Friday, October 23, 2015

Some Pixar Questions...

While watching Toy Story of TERROR! yesterday, I wondered... What's next for director Angus MacLane? In fact, I wondered about a few things...

When I say what's next for MacLane, I mean... What is he up to after Finding Dory? He is co-directing the picture with Andrew Stanton. At Pixar, the co-director is not really the person who directs alongside the main director. Same goes for Walt Disney Animation Studios under Lasseter's stewardship...

For example, Zootopia is being directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Jared Bush, one of the writers on the picture, is the co-director. Basically the person who controls the lower deck of the ship so everything's tip-top on top deck. Inside Out, on Pixar's end, had a co-director as well. That was Ronnie del Carmen, under main director Pete Docter.

Angus MacLane started out with shorts. His first was BURN-E, a WALL-E short that debuted on the picture's home media release in fall 2008. BURN-E is basically everything that happened in WALL-E, but from the titular robot's point of view... The robot that got locked out of the ship after the 'Define Dancing' sequence. It's cute enough.

Next up was Small Fry, the second Toy Story Toon, which played before The Muppets in theaters. I loved this little short, and I thought it was the best of the toons. Lots of fun, packed with little gags and references, and had some solid directing that recalled the vending machine scene in Toy Story 3. Little Buzz was fun, too.

Then of course... Toy Story of TERROR!, which I absolutely loved. It managed to tell a very good story in less than 30 minutes, and actually went the extra mile and had some character development! Yes, Jessie is fleshed out more in this short, and the short probably had no reason to be more than just a special. But no, Pixar did not spit out a television special... They put their all into it, and they put their all into Toy Story That Time Forgot as well.

So I ask a few questions... Are more specials on the way? What's MacLane moving onto after Finding Dory? And a few more...

Right now, we have several Pixar pictures with solid release dates. We know who is directing Finding Dory, Coco, and Toy Story 4. It has never been confirmed that Brad Bird is directing The Incredibles II, but it's probably a given that he will direct it, I just can't see it being given to someone else. We don't know who is directing Cars 3. The rest of the slate is untitled projects.

We know that Mark Andrews, the finishing director of Brave, said that he was developing a new feature way back in January 2013. It's possible that Mr. Andrews' film is still a go at the studio. It could very well be the film that's set for late winter 2020, or the one that's set for summer 2020. I don't think he's the one who will be directing Cars 3. So who is?

Cars 3, for the longest time, didn't have a release date hence the lack of director info. Now that it has moved ahead on the slate, pushing Toy Story 4 back a year, I think we should find out soon who is at the helm of the anthro autos threequel. It can't be Lasseter, because Lasseter's busy with Toy Story 4 and I doubt he'll do both back-to-back, especially at this point in his life.

Could it be Mr. MacLane himself? After all, his directing resume is stuff connected to pre-existing Pixar films: A WALL-E short, some Toy Story shorts, and a Finding Nemo sequel. Perhaps Cars 3 is his directorial debut. Maybe not, since that opens a year after Finding Dory.

Who else? Could it be Dan Scanlon, director of Monsters University and the Cars short Mater and the Ghost Light? Or could it be one of the directors of the Cars Toons? Rob Gibbs? Jeremy Lasky? Scott Morse? By the way, whatever happened to To Protect and Serve, the Cars Toon about the cops that was set to come out this past spring? We haven't heard a word on it in a long while...

Maybe MacLane's directorial debut is an original story, and maybe it's one of the film's that coming out in 2020. Maybe Scanlon has an original, or anyone else I mentioned...

Pixar actually seemed to have more originals lined up a few years ago. Teddy Newton - director of Day & Night and a darn good voice actor - was at one point set to direct a feature written by Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World), but that seems to have faded away because Mr. Newton is now at Paramount Animation and he's doing a project for them. Is it the same one? Maybe, because Connolly actually co-wrote the studio's Monster Trucks, which is tentatively slated for this coming March.

So right now, it seems like only two originals are in Pixar's post-2015 pipeline, though I'm sure more are coming. This rush of sequels right now was born from a mix of things, stuff lining up, etc. The more cynical will say that Pixar will only churn out sequels, but knowing the studio I doubt that. Their latest original film is their third highest-grossing film, anyways. Slates always change too, I wouldn't be surprised if an original moves its way up to 2018 or 2019...

Who else is going to direct a future Pixar feature? Here are some possible candidates...

Darla K. Anderson: Pixar needs more female directors, especially after what happened with Brave. Darla herself is a good place to start, considering her resume! She produced A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, and will be producing Coco. Oh, and obviously she's the reason why the little girl in Finding Nemo has such a name...

Ronnie del Carmen: He co-directed Inside Out, directed Dug's Special Mission, has been with Pixar since Finding Nemo, and had quite a lot of experience before that.

Lindsey Collins: Long-time producer for Pixar, and had experience at Disney Feature Animation beforehand. Another potential female director, too.

Brian Larsen: Story supervisor with a TV background (Cartoon Network shows from the early 2000s, for example), but also worked on Brave, directed its home media short The Legend of Mor'du (an excellent short, by the way), and worked on various titles for the studio.

Bob Peterson: Another veteran, as many know. After being removed from The Good Dinosaur, it was said that he moved onto another project. Right now, he's a story man on Finding Dory.

Steve Purcell: A good candidate, as he's been with Pixar since Cars. He co-directed Brave and directed Toy Story That Time Forgot. He's also the creator of the comic Sam & Max.

