Mind Beethoven's Fifth
Let's Talk Pixar's Fourth...
wake of this weekend's press release that offered details on the
three feature length films that the computer animation company
still owes Disney, Jim Hill points out the importance of what
By now, all of you animation fans out there have undoubtedly heard
Pixar's big news. You know, that story that hit the newswires
this past weekend (click
here); the one where the acclaimed animation studio
officially offered up the titles as well as pertinent plot points
on the next three feature films that Pixar will be delivering
to the Walt Disney Company for marketing & distribution?
Folks in the
financial world supposedly saw this story as a sign that Pixar's
infamously icy relationship with the Mouse might be thawing. More
importantly, it's been suggested that there may now be reason
to hope that the productive, profitable if somewhat prickly arrangement
between the two entertainment giants could continue after Pixar's
current five picture deal with Disney expires in December 2005.
Sadly, I fear
that this may all be just wishful thinking on Wall Street's part.
Why? Well, as I was reading all of this past weekend's upbeat
stories about Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars,
I didn't see a single reference to the fourth film that Pixar
Animation Studio currently has in development. You know, that
feature length project that "Geri's Game" director Jan
Pinkava is riding herd on?
film are you talking about, Jim?" I hear you asking. This
is the movie that John Lasetter himself inadvertently revealed
was in the works back in January during Pixar's 15th anniversary
celebration at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
How did this
happen? Well, the highlight of that evening's festivities at the
LACMA was a screening of all of Pixar's prize winning shorts (as
well as clips from several of the studio's features) with commentary
by Lasetter. After "Geri's Game" was shown, John lavishly
praised Pinkava's directorial debut. Almost as an after thought
(before moving on to the next clip), John added that Jan was already
at work on a feature length project. A film that he'll be directing
Now -- if
you'll carefully reread this weekend's press release -- you'll
notice that there's no mention at all of a Jan Pinkava film being
in the works. So -- if Andrew Stanton is helming Finding Nemo,
and Brad Bird is riding herd on The Incredibles, and Lasetter
himself is directing Cars -- how does this unmentioned
Jan Pinkava / Pixar project fit into the company's future plans?
film be the first picture released under a renewed Disney / Pixar
pact? Doesn't seem likely, folks. Why? Executives at Disney Feature
Animation love to shape and mold Pixar projects as they move through
the story phase. (Remember that these were the guys who -- back
in November of 1993 -- actually forced Pixar to shut down production
of Toy Story because they didn't think Woody was sympathetic
enough. It took Lasetter & his team 'til April 1994 to come
up with a workable way to make the cowboy character someone you
could really care about. Then -- and only then -- did Disney executives
deem the project worthy of resuming production.) So I can't imagine
Mouse House execs being all that enthusiastic about their company
distributing & marketing a movie that they've had zero creative
us to our next question: If Pixar *ISN'T* developing Pinkava's
project for Disney, then who exactly is the studio making this
movie for? Could this film be the bait that the acclaimed animation
studio hopes to use to lure another enormous entertainment conglomerate
into signing an even more lucrative marketing / distribution deal
than the one the company currently has with the Mouse? Or -- God
forbid -- could Jan's movie be actually Pixar's first ever solo
project? The film that the studio will make, market and distribute
all on its own?
Only one man
knows the answer to these questions: Steve Jobs, Chairman and
CEO of Pixar. And Steve ain't talking ... Except back in January,
when Jobs -- in response to a somewhat confusing comment that
Michael Eisner made while discussing Disney's latest quarterly
earning statement -- issued the following statement:
has only three pictures left to deliver under its current deal
with Disney, and all three of these pictures are currently in
some stage of production ... Pixar enjoys a very successful relationship
with Disney and we look forward to completing the remaining three
pictures of our current deal."
Note the language
used in this press release. "Completing." Not "continuing,"
but "completing." Not exactly what you'd call a beacon
of hope for the Walt Disney Company, now is it?
this all gets interesting is that -- under the terms of the company's
1997 coproduction deal with Disney -- Pixar can't even talk with
any other companies about possibly cutting a production deal until
the finished version of their third film (Finding Nemo)
is delivered to the Mouse House. Which (according to studio insiders)
would be about this time next year.
those negotiations get really interesting if Pixar were able to
reveal that it already had a post Disney film well in pre-production?
A movie that -- following the exacting terms that Mouse House
attorneys had inserted into the 1997 Coproduction contract --
couldn't legally be released to theaters 'til December 2006 (One
year after the release date of Pixar's Cars).
But that would
still mean that some lucky conglomerate could be sending a brand
new Pixar picture out into the multiplexes by early 2007. So I
would imagine that -- once word of this fourth as yet unnamed
and unclaimed Pixar project gets out -- that the entertainment
giants will begin lining up outside the animation company's Emeryville,
CA. headquarters. Just counting down the days 'til April 2003
when the negotiations can legally get underway.
(for those of you who are really curious about how all of this
is going to play out)? Make sure that you're somewhere near a
phone on Wednesday, May 8th. That's the day that Jobs -- along
with Pixar's executive vice president and chief financial officer,
Ann Mather -- will be holding a teleconference to discuss Pixar's
earnings for this first quarter of 2002. At that time, Steve &
Ann will also talk about -- quoting from the press release here
-- "other recent or upcoming developments affecting the company's
bring up the subject of Jan Pinkava's film and/or what this movie
fits in to Pixar's future plans at this meeting, I would imagine
that you'll hear a most intriguing answer.
But you didn't
hear this from me ...
in Pixar's quarterly earnings teleconference, please call
888-428-4473 (U.S.) or 612-288-0340 (Int'l) approximately 10 minutes
prior to the meeting's start time on Wednesday, May 8, 2002 at
Eastern Time, 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. For those of you whose dance
is full that day, a replay of the call will be provided by Pixar
Monday, May 13, 2002 until midnight Eastern Time. To access the
please call 800-475-6701 (U.S.) Or 320-365-3844 (Int'l) and reference
the reservation code: 635252.
I know. All you Digital Media FX readers have been patiently waiting
for weeks now for me to deliver Parts II & III of my "Giving
Credit Where Credit Is Due" series. My apologies,
but -- due to some unforeseen family obligations -- I've gotten
really behind in my writing. I'll try to catch up on all the stories
that I still owe you guys over the next week or so. First finishing
up that "Credit" series... Then moving on to the rather
important role that 20th Century Fox's success with Ice Age (and
Paramount Pictures' somewhat smaller success with Jimmy Neutron:
Boy Genius) is currently playing in the Pixar / Disney deal extension
my sincerest apologies for all the delays, folks. Please hang
in there. Hopefully, the finished version of these stories will
make it worth the wait.
here to discuss this column in the dFX Forums.
Jim Hill is
an award winning journalist who specializes in writing about the
entertainment industry. Hill's columns appear on Digital
Media FX around the 2nd and 16th of each month. Those
to the free Digital Media FX newsletter receive 24
hour advanced access to the columns before the general public.
of a log cabin hidden away in the woods of New Hampshire, Jim
is currently at work on an unauthorized history of the Walt Disney
World Resort and a book on the history of Jim Henson. In addition,
he writes for several online Websites. He has a beautiful 8 year
old daughter and four obnoxious cats.
You can email
Jim Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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