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Peter T Chattaway

Toy Story 4

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Links to our threads on Toy Story 1 + 2 (1995-1999) and Toy Story 3 (2010).

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Exclusive: Tim Allen Signed On for 'Toy Story 4'

Tim Allen is ready to go to infinity and beyond again -- the question is, are Disney, Pixar and the rest of the gang?

Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear, is under contract to reprise his role as the heroic spaceman in Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 4," TheWrap has learned from individuals familiar with the "Home Improvement" actor's contract.

Allen's commitment to a fourth film doesn't necessarily mean that Pixar has plans to put another feature-length sequel into production. And it's certainly possible that Allen and others signed on for multiple films some time ago.

But the existence of Allen's contract does indicate that Disney and Pixar brass are thinking about the possibility of extending the franchise. . . .

TheWrap.com, July 14

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Persona   

So, like, doesn't that mean Overstreet's got to take back his "greatest trilogy of all-time" ranking?

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Ryan H. wrote:

: They better not go there. TOY STORY is played out.

Well, they ARE planning on releasing some brand-new short films featuring these characters. It remains to be seen whether these stories will be set in Andy's room or in Bonnie's room -- or in Sunnyside Daycare, for that matter. There could be an opportunity there for setting up a whole new "trilogy".

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They better not go there. TOY STORY is played out.

Let's not forget that Disney/Pixar is in the business of making money. If Toy Story 4 makes business sense, they'll probably make it, and it'll probably be great(I have confidence in their writing team to come up with something).

Toy Story 3 started out as a purely business driven venture, with Disney using their ownership of the characters to move forward no matter what Pixar wanted.

My take: Allen's signing on is either the typical Hollywood "development deal" or it is related to the future short films. I remember hearing that Don Cheadle & Denzel Washington were signed on to make a whole series of Easy Rawlins films if Devil in a Blue Dress was a hit.

Prediction: No matter what else happens, if Pixar eventually has a flop they'll green-light Toy Story 4 the next day.

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Bobbin Threadbare wrote:

: Toy Story 3 started out as a purely business driven venture, with Disney using their ownership of the characters to move forward no matter what Pixar wanted.

Well, sort of.

During that period -- roughly between Finding Nemo and Cars -- when Disney and Pixar were growing apart and Steve Jobs was engaged in a public feud with Michael Eisner (which ended up becoming one of Roy Disney's stated reasons for getting Eisner booted out of the company), Disney created a whole new division called Circle 7 that was going to be dedicated to the making of sequels to Pixar movies. At the time, Steve Jobs pooh-poohed the proliferation of sequels. But then, after Eisner got the heave-ho, Disney bought Pixar outright and made Jobs a member of the board, while also putting John Lasseter in charge of the Disney animation division -- and one of the first things Lasseter did was shut down Circle 7 and the sequels that were in development there.

It was after THAT that Lasseter decided to go ahead with Toy Story 3 ... and Cars 2 ... and Monsters Inc. 2. (Hmmm, I wonder if anyone has asked Jobs what he thinks of sequels NOW?) But the Toy Story 3 that Lasseter authorized had nothing to do with the Toy Story 3 that Disney was going to produce through its Circle 7 division.

(And then there are those who say that Circle 7 was never really a serious proposition to begin with, that it was just something Disney set up as a bargaining tactic with Pixar: "Renew your contract with us OR ELSE we'll make lots of crappy sequels to your movies!")

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Well, they ARE planning on releasing some brand-new short films featuring these characters. It remains to be seen whether these stories will be set in Andy's room or in Bonnie's room . . .

And now we have our answer. Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Gary Rydstrom, the former sound designer who has now directed the first of these short films (he also directed the short film Lifted, and he was going to direct the feature-length Newt until Pixar pulled the plug on that one):

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Tyler   

It's going to be a post-apocalyptic story where Woody and Buzz sit on the side of the road and wait for someone to come play with them. They've been promised he'll be there soon, so they can't go off looking for him, or they might be gone when he finally shows up. Halfway through the movie, the pig and the dinosaur show up, the dinosaur delivers a rambling nonsensical monologue, and then they leave. At the end of the movie, Woody and Buzz are still waiting.

Okay, maybe not. But where else can this series go?

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The Toy Story films were already treading water as it is.

I mean, Buzz Lightyear's story arc was so utterly complete in the first film that they had to hit the re-set button in the sequels: figuratively in Toy Story 2, by springing a brand new Buzz Lightyear out of the box, and literally in Toy Story 3.

