Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Versus One...

By now you've all seen the announcement of WDAS and PAS's film slate for the next four years. It's a pretty ambitious schedule with ten films over the next four years. If you're like me, you've noticed a little something that runs through all ten of these films...

Pixar Animation Studios:

Summer, 2008 "Wall-E" directed by Andrew Stanton.

May 29, 2009 "Up" directed by Pete Docter.

June 28, 2010 "Toy Story 3" directed by Lee Unkrich.

Summer, 2011 "Newt" directed by Gary Rydstrom.

Christmas, 2011 "The Bear and the Bow" directed by Brenda Chapman.

Summer, 2012 "Cars 2" directed by Brad Lewis.

And then we have the Mouse...

Walt Disney Animation Studios:

November 26th, 2008 "Bolt" directed by Chris Williams & Byron Howard.

Christmas, 2009 "The Princess and the Frog" directed by John Musker and Ron Clements.

Christmas, 2010 "Rapunzel" directed by Glen Keane and Dean Wellins.

Christmas, 2012 "King of the Elves" directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker.

Notice that?

Me too...

Other than Pixar's "The Bear and the Bow" holiday release in 2011 there is going to be a clear divide between Disney animated films and Pixar animated films.

Pixar films will be summer events.

Disney films will be holiday events.

And that's not all...

Pixar's films will be directed by one person.

Disney's films are all directed by two people.


Has this got you thinking that Disney features are getting the slight? They don't trust putting a Disney film in the big summer season. Or perhaps, they don't trust Disney animators enough to let only one person be the sole director? Have you had that thought running through your Disney Geek brain?

Well I understand it as well, but fear not. Everything will be fine. Everything will be all right. Lasseter isn't trying to play favorites and he doesn't believe in treating Walt Disney Animation Studios as a second class step child.

Unsure about that?

Let me unpack what I'm talking about...

While up north in Emeryville, Lasseter has developed a more personal relationship with the directors that he's worked with at the Lamp. Simply put... he knows them better. He's worked there with many of them for two decades in one fashion or another. He's only been at the Mouse for a little more than two years. He's put together directors on projects there that have strengths that will compliment one another and possibly give each director a fresh perspective on the others work. So it's not that he doesn't have as much faith in Disney as he does in Pixar. He just happens to be using that phrase "Two heads are better than one"... An example would be Glen Keane who is directing the new "Rapunzel" movie that is the Mouse's big 2010 holiday release. It's not that he doesn't trust Glen. In fact, he trust Glen very much and both are friends from way back(he and Glen animated a test for Where the Wild things are decades ago). But Lasseter is a great judge of people's strengths and weaknesses. He chose a co-director for Keane that had the strengths to compliment Keane's shortcomings in story. Dean Wellins is a man that Brad Bird has praised as boarding almost all of the "Iron Giant" and if you don't know what boarding is, it's essentially the layout and tone of how a film will go. If you've seen that film you will see the inherent strength of having Wellins work with Keane. Together, they're going to make one heck of a film. The buzz I'm hearing is beyond my expectations and my expectations are very high for this one, friends.

The same is the case with many of the other directors that Lasseter has chosen to direct the rest of the film slate at Disney. He's taken the best strengths of the people that he's gotten to know and fused them together. He doesn't have the time to see these guys and bond with them over a decade or more before he can entrust them with a hundred plus million dollar budget the way he has with most of the Pixar directors. Will we ever see another Disney film directed by just one person? Of course, but don't mind the fact that two people are working on all these projects. After all, many of the hits from Disney's Second Golden Age were directed by two people.

As for the Summer versus Christmas releases? Well the Mousestro doesn't want films from both divisions competing with one another for dollars that's the main reason that one gets a summer release and the other gets a holiday release. Pixar will handle the slot used to compete with the normal summer blockbusters and Disney will take up releasing films that generate that holiday cheer we all feel around that time of the year. The only exception to this is 2011(there goes that year again). It just happens that the way the production of Disney films is lined up that there won't be time to have one released in time for a Christmas 2011 opening so with Pixar's production slate lined up with more films that have already gone through the process it was determined that one of their pictures would take the Disney slot for that year. And if you look closely you'll notice that the picture taking that slot is a fairy tale. Pixar's first. That is one of the main reasons that this particularly film was slotted in to this date. Although it may not be Disney, it does follow the narrative Lasseter seems to be trying to schedule for the holidays. Disney Magic will be expected during this joyous time of the year.

So look forward to the new schedule of films coming out from both divisions of the Mouse. And when it comes to the appointing of directors and favoritism don't smell a rat. It's all part of the plan.



Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but when did this site turn into Jim Hill writing-style and conjecture, but take the opposing, rosy view? :(

Anonymous said...

I hope this doesn't throw a wrench in your whole theory - but UP will be co-directed by Pete Docter and Bob Petersen.

Still, I don't think there's anything to worry about either. There are two times of year that typically generate a lot of money for movies - summer and Christmas time. If WDAS was being stuck with a March or October release, then I'd be worried. This is a great partnership.

Honor Hunter said...

Hey DCHall,

Yes, Pixar has always had "co-directors", but usually has one person with the title "director" on their films. Such as Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich, who also co-directed "Findin Nemo and "Monsters, Inc." and is now "the" director on TS3, btw... Lasseter has tended to give a "co-director" title to certain people(remember the late Joe Ranft was a "co-director" on "Cars")... but only one person gets a top spot.

Oh and to anonymous about...

I haven't changed my style to match anyone. Look through some of the older post. I write the same way, all the time... it's just my style. No one elses.

Anonymous said...

Very nicely put, all of it. It's not "rosey," it's the truth. Period. And anyone who thinks otherwise is full of conjecture. Among other things.

There are two directors for a reason. The job is a MASSIVE job, and it thrashes single directors. Period. Co-Directors are not only common, but THE NORM at Disney. Most of the directors would rather share the job and be able to actually have a life and see family, etc. Pixar's set-up is different, and they use different titles for supporting the sole director. But then again, UP is a sign of possible change in this regard.

Pixar's job titles and descriptions are different than Disney. Their support system is different. While single directors may be the norm for their set-up, chances are that Disney will stick with two. It's apples and oranges. And it's about the quality of life.

Anonymous said...

Jim Hill popped into my head as well when I read today's article, but in a good way.

It was a good, informative article that I enjoyed.

Keep up the good work.

C33 said...

Pixar releasing two films in one year?

That's interesting...

Anonymous said...


I thought Lasseter was bringing over the Pixar style to turn Disney back into another hit factory. You're saying that it runs differently? I thought that was the problem.

Anonymous said...

"there won't be time to have one(Disney)released in time for a Christmas 2011"
Of course, and there will be time for two Pixar $equel$.

Anonymous said...

Pixar's sequels won't be coming out in 2011. One will be out in 2010, Toy Story 3. And one will be out in 2012, Cars 2.

Anonymous said...

One more thing to think about...there's a certain "prestige" factor to a Christmas release.

Anonymous said...

""Pixar's sequels won't be coming out in 2011. One will be out in 2010, Toy Story 3. And one will be out in 2012, Cars 2.""

I mean, Pixar wanted (post-merge)to produce 2 animated films every year and a Disney one every 18 months.
Now, we are lucky enough.