Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb….
The Dissolve offers their own perspective on the changing of directors on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur…
“As the [LA] Times notes, this is not the first time Pixar has replaced a director in the middle of production; in fact, it’s the fourth time in eight movies that it’s made such a drastic change. Sometimes that decision has worked out creatively; Brad Bird subbed in for Jan Pinkava on Ratatouille, and helped make that movie one of Pixar’s biggest creative successes. Sometimes that decision has not worked out creatively; Lasseter wound up completing Cars 2 after Brad Lewis started the film, and even he couldn’t save that sinking ship.”
Read the full article here.
Replacing Brenda Chapman on Brave caused controversy at the time as, initially, it was celebrated as the first female director Pixar chose … only to be replaced by a man, Mark Andrews (though Chapman was kept on as co-director and is credited as the first woman to win an Academy Award for an Animated Feature).
Without a change in the release date and Ed Catmull’s backhanded compliment: “All directors get really deep in their film. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to get the idea out. Sometimes directors … are so deeply embedded in their ideas it actually takes someone else to finish it up”, it feels like Pixar have a specific idea about what they want and if a film does not stick to the ‘code’, directors and producers and replaceable.
I can appreciate that Bob Peterson may have simply lost his way a little and needed help, but it does beg the question as to what Peterson did want – in the same manner as to what Chapman wanted in Brave and the original directors of Ratatouille and Cars 2.
I have always adored Pixar on the basis that they appear to take risks. The opening sequences in both Wall-E and Up are amongst the very best sequences in the history of animation, incorporating mature concepts that challenge adults as much as children. But it is a controlled risk, as Pixar – unlike live-action – watch the film, in full, in storyboard form initially and then, again, when the basic CGI designs have been completed. Not to mention a third time when the film is almost complete and any considerable changes can still be made. Every film has been checked and rechecked, refining pacing, jokes and characters whenever it is necessary in pre-production, animation and post-production. Very few films have such specific methods of ensuring the final outcome in successful.
So, after a long production and with less than a year to go, what was Peterson so invested in? The multiple checks must have already begun with Peterson on board – and supported. What “idea” was Peterson not willing to budge on? Considering Brave got a mixed response and Cars 2 was critically panned, the change of director may be more about a Pixar “formula” that works – as Cars 2, Brave and Ratatouille ultimately made a considerable amount at the box-office, despite the critics’ opinion. If Bob Peterson, Brenda Chapman, Jan Pinkava and Brad Lewis all tried to break the mold in some way, it appears that the risk-taking ethos that Pixar may have been confident in originally is changing to safer films, with a safer return on investment. In the current economic climate, this is what all studios are doing (hence the continuous release of sequels, prequels and reboots) but a studio so consistently successful as Pixar, I hoped, would lead the way for a return to originality and innovation – rather than safe, formulaic filmmaking.