But one of the other recurring themes in the first three films was the toys' devotion to Andy. And now THAT arc is complete, too, as Woody has decided that his primary devotion is not to Andy but to his fellow toys, who are now living, somewhat provisionally, with Bonnie (in a way that their relationship with Andy was NEVER provisional).

So without devotion to a particular owner to bind the toys together, what ELSE could the next movie be about? Especially given how the closing credits to Toy Story 3 strongly implied that there was an ongoing relationship not just between the toys in Bonnie's bedroom, but also between them and the toys at the daycare.

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So if the writers do manage to pull out a reasonably interesting film out of nothing, do we applaud them for their industriousness, their craft under commercial pressure, or are we still allowed to be upset they made more movies at all?

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Despite one regrettable film (IMHO), I still have a great deal of trust in the Pixar team. While I really wish they'd leave Toy Story alone, if anybody is likely to find a good reason to continue the series, it's this team of storytellers. If they surprise us with an essential Toy Story 4 - and I fully believe they can - I'll be applauding during the closing credits.

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The Pixar Blog links to a BBC video in which John Lasseter responds to questions about Toy Story 4 by saying "Well, we haven't announced anything yet."

FWIW, I'm honestly not sure what it means to talk about "this team of storytellers" nowadays. Bird and Stanton are off making live-action films, and everyone agrees that the worst Pixar films are the ones directed by Lasseter himself (not counting the first two Toy Story movies, which are a special case for all sorts of reasons). And given all the turmoil around Brave, one definitely doesn't get much of a "team" vibe here.

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By "team" I meant "storytellers who write the stories that end up on screen in Pixar movies." So far, they've only really let me (and several others I know) down once.

Now, if Stanton and Bird are too busy to be involved, sure, I'm concerned about that, because I think they have shown some remarkable talent.

(FWIW, I have no problem with Pixar dumping long-in-development scripts if they don't think the scripts are good enough. I'd rather they risk hurting storyteller's feelings and accept only superlative storytelling than put out sub-par movies for the sake of being nice. I'm glad they took Ratatouille away from its original storyteller if it meant the movie would be better.)

Edited by Overstreet

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Overstreet wrote:

: So far, they've only really let me down once.

And they've let others, like me, down at least twice. Ah well.

: I'm glad they took Ratatouille away from its original storyteller if it meant the movie would be better.

If, if.

Anyway, it certainly puts the lie to the idea that Pixar is somehow artist-driven and not studio-driven. Pixar IS a studio, and always has been.

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SDG   
And they've let others, like me, down at least twice. Ah well.

Have they really let you down more than once, Peter? You seem like such a Pixar skeptic these days I'm surprised you would start from a place of enough confidence to describe yourself as "let down" by Cars 2.

: I'm glad they took Ratatouille away from its original storyteller if it meant the movie would be better.

If, if.

There are times when that "If" seems imponderable (American Dog vs. Bolt). Ratatouille is not the best candidate for such imponderability. That's one case where the available evidence does point toward the likelihood that changing the director was the right move.

Anyway, it certainly puts the lie to the idea that Pixar is somehow artist-driven and not studio-driven. Pixar IS a studio, and always has been.

So there's never been any meaningful difference between Pixar's attitude toward the creative process and anyone else's? Director roles and producer roles are interchangeable at Pixar, DreamWorks, etc?

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SDG wrote:

: Have they really let you down more than once, Peter? You seem like such a Pixar skeptic these days I'm surprised you would start from a place of enough confidence to describe yourself as "let down" by Cars 2.

I always hope for good things from any movie that features Michael Caine and/or Emily Mortimer. And besides, even though it was obvious from the get-go that Cars 2 would be shallow, I still hoped it would be at least a fun kind of shallow. (Which it was, in spots, but overall...)

: So there's never been any meaningful difference between Pixar's attitude toward the creative process and anyone else's? Director roles and producer roles are interchangeable at Pixar, DreamWorks, etc?

Brenda Chapman got to finish her movie at DreamWorks, but not at Pixar. And when the original director of Bolt was fired by John Lasseter, he moved to DreamWorks and made How to Train Your Dragon. So there is at least SOME interchangeability there, sure, obviously.

Frankly, I don't know how much of what Pixar does these days is creditable to a "creative process" and how much of it is due to intra-studio politics, old-boy networks, etc.; e.g. all of their films to date have been completed by John Lasseter, the people who worked with him on the original Toy Story, or (in the case of Brad Bird) one of his old college buddies. Brave appears to mark the first time that Lasseter replaced the original director with someone who WASN'T part of the Pixar inner circle, but still, a replacement it was.

