams to be a chef, a robot left alone after the end of the world, an old man trying to get away and a second sequel to their original work (making a third film in any series is risky, but by that point, risk was part of the game).

The only misstep, insofar as Pixar misstepped, was “Cars.” The 2006 film about anthropomorphic vehicles wasn’t bad, by any means, which is a nice way of saying it would be one of the better films released by the folks over at DreamWorks. For Pixar, though, it represents an odd outlier among their otherwise sterling filmography. Again, it wasn’t that the movie was terrible, but it was just so plain, so simplistic and so lacking in the genius and inspiration that had fueled “The Incredibles” two years before and powered “Ratatouille” the following summer.

And yet, their weakest film has a sequel that opens this weekend. Pixar’s films have been the best ones released during in each of the last four summers, and it looks like the streak comes to an end here. The critics have spoken, and more than half of them find “Cars 2” lacking.  Continue reading

“Monsters, Inc.” prequel delayed until 2013

Unsurprisingly, the “Monsters, Inc.” prequel’s release date has changed. Originally scheduled for November 2, 2012 (which would have been 11 years to the day after the original movie came out), “Monsters University” has been pushed back to June 2013. This was expected: Pixar already has “Brave” on the calendar for 2012, and they have yet to release two films in a calendar year. Moving it to their usual summer release date was the obvious move. And now you know that.

The “Monsters, Inc.” prequel has a title and premise

Pixar news! The “Monsters, Inc.” sequel has a name and a premise: It’s called “Monsters University,” and it’s actually a prequel about the genesis of the friendship between John Goodman’s Sully and Billy Crystal’s Mike Wazowski (MIKE WAZOWSKI). The film is due out in November 2012, the same year as “Brave.” Unless “Monsters” gets bumped to 2013, that would mark the first year with two Pixar releases.

Look, as excited as I am for more “Monsters, Inc.” (and I am, because that movie was magical), I have to note this again: Between 1995 and 2009, Pixar released 10 films. Just one of them was a sequel (“Toy Story 2”). Following that, three of the studio’s four films are follow-ups (“Toy Story 3,” “Cars 2” and “Monsters,” with “Brave” as the lone outlier). I’m not saying every movie has to be about a Parisian rat that longs to be a chef or an elderly man who ties balloons to his house, and Pixar’s current 11-for-11 track record speaks for itself, but…meh? Maybe it’s cynicism due to “Cars 2” (which is unfair, because it’ll be fine and likable enough and if it were released by DreamWorks it would be the best thing that company had ever done, but because it’s Pixar, making a sequel to such a bland-for-them film just seems like a waste of the company’s prodigious abilities and ambitions). Maybe it’s representative of an underlying concern that, eventually, somehow, somewhere, Pixar has to make a subpar movie. (Right? Doesn it? The 11-for-11 track record is terrific, but everybody makes a misstep at some point. Stanley Kubrick made “Eyes Wide Shut,” you know? Nobody’s perfect.) I’m not sure.

But let’s be real about something: It’s Pixar. It’s going to be a gem, and I’m going to ponder the company’s sabbatical from truly original filmmaking right up until I’m sitting in the theater, laughing and bawling and once again offering up my first born in a sacrifice to the wonder of John Lasseter.

Pixar’s “Brave” will be the studio’s first movie half-directed by a woman

Charticle Digest has some interesting news about “Brave,” Pixar’s next non-sequel. We still have to get through “Cars 2” this summer, but after everybody at Pixar gets their own shiny island with that movie’s merchandising profits, “Brave” is the next flick on the docket (it’s due in the summer of 2012). We already know that Pixar’s 13th movie will have their first female lead and that it won’t be their first movie with a female director. Right?

Actually, it turns out that original director Brenda Chapman (“The Prince of Egypt”) and her replacement, Mark Andrews (the “One Man Band” short), will be credited as co-directors. So that’s something? Pixar finally gave half of its directing duties to a woman. You’ve come 50 percent of a long way, etc.

Also, Reese Witherspoon is apparently out as the movie’s heroine (a “tomboyish princess” in the Scottish Highlands). Her replacement is Kelly Macdonald, better known as Margaret on “Boardwalk Empire” and Josh Brolin’s wife in “No Country for Old Men.” She was born in Glasgow, so that’s an upgrade in my mind.

For more on the movie’s story, and three pieces of concept art from the film, head over to EW.

