Monday, October 3, 2016

A Bigger Giant: Disney Animation's 'Gigantic' Adds New Director

It looks like Walt Disney Animation Studios' next fairy tale adaptation has another director on board... Or, scaling the beanstalk...

Gigantic is the project in question. A new take on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, the film has been in the works since roughly 2011, and was set to be directed by Nathan Greno alone. Greno made his big debut with Tangled in the autumn of 2010, a very successful reworking of another classic fairy tale that Byron Howard (Bolt, Zootopia) directed alongside him. Tangled was another impressive film in Disney Animation's resurgence in the early post-Eisner years, its box office take boosting confidence all around.

Over the years the story changed quite a bit. Old hearsay from mid-2013 indicated that the studio wanted to release it this coming holiday season, but it turned out that it wasn't quite ready, and that a picture set to open way later - Moana - was gaining traction. There were rumors going around that development had been rocky, and it's not surprising because when the film was officially unveiled at the 2015 D23 Expo, the synopsis was far different from the complicated one that was reported in 2013.

Rumors also suggest that this past summer, development was still a bit rocky on the movie... But that's nothing new in animation-land. Thankfully, Greno and crew won't be facing those issues alone, for a new director has been added to the picture... Meg LeFauve.

Who is Meg LeFauve? At Pixar, LeFauve co-wrote Inside Out and handled The Good Dinosaur's script. She is also set to write Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel, their first picture lead by a female superhero. Let's just say she has gotten around the house of mouse...

As for Gigantic getting a second director, well... Walt Disney Animation Studios has done this kind of thing many times before in the recent years. Only one Disney animated film made between 2008 and now was directed by a single person, and that was Wreck-It Ralph. The films - minus the two made by the dynamic duo, Ron Clements and John Musker - start out with just one director, the director in question is guided by John Lasseter and the story trust. Then things get a little heavy, and when the time comes to really crack the story, the brass add another director (not a co-director, but another *director*) to the picture. Frozen, for instance, started off as a Chris Buck-directed film, Jennifer Lee was then bumped up to director status after her script work on Wreck-It Ralph impressed the folk at the studio.

That's a country mile from what usually goes down at the Emeryville house. Lasseter and the studio's Brain Trust end up removing directors from their films, which has proved to be controversial and divisive.

LeFauve is an interesting choice because she hadn't worked on a Disney Animation project prior to getting this gig. That being said, the choice is great because now we have another female director within the walls of Walt Disney Animation Studios. She will be the second woman ever to direct a film for them. Interestingly enough, The Hollywood Reporter pointed out that LeFauve was writing this picture before rising to the top. Again, she gets around!

I think this is not only great for women in animation, but it's also good because if Gigantic really was facing story issues, now it might see smooth sailing from here on out. The movie is not out for another 2 years, so at least this change didn't come at the last minute... And who knows, maybe LeFauve was in place as director for months, because sometimes these things happen long before an announcement is made.

What say you?

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