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SDG   
: So there's never been any meaningful difference between Pixar's attitude toward the creative process and anyone else's? Director roles and producer roles are interchangeable at Pixar, DreamWorks, etc?

Brenda Chapman got to finish her movie at DreamWorks, but not at Pixar. And when the original director of Bolt was fired by John Lasseter, he moved to DreamWorks and made How to Train Your Dragon. So there is at least SOME interchangeability there, sure, obviously.

Frankly, I don't know how much of what Pixar does these days is creditable to a "creative process" and how much of it is due to intra-studio politics, old-boy networks, etc.; e.g. all of their films to date have been completed by John Lasseter, the people who worked with him on the original Toy Story, or (in the case of Brad Bird) one of his old college buddies. Brave appears to mark the first time that Lasseter replaced the original director with someone who WASN'T part of the Pixar inner circle, but still, a replacement it was.

Subtle shifts in topic: Earlier you said "always," and I asked you about "never," but now you start out talking about "these days," and your two examples are a non-Pixar film and a film that's still in development.

You also talk about their earlier films, but it's not clear to me how your comments address the question at hand. An "inner circle" of artists who made one spectacular movie together go on to make an extraordinary string of mostly spectacular films (with a couple of films from an old college buddy). How does this undermine the thesis that this group of people are making movies in a different way than at other studios? In what other studio has an "inner circle" of artists operated in this way? I'm not saying Lasseter has or ever had some disinterested ethic of The Artist that he extended equally to all. I'm saying Pixar's movies up to pretty much Cars 2 (and you can asterisk Ratatouille if you like, or draw the line before TS3 instead of Cars 2, but the substantial point remains) reflected a creative approach that hasn't happened anywhere else.

Maybe it's over now. Maybe that "inner circle" culture has been swallowed up by the Disney machine and/or Lasseter's ego. Or maybe they can preserve something essential about what they did in the old days and keep it going at Disney. Either way, it seems undeniable that it existed once.

The question is not where Brenda Chapman or Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois did or didn't finish various projects. The question is whether Chapman and her two co-directors on The Prince of Egypt, or Sanders and DeBlois on How to Train Your Dragon, were able to work in the same way that Pete Docter did on Monsters, Inc. and Up, or that Andrew Stanton did on Finding Nemo and Wall-E, etc. I doubt this. I think The Prince of Egypt, as extraordinary a film as it is, is a film made by committee, with lots of producer oversight and involvement, and that that approach didn't produce comparable results when they moved on to other subject matter. As for Sanders and DeBlois, while How to Train Your Dragon is a fun movie, IIRC they've talked about being somewhat rushed to finish it and not entirely satisfied with the results, which also sounds non-Pixary in a not-good way (and it's based on a children's book series, also non-Pixary).

Edited by SDG

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SDG wrote:

: Subtle shifts in topic: Earlier you said "always," and I asked you about "never," . . .

Pixar has always been a studio, yes. I guess I'm still keeping in mind an exchange in another thread where it was asserted that Pixar has only become studio-driven, rather than artist-driven, since it was acquired by Disney. As I pointed out in that thread, Ratatouille was going to be Pixar's first post-Disney movie, and it was precisely for that reason that the studio (i.e. Pixar) fired the original director and replaced him with someone "safer". The studio (i.e. Pixar) had a lot riding on that film ... at least prior to its acquisition by Disney.

: . . . but now you start out talking about "these days," and your two examples are a non-Pixar film and a film that's still in development.

The non-Pixar film is still a Lasseter-produced film. Lasseter has put his stamp on pretty much every Disney cartoon produced since the merger with Pixar, and he does a lot of the press for them as well. (Indeed, I almost interviewed Lasseter on the Bolt junket, but I had to cancel my travel plans at the last minute.) It is certainly possible, indeed likely, that a different culture or atmosphere exists at WDFA than exists at Pixar... but the guy in charge of both is one and the same. (Actually, that should be "guys", plural, since Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull is also one of the top Disney animation executives now. And of course Steve Jobs is on the board at Disney now. Etc.) So I am not sure that we can separate these different branches of the company all that easily.

As for the film that is still in development, I actually cited that partly as a COUNTER-example, where the person who replaced the original director was neither Lasseter himself nor one of Lasseter's old college buddies. So as far as that goes, Brave actually represents something new... to a point.

: How does this undermine the thesis that this group of people are making movies in a different way than at other studios?

