Is there trouble at Pixar?
Hollywood's most respected, most financially successful animation studio announced on Wednesday that its pushing back release dates on two upcoming features, "The Good Dinosaur" and "Finding Dory." These production delays mean that Pixar won't be opening a new movie in theaters for the entire year of 2014 — the first time the studio will go a whole year without debuting new product since 2005.
"The Good Dinosaur," a prehistoric fantasy that imagines a time when humans and dinosaurs lived side by side, was originally slated to open on May 30, 2014, but the opening has been pushed back a year and a half to November 25, 2015. This announcement comes a few weeks after Pixar revealed that Bob Peterson, who co-directed "Up" and conceived the story, had been moved off the project; no new director has been announced so far.
Pixar also revealed that "Finding Dory," their much anticipated sequel to "Finding Nemo," has also been pushed back eighteen months; originally slated for the November 25, 2015 slot now occupied by "The Good Dinosaur," the picture is now scheduled to debut June 17, 2016. That means there will be a gap of 13 years between the original – one of Pixar's biggest hits, bringing in over $334 million – and the follow up, which beats the eleven year wait between "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3," or the twelve years that separated "Monsters Inc." and "Monsters University."
Animation fans that follow Pixar's history know "The Good Dinosaur" is hardly the first time the studio had switched directors midway through a project. Brad Bird took over the reigns from Jan Pinkava on 2007's "Ratatouille," which proved to be a massive critical and commercial success. Mark Andrews replaced Brenda Chapman as director of 2012's "Brave," which also went on to become a major success. However, fans point to "Cars 2" as an example of this strategy failing Pixar – John Lasseter finished the movie after Brad Lewis started it, and it was a rare example of a Pixar movie that was largely panned by critics. And though the $191 million domestic gross was impressive on face value, it was a disappointment compared to the $244 million brought in by the original, which cost $30 million less to make.
Pixar's brass are putting a positive spin on this process in interviews. Pixar president Ed Catmull told the Los Angeles Times, "All directors get really deep in their films Sometimes you just need a different perspective to get the idea out. Sometimes directors … are so deeply embedded in their ideas it actually takes someone else to finish it up."
And last June, Pete Docter, who co-directed "Up" with Peterson, also spoke on the director's place in the creative process at Pixar to the L.A. Times. " "We take our best guess," Docter said. "We try to diagnose: What are the necessary skills? How does this person measure up? They're going to need buttressing here, here they totally shine, and try to pair them with the right people. But if you figure it out, let us know."
The shake-up in Pixar's release dates may also be bad news for their parent company Disney, who are having some production headaches of their own. Last week, Disney put production of "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" on hold, with the studio rumored to be rethinking the project after "The Lone Ranger," which also starred "Pirates" leading man Johnny Depp, proved to be a costly box office disaster this summer, a bad omen after 2011's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" grossed less than any film in the "Pirates" franchise so far.
However, at least one Pixar project seems to be going ahead just as planned: Docter's "Inside Out," a story that takes place inside the mind of a young girl, is still slated to arrive in theaters June 19, 2015.
- Arts & Entertainment