Not a lot of love at Diece-Lisa Industries for Disney or Toy Story 3, it seems. Yesterday, the toymaker sued Disney Enterprises in a Texas federal court for trademark infringement and unfair competition. Like it did in previous filings against Disney Shopping Inc and QVC last year and Pixar in 2012, the New Jersey company is claiming that the devious Lotso character featured in 2010’s Toy Story 3 is too similar to the “Lots of Hugs” technology and stuffed bears it has produced since the mid-1990s and re-trademarked in 2007. While not quite saying Disney knew of its product directly, the filing (read it here) this week notes that Diece-Lisa licensed the hugging tech to products related to the Jim Henson Company’s Bear In The Big Blue House TV series — which was sold to Disney in 2004. Noting the box office success of the Toy Story sequel from Pixar and the $7 billion is has made in merch, Diece-Lisa wants unspecified damages as well as an injunction stopping Disney from future use of the character and declarations from the court as to its rights.
The other cases have been weaving their way through the courts, with Pixar being dropped as a defendant in one of them in late 2012. Still, with Disney Enterprises as its latest defendant, Diece-Lisa is determined that the Toy Story 3 character has caught consumers in a retail bear hug. Read More »
You gotta give Pixar credit — they never follow the easy path. Take Monsters University, the first prequel to come out of the Emeryville toon works. Prequels are still new territory for storytelling purposes and it was no small feat for first-time feature director Dan Scanlon to come up with a story that met Pixar’s high standards when everyone who had seen 2001’s hit Monsters, Inc. knows where cyclopean nice-guy Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, ends up.
“It was a good story to tell as a prequel, because the drama comes out of knowing things aren’t going to work out for him,” says Scanlon. “He’s so excited about his journey and yet the audience knows it’s not going to work out. We had to really think about telling the story in a different way and really own the fact that people know the end instead of trying to deny it, which I think we probably did at first.”
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 (large format hardcover, $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.
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 Pixar’s 1,200 work force. This is just the latest twist in The Good Dinosaur tale. No replacement has been announced yet for Peterson and in September, the Disney-owned animated powerhouse moved back Dinosaur from a May 30, 2014 release to November 24, 2015 – leaving Pixar without a single movie coming out next year. Now, the fallout continues. “At Pixar, we are constantly re-evaluating the creative and business needs of our studio. With the release date change of The Good Dinosaur, we have realigned our production and support priorities, which includes a small reduction in our staffing levels,” said a Disney spokesperson in a statement Friday. Last month Disney shuttered Pixar Canada with nearly 100 jobs lost at the Vancouver animation studio.
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 incredibly talented, and we are so proud of the excellent work we have produced there,” Disney-owned Pixar said in a statement. “However, as we look at the creative and business needs of our studio, we’ve made the decision to refocus our efforts and resources under one roof in Emeryville and will be closing the studio in Vancouver.” Pixar’s Canada outpost had worked on cartoon shorts including Air Mater, Small Fry and Partysaurus Rex since opening in 2010. “Staff were just told today. Not great news, obviously,” Disney spokeswoman Barb Matheson told Vancouver paper The Province, which first reported the closure. “It was just a refocussing of efforts and resources to the one facility.”
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’sThe 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.
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 the first 3D or animated pic to christen the fest. Disney opens the film, which reunites lead voices Billy Crystal and John Goodman from the 2001 original, on June 21 stateside. Walt Disney Studios also will screen 16 Pixar shorts during the Shanghai fest, including Partly Cloudy, La Luna, Luxo Jr. and The Blue Umbrella, along with Frankenweenie and the 3D version of Pixar’s Finding Nemo.
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 Walt Disney Animation Studios. Most dates fall in June (where Pixar has opened Brave, Cars 2 and Toy Story 3 and will bow Monsters University on June 21 this year) and November (past titles opened on this month include Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled and this November 27 release Frozen). The new dates come after already announced slots for Disney animated titles like Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur (May 30, 2014), the untitled Inside The Mind movie (June 19, 2015), and the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory (November 25, 2015). It’s also after Disney’s first Marvel-based animated feature, Big Hero 6, which has a November 7, 2014 release date. It seems likely that the just-in-the-news Dia De Los Muertos movie could get one of these new dates. Speculate away. Here’s the list if you’re scoring at home:
March 4, 2016 — Untitled Disney Animation wide in 3D June 17, 2016 — Untitled Pixar Animation wide in 3D November 23, 2016 — Untitled Disney Animation wide in 3D June 16, 2017 — Untitled Pixar Animation wide in 3D November 22, 2017 — Untitled Pixar Animation wide in 3D March 9, 2018 — Untitled Disney Animation wide in 3D June 15, 2018 — Untitled Pixar Animation wide in 3D November 21, … 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 opens in the U.S. on June 21 and a few weeks later on July 12 in the UK.
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 movie, which will take place about a year after the original film and focus on Dory (DeGeneres), the blue tang fish who helped Nemo find his way home in the first pic. Finding Nemo won the Best Animated Feature Oscar and is now fourth-highest-grossing animated film worldwide. Stanton returned to the fold in July, and DeGeneres signed on soon after. “There is no Dory without Ellen,” Stanton said in the release today announcing the date. “One thing we couldn’t stop thinking about was why she was all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin. In Finding Dory, she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way.”
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 studio got the original’s helmer Andrew Stanton back in the fold (I’d heard that the studio will also give him another live-action shot after his disastrous live-action debut on John Carter), and Ellen DeGeneres came back shortly after. It took much longer to hook Brooks, who continued his renaissance as an actor in the Judd Apatow-directed This Is 40, following his turn as bad-ass Bernie Rose in Drive.
Brooks is also working on another novel, this coming after his first, Twenty Thirty: The Real Story Of What Happened To America, became a bestseller. It’s unclear though when he will next write and direct another one of those personal comedy vehicles for himself he used to do, like The Muse and Lost In America. He’s repped by WME and manager Herb Nanas.
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 trailer fleshes out the plot that finds Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) in their college years — something the teaser released back in June with Brave accomplished pretty much spot-on in one scene. So what exactly will a full-length feature add to the party?
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 was scheduled for January 18, 2013, but the Pixar pic is heading into the Holiday 2012 mix and will now bow December 19, a Wednesday. The 2001 original grossed $256M domestically, and its sequel Monsters University is set for release on June 21, 2013. Last year, the studio had success with its first rerelease venture, The Lion King, which grossed $92M in its 3D form.
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 »
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 out a year from tomorrow. Here’s a new teaser:
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 venue formerly known as the Kodak Theatre in the new immersive sound system as well as at 14 other select locations nationwide when the film opens in the U.S. on June 22. There had been questions about whether it all would come together: first that Dolby could have its revamp of the theater done in time for the premiere and then whether the new sound mix could be completed and signed off on by the deadline. Brave is the first feature to utilize the Atmos technology; during a walkthrough of the Dolby Theatre on Monday, execs played an impressive demo of the system using clips from Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles and Paramount’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.