Your use of the present tense points us back to my "these days" comment.

: I'm saying Pixar's movies up to pretty much Cars 2 (and you can asterisk Ratatouille if you like, or draw the line before TS3 instead of Cars 2, but the substantial point remains) reflected a creative approach that hasn't happened anywhere else.

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, Ratatouille was not the first case of filmmakers being bumped from a Pixar project; that would be Toy Story 2, I think, where the entire film was re-done pretty much from scratch with less than a year to go until the film's release date. And I suspect that that, rather than the original Toy Story or even A Bug's Life, might have marked the true starting point for the "creative approach" that we're talking about here. (The original Toy Story was produced in co-operation with Disney at a time when Disney was still run by Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Pixar was clearly still finding its footing at the time; the guys at Pixar like to mock Katzenberg and the input he had into the film nowadays, but I'm not convinced that he didn't contribute to the film's success on some level.)

: I think The Prince of Egypt, as extraordinary a film as it is, is a film made by committee, with lots of producer oversight and involvement . . .

Oh, absolutely. It was Katzenberg's first post-Disney movie, just as Ratatouille was going to be Pixar's first post-Disney movie. They had a lot riding on it. I didn't mean to imply that Brenda Chapman had conceived The Prince of Egypt, the way she apparently conceived Brave; everyone agrees that the actual idea for The Prince of Egypt (i.e. an animated epic about Moses) came from Steven Spielberg.

: As for Sanders and DeBlois, while How to Train Your Dragon is a fun movie, IIRC they've talked about being somewhat rushed to finish it and not entirely satisfied with the results, which also sounds non-Pixary in a not-good way . . .

Being rushed is VERY Pixary; again, see Toy Story 2 (or Bolt, which, yes, is Disney rather than Pixar, but it's still Lasseter). I'd be curious to know which aspects of the film don't satisfy them, though.

: . . . (and it's based on a children's book series, also non-Pixary).

Unless you consider Toy Story 3 to be an unofficial adaptation of The Brave Little Toaster, natch. :)

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SDG   
Pixar has always been a studio, yes. I guess I'm still keeping in mind an exchange in another thread where it was asserted that Pixar has only become studio-driven, rather than artist-driven, since it was acquired by Disney. As I pointed out in that thread, Ratatouille was going to be Pixar's first post-Disney movie, and it was precisely for that reason that the studio (i.e. Pixar) fired the original director and replaced him with someone "safer". The studio (i.e. Pixar) had a lot riding on that film ... at least prior to its acquisition by Disney.

But even THAT, I think, says SOMETHING about Pixar culture and creativity at that time. They didn't just micromanage Jan Pinkava to death. Granted, decapitating projects and substituting new talent is now threatening to become a Lasseter trademark, but it seems plausible that the Pixar producers have historically wanted to be able to trust the talent, not just tell them what to do.

: . . . but now you start out talking about "these days," and your two examples are a non-Pixar film and a film that's still in development.

The non-Pixar film is still a Lasseter-produced film.

Yes, but Lasseter is not the topic, Pixar's "inner circle" culture is.

: How does this undermine the thesis that this group of people are making movies in a different way than at other studios?

Your use of the present tense points us back to my "these days" comment.

::pinch:: Only because of your habit of responding to each individual sentence in isolation. In context, given the sentence that preceded it, it was meant as historical present tense.

: I'm saying Pixar's movies up to pretty much Cars 2 (and you can asterisk Ratatouille if you like, or draw the line before TS3 instead of Cars 2, but the substantial point remains) reflected a creative approach that hasn't happened anywhere else.

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, Ratatouille was not the first case of filmmakers being bumped from a Pixar project; that would be Toy Story 2, I think, where the entire film was re-done pretty much from scratch with less than a year to go until the film's release date. And I suspect that that, rather than the original Toy Story or even A Bug's Life, might have marked the true starting point for the "creative approach" that we're talking about here.

Those are reasonable additional asterisks. Is there now a plausible characterization we can posit of something rather unusual that happened at Pixar between Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille?

: As for Sanders and DeBlois, while How to Train Your Dragon is a fun movie, IIRC they've talked about being somewhat rushed to finish it and not entirely satisfied with the results, which also sounds non-Pixary in a not-good way . . .

Being rushed is VERY Pixary; again, see Toy Story 2 (or Bolt, which, yes, is Disney rather than Pixar, but it's still Lasseter). I'd be curious to know which aspects of the film don't satisfy them, though.

