Pixar Chief Says the Studio Is Addressing ‘Major Issues’
Inside Out, the first release from Walt Disney’s Pixar in about two years, is a hit with critics and at the box office—even as the animation studio has been working through “major issues,” according to Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. For example, he said, Pixar had to redo The Good Dinosaur, a film that had been slated to come out last year before it was postponed and taken over by a new director. “There are major issues we’re addressing at Pixar now,” Catmull said, without elaborating.
Catmull spoke at Fortune magazine’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., where he previewed the upcoming movie set in an alternate reality where dinosaurs and humans coexist. The Good Dinosaur is scheduled to hit theaters on Nov. 25. Catmull said other Pixar projects faced similar crises during development, including Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille. After the studio redid those movies, they went on to be wildly successful. “We have to iterate internally, because once you release the film, you can’t actually go back and fix it,” Catmull said. “We’d rather face the failure internally than release it that way.”
In his book Creativity, Inc., released last year by Random House, Catmull wrote that Pixar was facing three challenges: the rising cost of making animated films, shrinking DVD sales, and a feeling that Pixar was in danger of losing its free-spirited culture after the studio got bigger and more successful.
During his speech on July 14, Catmull declared victory on the turnaround at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which had struggled for years after the releases of blockbusters such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King in the early 1990s. “Disney Animation in the ’90s had four hugely successful films,” Catmull said. “Then it was downhill for 17 years.”
But with the release of Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 in the last three years, Disney’s animation group has seen a resurgence. Catmull said Pixar filmmakers helped coach their new colleagues after Disney acquired Pixar in 2006. “When we came in, they were demoralized, dispirited, and they were failing as a company,” he said. “Disney is now successful, but basically it’s the same people that were there when they were failing.”
Catmull said he’s thankful that Pixar’s and Disney’s problems weren’t happening at the same time. “They’re ping-ponging right now.”
—With Christopher Palmeri
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