The history of special effects and CG in film and their close relationship with today’s top-notch digital animation is the focus of author Christopher Finch’s new lavish 368-page book The CG Story: Computer Generated Animation and Special Effects, which peels the curtain back on CG pioneers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Pixar founders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and their respective contributions to film. As part of Deadline’s weekend programming, read an exclusive excerpt from The CG Story, available now via The Monacelli Press ($75), detailing the near-disaster that almost was when the upstarts at Pixar pacted with Disney to make their first feature: Toy Story.
Go motion may have been extinct overnight, as if by a meteor bombardment, but Phil Tippet reinvented himself as the head of a CG studio, and many of his go-motion animators were quick to retrain as CG animators, adapting their old skills with relative ease to the new way of working. During the early 1990s the shift to computer-generated animation was seen as a matter of urgency in many sections of the industry. Technologies such as motion control remained in use where they were cost effective, but this was the period when CGI began to take on the dominant role in visual effects. In the world of pure animation, it was about to make its mark with even greater decisiveness.
Ed Catmull explains that at Pixar there was a plan to progress from making commercials to producing a television special and then eventually a feature film. Having developed the CAPS system for Disney, Pixar had extensive contact with the feature-animation department there, but in fact they shopped their ideas around to everyone but Disney. One bone of contention was the fact that Disney had made efforts to hire John Lasseter away from the company. Jeffrey Katzenberg, then Disney studio head, had been impressed by the shorts he had seen and was convinced that Lasseter, by then Pixar’s creative director, was the secret to the company’s success. Lasseter, however, turned down the offers because of his belief in Pixar’s future, and because of his bitter memories of his previous tenure at Disney. Those memories were also why he had been adamant about not wanting to take ideas to Disney. “It wasn’t until [then],” Catmull remembers, “that I found out the real problem. For years he wouldn’t let anybody know he’d been fired… On the Queen Mary he had acknowledged that his project had been turned down, but not that he had been fired.”
The fact that Disney now saw Lasseter as a golden boy did nothing to alter his point of view, but finally, after no other studio had taken the bait, Pixar had no alternative but to consider working with Disney. The initial approach, in fact, came from Disney. In 1991 Catmull received a call from Peter Schneider, president of Feature Animation, suggesting that Pixar make a CG feature that Disney would finance and distribute. It should be remembered that Disney’s animation renaissance was in full bloom at the time — Aladdin would shortly be released and The Lion King was in preproduction. Disney Feature Animation had always been a strictly in-house operation, and the idea of turning to an outside production studio, especially in those glory days, was shocking. READ MORE »
Director Bob Peterson exited The Good Dinosaur in August and now up to 60 employees at Pixar were let go because of the delay of the pic. Occurring earlier this week, the layoffs account for approximately 5% of … Read More »
The 3-year-old Vancouver animation studio is shuttering as its operations are rerouted to Pixar HQ in Emeryville, CA. The studio had employed nearly 100 staffers, and the closure is effective immediately. “The team at Pixar Canada is … Read More »
Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor.
A new Disney Animation movie, big-name voice castings, a new Mickey Mouse short, details on the Finding Nemo and Planes sequels, two new Tinkerbell pics – there was no shortage of news during day 1 of Disney’s annual D23 expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. John Lasseter revealed Zootopia, due in 2016. It’s described as being in the tradition of Mr. Toad, where animals wear human clothes. “I loved those movies,” Lasseter said. Director Byron Howard and writer Jared Bush described Zootopia as “a buddy action film” in which the animal characters inhabit in a world where “humans never existed.”
Lasseter and company unveiled some boldfaced voice talent for a handful of upcoming projects. Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur will feature Raising Hope‘s Lucas Neff as star dino Arlo, John Lithgow as Poppa and Frances McDormand as Momma. Arlo’s siblings will be voiced by Hader, Judy Greer and Neil Patrick Harris. Lasseter said a new Monsters University short film, Party Central, will premiere ahead of Good Dinosaur when it’s released next summer. Fans at today’s panel got a sneak peak at the short, about what happens when the monsters try to throw a frat party.
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Mike and Sully will take their college shenanigans to the Far East this month. The Shanghai International Film Festival has picked Pixar’s sequel to open its 16th edition on June 15. Monsters University will be … Read More »
There are no titles attached to these dates yet, but Disney has set a course for its animated features through 2018. All will be in 3D, with 2-3 pics coming out a year essentially alternating between Pixar and … Read More »
Here’s a new UK trailer for Disney/Pixar‘s Monsters University. This one focuses on Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) as they study to become “scarers.” It also introduces Helen Mirren’s Dean Hardscrabble. Steve Buscemi, John Krasinski, Nathan Fillion and Alfred Molina also star. The film … Read More »
Director Andrew Stanton, Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres are returning for Finding Dory, the sequel to Pixar‘s 2003 pic that has been long in the works. Disney has set a November 25, 2015 release date for the … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Albert Brooks has closed a fat deal to reprise the voice Marlin in Finding Nemo 2 for Disney‘s Pixar. The sequel has been long in the works; Deadline told you last July that the … Read More »
An international trailer has surfaced for Disney/Pixar‘s prequel Monsters University, which opens June 21. (This played before Wreck-It Ralph over the weekend in the UK; the domestic trailer is going out with Disney’s Oz The Great And Powerful when that pic premieres March 8.) The new full-length … Read More »
The original Monsters Inc is one of the animated movies in the Disney collection to get the 3D rerelease treatment and still is following Finding Nemo 3D, which is due out September 14. Monsters originally … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: While Andrew Stanton‘s live-action feature directing debut John Carter led to a precedent-setting $200 million write-down for Disney earlier this summer, the filmmaker is officially out of director jail. I’ve been hearing for months that he would come aboard to direct the sequel to Disney-based Pixar‘s Finding Nemo, with the idea that Disney would give him another shot behind the camera on a live-action film.
