Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire” is now packing some new heat. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for “Little Miss Sunshine” and more recently wrote “Toy Story 3,” is being brought on board to polish the initial drafts that were written by “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours” writer Simon Beaufoy. “Catching Fire” is, of course, based on the second book in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult series and will be the follow up to Gary Ross‘ runaway smash from earlier this year.
What’s interesting about this is it marks the first time, should the deal go ahead, that Arndt has worked outside of Disney since “Little Miss Sunshine” (which was released way back in 2006). While he’s been loosely attached to a number of projects (including Peter Hyams’ “Monster Squad” remake and a big screen version of “Sesame Street” for Warner Bros.), he has comfortably remained inside the Disney/Pixar wheelhouse – he has a hand in summer 2013’s “Phineas and Ferb” theatrical movie and is currently working on “Order of the Seven,” the martial arts take on the Snow White fable that Disney has been trying to get off the ground for the past few years (Michael Chabon at one point wrote a draft).
Under Arndt’s original arrangement with Pixar, he was supposed to be at the studio for half of the year, and then the other half would be spent working on other projects. Well, given the time-intensive nature of Pixar movies and their all-together, let’s-put-on-a-show mentality, Arndt ended up working there year round. He also became at least a tangential member of the fabled Brain Trust, advising the group on the importance of story fundamentals. We’ve seen this amazing lecture he gave to the entire team at Pixar where he broke down “Star Wars,” stressing those same fundamentals – strong character arcs, a severity to the second act break, cleanness in action – that totally blew us away. (Andrew Stanton must have had a doctor’s appointment that day, because none of this stuff shows up in “John Carter.”) Arndt went from “Toy Story 3” right into work on Pete Docter’s “wildly ambitious” (and still untitled) 2015 movie set inside a young girl’s mind and, we have a feeling he has been advising on 2014’s “The Good Dinosaur” as well (there’s a reason neither film has official announced its screenwriters).
Maybe Arndt will finally be making his way out from under the Disney/Pixar umbrella (ella-ella)? Or, more likely, it’ll be a quick fix-it job that will return him to his day-to-day Pixar chores in short order. (Either way it’ll probably net him a pretty penny.) “Catching Fire” (directed by underrated stylist Francis Lawrence) is scheduled for release on November 22nd, 2013, with shooting scheduled for the late summer and fall of this year.