Kori Rae: Associate producer of Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles, and producer of Monsters University. Was also a producer of Cars Toons, and also another potential female director.

Denise Ream: Former VFX producer who has moved her way up at Pixar, producing the likes of Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur, whilst being an associate producer on Up. Once again, potential female director.

Jonas Rivera: Been with Pixar since Toy Story, moved up to producer status with Up, and produced Inside Out.

Katherine Sarafian - Assistant producer on The Incredibles, produced the short Lifted and Brave.

Moving past features and directors, what's next for the small screen?

Toy Story of TERROR! and Toy Story That Time Forgot were ratings smashes, so I'd assume that more specials are on the way. I was excited to hear more, because I'd like to revisit some characters and worlds via specials, rather than feature-length sequels...

Monsters, Inc., I think, is ripe for a TV special. The world that the film takes place in has always fascinated me, and I really really really want to see more of it. I want to see what's outside of Monstropolis and the university, I want to see some world building! They can either do an MU-era special or an MI-era one, I'd prefer the latter. Or maybe something in-between. There's so much to do there, they should actually branch out from Mike and Sulley, and explore all-new characters. They really should do this with Toy Story and Cars as well...

Speaking of Cars, why not a Cars special? I think the franchise lends itself to the small screen, and maybe via TV specials we can meet all-new characters. I quite liked the 5-minute toon Radiator Springs 500 1/2, as it was a much-welcome break away from the Mater's Tall Tales routine. I would actually bank on Monsters, Inc. or Cars being the next Pixar TV special. Cars especially, what with Cars 3 opening in 2017.

Finding Nemo? Perhaps after Finding Dory comes out. The Incredibles II? Not so sure, I think Bird would want a tight grip on his project, ditto Ratatouille. WALL-E? No. Up? Definitely not! Brave has potential, maybe even Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur.

Or perhaps, an upcoming TV special can be a completely new story...

I had actually suggested a while back that Pixar should dust Newt off and make it into a half-hour TV special. They seemingly couldn't crack the story on that project, so they simply left it behind. I think it should be done in some way, and if they absolutely can't do it as a feature, why not make it a smaller, shorter story?

Sometimes less is more.

For example, Walt Disney had originally intended to make a feature-length film based on A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories. Contrary to what Disney might tell you, Walt scrapped a feature-length Pooh film and decided to adapt the stories into short films instead, so the studio made a roughly 25-minute featurette, which was released mere months before his passing: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. Walt never intended to make three shorts only to string them together into a feature years later.

Two featurettes were made after Walt's death. In the mid-1970s, Disney took the three featurettes, had animated the planned ending of the scrapped early 60s Pooh feature, and created a package film no different from the ones from the 1940s. The individual shorts work so well on their own, and I think that more than supports the true story of the film's production. As a feature, they form more of a "day in the life" of Winnie the Pooh collection than a full-fledged feature with an overarching story, though the ending does cap things off nicely. The good thing is, we can view them in both ways.

Walt and his crew also took stories that he planned to do as features and did a fine job making them into contained featurettes, ones that formed the 1940s package anthology features. Fun & Fancy Free consists of Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk, both of which entered development around 1940. The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad's Wind in the Willows segment began life as a feature in the early 1940s as well. These projects didn't go anywhere due to the impact World War II had on the studio, especially the box office performances of Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi. Even after the 1940s, Walt embraced the featurette format. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, audiences saw the likes of Goliath II, The Truth About Mother Goose, and Paul Bunyan. The Winnie the Pooh films were a continuation of that...

Perhaps Pixar could do something similar. The half-hour TV special format lines right up with the Walt-era featurette format, so why not reimagine Newt as a smaller story? Or come up with a new half-hour story for the small screen? Sure, going right for the well-known franchises is the easy option, but I think Pixar could very well explore new characters and new worlds with TV, just like they do and have done with short films...

Plus... What about TV shows? Toy Story got one back in 2000 with Disney TV Animation's 2D animated Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, but not much beyond that. On the Walt Disney Animation Studios end, Tangled is getting a 2D TV series in 2017. Perhaps Pixar can have Disney TV do something similar for their films. Who knows!

Why do I ask all this? Pixar is a cog in the Mouse House machine, right? Expansion, if anything, should be on the table. Sure, Pixar has made films and their characters appear in the Disney theme parks. Toy Story Land is going to be part of Disney Hollywood Studios, Cars Land has been a thing for three years in Disney's California Adventure. But they can certainly go beyond that, no? Walt Disney expanded his studio in the 1940s. Animated cartoons and features became all but one part of the smorgasboard... I won't be surprised if Pixar follows a similar path one day.

What say you? Who do you think is in the running to direct a film at Pixar? Should Pixar do original stories for TV specials? Should there be TV shows based on Pixar films? Sound off below!


  1. I loved this post. A question. Do you know where Brad Lewis is?
    Maybe he is directing "Cars 3". After all, he produced "Ratatouille", co-directed "Cars 2", and was mayor of San Carlos hahaha
    Is he really at Warner Bros.?

    1. It looks like he is at WB now. If I remember correctly, he left Pixar right after the 'Cars 2' director switch and immediately ended up at the now defunct Digital Domain/Tradition Studios.

  2. Remember that the Mark Andrews film is an ORIGINAL STORY, he confirms that on a interview :

    1. I know, which is why I said no to the possibility of him directing 'Cars 3'.