Even Pixar’s early management did some terrific things

Pixar is something of a wonder in terms of popular mainstream cinema, putting out films that perfectly straddle the line between art and commerce and somehow appeal to people of all ages. There are plenty of stories out there about how great it is to work there, how creative freedom and fun are part of the gig, and how their entire process works.

There’s also this story, recounted at the Harvard Business Review, about Pixar back when it was the Computer Division of Lucasfilm. George Lucas didn’t have faith in the economic upside for animated films, so the president of Lucasfilm pressed the leaders of the Computer Division to lay off a lot of employees. Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, the division’s leaders, kept resisting these calls. But when pressed to finally present a list of names to fire, they gave only two names: their own.

Everybody kept their jobs and a few months later Steve Jobs bought Pixar. The story is still being told, 25 years later. Oh, and George Lucas is still responsible for Jar Jar Binks.

[HBR]

The Beauty of Pixar

Leandro Copperfield, who has previously developed montages devoted to the Coens and Tarantino as well as Kubrick and Scorsese, took the time to mash up scenes from each of Pixar’s 11 feature films from 1995 (“Toy Story”) through 2010 (“Toy Story 3”). Pixar’s creative output over the last 15 years has been nothing short of golden, with the company enjoying an unprecedented and unapproachable string of commercial and artistic successes while also serving as a shining example of all that can go right with cinema as an art form as well as a business enterprise. This video is a tribute to that. Enjoy. [via]

Disney giving up on princess movies and fairy tales

The L.A. Times had an interesting story this weekend about Disney and their upcoming movie “Tangled.” The movie, a retelling of the Rapunzel story, comes out tomorrow; it will also be the last fairy tale produced by Disney’s animation department for a good long while.

It’s an interesting read for a variety of reasons. The animated “princess movies” have been Disney’s bread and butter since “Snow White” in 1937. But the years of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine dominating at the box office is long gone. Their most recent attempt to regain the princess-driven mojo, last year’s “The Princess and the Frog,” underperformed.

In the age of mega-franchises when movies need to appeal to a broad audience to justify a sizable investment, Disney discovered too late that “Princess and the Frog” appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral “Tangled” and shift the lens of its marketing to the film’s swashbuckling male costar, Flynn Rider.

Disney hopes “Tangled” will draw boys, teenagers and adults to the theater, succeeding where its frog-prince saga failed. But it’s taking no such chances in the future.

The big performers for Disney these days all have something in common:

Now, different kinds of Disney characters are elbowing their way into the megaplexes and toy aisles, including Pixar’s “Toy Story” buddies Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Capt. Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a platoon of superheroes from the recent acquisition of Marvel Entertainment.

Yep, the common theme stands out a bit: gender. The princess movies don’t succeed as much because no guys (young or old) have an interest in seeing them, and young males are considered the driving forces of box office revenue. Plus, the notion of princesses (and what those movies represented) is outdated:

Among girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent — revolving around finding the man of your dreams — have a limited shelf life. With the advent of “tween” TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel’s Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon’s Miranda Cosgrove.

“By the time they’re 5 or 6, they’re not interested in being princesses,” said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children’s lives. “They’re interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values.”

MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, knocked the toy industry’s blond bombshell off her stilettos by recognizing how little girls’ interests have morphed.

Disney can spin the failure of traditional animated films any way they want, but the issue isn’t just the princess movies. The issue is the movies themselves. The old-fashioned hand-drawn animated films reached their zenith in 1994 with “The Lion King,” and the next year “Toy Story” came out and rewrote the book on animation. Sure, there were some moderate hits (“Tarzan,” “Lilo & Stitch”). But the era of these films being megahits was over. The fault wasn’t the gender of the central characters (see: “Treasure Planet,” “The Iron Giant” and “Titan A.E.”). The problem was the films themselves, which lacked the storytelling oomph to raise their profile above just “Oh, some old-fashioned animated movies, how quaint.”

But there’s a broader problem here, and that’s the dual suggestions that A) Movies aimed at little girls are not worth the investment and B) If they want to reach little girls, they need to reach them like the execrable Bratz dolls do.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think movies like “Up” succeed because there’s a big audience for movies centered on crotchety old men. That movie succeeded because it was a Pixar film, which meant it came from filmmakers of great talent who had delivered great films in the past. Wouldn’t it solve all of the problems for Pixar to just center a movie around a female character (not even a princess, but simply a lady of some sort)? Oh, right.