I’m told he’s now officially come aboard the Finding Nemo sequel and has a concept the studio loves. Pixar continues to not be helpful on this, as they don’t comment on development. It’s understandable why Disney and Pixar would be excited by this. Stanton won two Oscars for his animation work on Wall-E and Finding Nemo. That original 2003′s fish tale’s $867.9 million worldwide gross makes it still Pixar’s second-highest-grossing film and the third-biggest Disney animated film release ever. And that comes before Finding Nemo is re-released in 3D in September. Read More »
Vue Eyes Germany, Denmark
UK exhibitor Vue Entertainment is moving deeper into Europe with the acquisition of Germany’s CinemaxX. The $172M takeover will push Vue into Germany and Denmark where CinemaxX – whose Potsdamer Platz outpost is a familiar spot for Berlin Film Fest attendees – has a combined 34 moviehouses and over 290 screens. Including its recent acquisition of the Apollo UK circuit, Vue now has 85 cinemas across the UK, Ireland, Portugal and Taiwan for nearly 800 screens. Vue is looking to close the transaction later this year pending clearance by the pertinent authorities.
Dubai Lines Up Speakers For Innovation Summit
The Dubai International Film Festival, the Center for New Cinema and event organizer Naseba will stage the first Cinematic Innovation Summit in Dubai on Dec 8 & 9. The confab will focus on the economic value of cinematic technology for various sectors including telecoms, video games and advertising and showcase innovations driven by artificial intelligence and cognitive science. Execs from the film, gaming, tech and finance worlds will convene to hear speeches given by producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Pixar Read More »
Can Brave help Pixar make a comeback at the Oscars this year?
I know that may sound strange to say about a company that has won the Animated Feature Academy Award an unprecedented six times — including four times in a row between 2007-2010 — and been nominated eight of the nine times it has been eligible since the category was established in 2001. (Of Pixar’s previous 12 films, Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and A Bug’s Life came before.) It even managed two Best Picture noms along the way. Who else can boast of that kind of track record? But last year, the Oscar nomination streak in the Ani category came to screeching halt with Cars 2, a movie that also bottomed out with the critics, managing only a 38% fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes, where the company had been accustomed to rating in the high 90s — at or near the top of the pack of all the year’s releases. In fact, out of all Pixar films released before Brave, the only movie to score below a 92 on RT was the original Cars, which garnered a still-respectable 74% fresh score. Brave stands right now at 75% fresh, good by most standards but still the smallest number for a Pixar movie outside the two Cars movies.
Will it matter? Its smash $66 million haul in opening-weekend boxoffice certainly was heartening, if underwhelming, to some analysts, as Deadline reported today. They seem to unrealistically expect the moon where Pixar is involved, even though Brave marked the studio’s remarkable 13th No. 1 opening out of 13. Its ‘A’ Cinemascore audience-satisfaction rating is also a big plus in carrying momentum forward. But is the bloom off the Oscar rose as far as the animation committee that chooses nominees? Read More »
With $66.7M in domestic ticket sales, the weekend was “good, but not Pixar great,” Cowen and Co analyst Doug Creutz says this morning. Even though the film will be profitable, “we remain concerned that the creative direction of Pixar may be wobbling as Brave is now the second consecutive film to receive less-than-rave reviews,” he adds. Brave‘s 74% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes makes it one of just three Pixar releases to fall below 90%. “While it may have been easy to write-off Cars 2 as a toy marketing campaign gone wrong, the fact that Pixar has released a creatively ‘average’ original film is of incrementally more concern,” Creutz says. He estimates that theaters here sold about 8M tickets for Brave, which is comparable to other recent Pixar films but is “well below” the levels for films released between 1999-2006. “Given the price Disney paid for Pixar, and the importance of Pixar as an engine of creative content for the company, we take the risk of erosion of Pixar’s creative greatness very seriously.” Read More »
Pixar‘s Monsters University, a prequel to 2001 hit Monsters Inc, meets up with Mike and Sulley back in their college days. Billy Crystal and John Goodman lead a voice cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Ken Jeong, Kelsey Grammer, Rob Riggle, Sean Hayes and JB Smoove. The movie comes … Read More »
Disney/Pixar’s Brave will bow at the newly named Dolby Theater in Dolby’s new Atmos sound system after all. The company announced today that the 3D animated film will have its June 18 world premiere screening at the Hollywood & Highland … Read More »
There is still no guarantee that the June 18 world premiere of Disney/Pixar’s Brave at the newly named Dolby Theatre will feature Dolby’s new Atmos sound. The “life-like sensory experience” is among the tech upgrades the company is undertaking at the … Read More »
No word yet from Bob Iger about who might run Walt Disney Studios after Rich Ross was pushed aside as chairman last month. But the CEO told the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference today that his … Read More »