That's one film from Pixar's "inner circle" culture that wound up being rushed, only because they decided they needed to start over from scratch. That's not the same as what I recall about the rushing of Dragon, and it hardly makes rushiness "VERY Pixary."

: . . . (and it's based on a children's book series, also non-Pixary).

Unless you consider Toy Story 3 to be an unofficial adaptation of The Brave Little Toaster, natch. :)

Let's not count story influences, and leave Doc Hollywood and Seven Samurai / Three Amigos out of the discussion.

Edited by SDG

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: . . . (and it's based on a children's book series, also non-Pixary).

Unless you consider Toy Story 3 to be an unofficial adaptation of The Brave Little Toaster, natch. :)

Let's not count story influences, and leave Doc Hollywood and Seven Samurai / Three Amigos out of the discussion.

Darn. I was ready to write my thesis on how Wall-E is just a rip off of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigilo.

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SDG wrote:

: Yes, but Lasseter is not the topic, Pixar's "inner circle" culture is.

Well, as I said, I am not convinced that the two things are all that easily separated, especially given how Lasseter-centric Pixar is.

: Is there now a plausible characterization we can posit of something rather unusual that happened at Pixar between Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille?

Well, as far as I know, no directors got bumped between those two films. :) But sure, I have no problem with that proposition.

: That's one film from Pixar's "inner circle" culture that wound up being rushed, only because they decided they needed to start over from scratch. That's not the same as what I recall about the rushing of Dragon . . .

In an interview here, Dragon co-director Dean DeBlois said:

They had this deadline for the release date, it had to be March 2010, and this was October 2008 when I got the call, so there was just over a year to re-conceive the story, storyboard it, edit that together, animate it and get it done in time for it all to be lit, score put in place and prints made.

So they had 17 months, roughly, to re-do the movie pretty much from scratch. That's a bit tighter than the 18 months it took to re-do Bolt from scratch, but a fair bit longer than the 9 months it took to re-do Toy Story 2 from scratch.

: . . . and it hardly makes rushiness "VERY Pixary."

What can I say, Toy Story 2 and Bolt loom large in my memory. :)

(FWIW, Brad Bird seems to have had at least two years to work on Ratatouille, and it's not clear to me how extensive his rewrite was. And it looks like Byron Howard and Nathan Greno had at least two years to work on Tangled, too, though again I have no idea how extensive the rewrites were. Mark Andrews replaced Brenda Chapman on Brave in October 2010, or about 20 months before the film's June 2012 release date. Oh, and reports that John Lasseter was taking over Cars 2 first surfaced in February 2010, or about 16 months before that film's release -- and, interestingly, this was after the film's release had been moved up from summer 2012 to summer 2011, presumably to fill the void left by Newt, which Pixar cancelled altogether when they heard that Fox was making Rio.)

: Let's not count story influences, and leave Doc Hollywood and Seven Samurai / Three Amigos out of the discussion.

I never thought of those as children's stories, much less children's BOOKS. ;)

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SDG   
: Yes, but Lasseter is not the topic, Pixar's "inner circle" culture is.

Well, as I said, I am not convinced that the two things are all that easily separated, especially given how Lasseter-centric Pixar is.

To distinguish is not necessarily to separate. John Lasseter is 54 years old. The "inner circle" Pixar culture we're contemplating may have lasted somewhere from 8 to 16 years (depending on how optimistic we are and how many asterisks we're willing to live with). Lasseter is/was a leading figure in Pixar's "inner circle" culture; it does not follow either that he is solely responsible for what it is/was, or that everything interesting or notable about it is either attributable to him or can be predicated of his actions in every other phase of his life or under every other hat he may wear. How Lasseter related to his Toy Story collaborators circa the mid-2000s, and what sort of creative environment exists/existed in that inner circle, and how he behaves as head of Disney and what sort of creative environment exists there, are not interchangeable questions.

What can I say, Toy Story 2 and Bolt loom large in my memory. :)

However large it looms in your memory, Bolt continues to be irrelevant to the "inner circle" Pixar culture question. It is even something of an outlier regarding larger questions about Lasseter's managerial style, since the film was already under production when he assumed the reins at Disney. We really don't know what would have happened with that film had it been under Lasseter's auspices from the start.

: Let's not count story influences, and leave Doc Hollywood and Seven Samurai / Three Amigos out of the discussion.

I never thought of those as children's stories, much less children's BOOKS. ;)

Now you're picking nits on the backs of nits. I'm sure if you try you can follow the point I was making vis-a-vis How to Train Your Dragon's non-Pixary adapted status.

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