Today comes a rather good-sized announcement from within Emeryville...
Coco, a Day of the Dead-flavored tale currently set to open Thanksgiving week in 2017, has begun animation production. Director Lee Unkrich has confirmed this on Twitter...
So excited that we've OFFICIALLY STARTED ANIMATION ON COCO!! 💀— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) April 12, 2016
This brings up something that has been on my mind for a few weeks. Something regarding Pixar's big slate as it is right now, and a particular title on that slate.
Anyways, it's theory time.
In the world of big screen feature animation, nothing is definite. Slates change, even at last minute.
Pixar's no stranger to that.
Let's go back to summer 2013. The Good Dinosaur got a big presentation at D23, and it was the first presentation from Pixar during their panel. Back then, the order of movies was Good Dinosaur (summer 2014), Inside Out (summer 2015), and then Finding Dory (fall 2015). All three were presented in that order at the expo. But the film's director Bob Peterson wasn't there, his co-director Pete Sohn filling in for him alongside Denise Ream, who we only knew as the producer of Cars 2 back then.
Something was up. Why did Peterson no-show? Why was Ream with Sohn and not then-producer John Walker?
Weeks later, it was reported - and later confirmed - that Peterson left the project, and Walker walked as well. Sohn was named Peterson's replacement as director a year later, but Denise Ream was named new producer very early on. The Good Dinosaur was pushed from its intended 5/30/2014 bow to this past Thanksgiving, pushing Finding Dory to this coming summer. All at the last minute, no less.
That's one good example of many in the world of animation. Sometimes it's not even production issues, sometimes a studio switches at last minute for less drastic reasons...
For a little while, Pixar intended to have Toy Story 4 open 6/16/2017, while Cars 3 lingered with an unspecified release date. On Cars 3, John Lasseter popped a little "it'll come out in 2018 or 2019" comment at an auto show a year ago, and at D23 last summer, Pixar revealed that the game plan was to release Toy Story 4 in summer 2017, then release Cars 3 sometime afterwards. Its poster simply said "Coming Soon"... The D23 presentation began with The Good Dinosaur, then Finding Dory, then Toy Story 4, then Coco. All four films were detailed, as if they were indeed coming out in that exact order. Lasseter and co didn't even mention Cars 3 during said presentation.
Then this past October, Disney rolled out a company-wide slate and said Cars 3 is set to open 6/16/2017 while Toy Story 4 will open 6/15/2018. Pixar's site says the same...
Cars 3's director still hasn't been announced, and when Oh My Disney - basically Disney's BuzzFeed-esque clickbait hub - accidentally said that Monsters University director Dan Scanlon would be helming it, Disney and Pixar were very quick to correct them. Like Lightning McQueen fast. No correction was made for the mention of Brad Bird *actually* directing The Incredibles 2, though.
Also, Coco, Toy Story 4, and The Incredibles 2 - all set to open after Cars 3, the latter of the three having a summer 2019 release date - all have directors attached. All of this makes me wonder...
Does Cars 3 even have a director? Is it going through a prolonged switch right now where a couple of directors are - in a Good Dinosaurian manner - "shepherding sections" of it? Is it a troubled film right now and they're waiting on the right time to tell us who is directing? Finding Dory is right around the corner, and some might be expecting a teaser for the film to show up before it in theaters...
It's either that, or Disney and Pixar feel no need to tell us because Cars isn't a fan-favorite franchise, its fan base being mostly general consumers and kids rather than the film aficionados and geeks who are up to date on things like director changes, release date announcements, and such.
If it is indeed having trouble, maybe Cars 3 and Toy Story 4 should play musical chairs again... But a little differently.
This is where Coco, now officially entering animation production, comes in.
Before I explain, I'll also say that on Twitter, people who work on these films normally give a heads up of when animation production begins on a film. I haven't seen anything for Cars 3, and with what I just went over and Coco surging ahead, I suspect we'll see a swapperoo.
I've yammered it here before many times. Releasing a Day of the Dead-themed film on Thanksgiving? Day of the Dead occurs from October 31st to November 2nd. It may not be a US holiday, but they could still make it seem Halloween-ish with some of the imagery. I'd release that before October 31st, honestly. Also, too close to Star Wars Episode VIII. We don't want another possible Good Dinosaur situation where Disney fails to market the film correctly and Star Wars hurts it.
I suggested mid-October 2017 for the film, and with Pixar looking to release a - currently undetermined - film in March 2020, will they break out of the summer/holiday comfort zone and release a picture in a month like October?
If they can't opt for October, why not...
Release it in the summer, and then give it a bump when Halloween-time comes?
Toy Story 4 can follow in fall 2017 - as the first two Toy Story movies were Thanksgiving releases, and really... the Cars franchise is a summer kind of thing and the more I think about it, the more I think Lasseter really meant it when he said "2018 or 2019". So, Coco first, then Toy Story 4, then Cars 3.
Coco can fare fine in the summer, Toy Story 4 can sure as hell survive Star Wars mania phase two, Cars 3 has more time to stew and could possibly turn out to be a good, if not great film. The Incredibles 2 then follows in summer 2019, then followed by two originals in 2020, whatever they may be.
We shall see. What say you?