Regardless of how “Cars 2” turns out, Pixar still has the most consistent track record of any studio today. Not only do their films routinely rake in billions of dollars around the world, but they’re 11 films in with nary a dud in the bunch. The studio has come close to creative disaster a few times, perhaps most notably with “Toy Story 2” being completely retooled with less than a year to go before its release. The result? One of the best sequels ever made and one that stands up to the classic original. (Jessie’s “When She Loved Me” montage makes us tear up just thinking about it.) In fact, the closest thing you can find to a failure for the company is the original “Cars,” and that’s because it just seemed like it would have been more at home as a DreamWorks film, full of pop-culture gags, celebrity voices and pop songs.
But that kind of quality control doesn’t come easy and the studio has had to make some tough choices along the way. After nearly four years on “Ratatouille,” they replaced original director Jan Pinkava with “The Incredibles” vet Brad Bird who turned the film into a personal project as well as one of the studios finest efforts. More recently, the studio nudged aside their first female director Brenda Chapman to make way for “One Man Band” director Mark Andrews on their first fairy tale, “Brave.” (This caused lead voice actress Reese Witherspoon to depart soon after.) While there’s still no telling how the film will turn out, you have to trust that Pixar has the film’s best interests at heart. The animation house had lined up another project, “Newt” for summer of 2012, but last year it was mysteriously removed from their schedule and later confirmed by the studio to be “dead.”
Concept art from the scrapped production was later released but no official reason was given for shutting down the film. Centering on the last two blue-footed newts in existence destined to mate to save their species from extinction, some had speculated the project’s cancellation might have been caused by similarities to Blue Sky Animation‘s similarly themed “Rio,” about two macaws who are the last of their kind. Speaking with IGN, Chief Creative Officer (and director of the first two ‘Toy Story’ films) John Lasseter essentially confirmed the cause of cancellation, “Its story was very similar to a movie that’s out in theaters right now with a blue parrot. Oh my! Wow, we were like … no, there was no … great minds think alike, I guess. It was really pretty similar.”
We found “Rio” to be a decent effort but have no doubt that “Newt” would have been a different take on the story. Animated films frequently seem to share ideas; just look at “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life, “Finding Nemo” and “A Shark Tale,” “The Incredibles” and “Megamind,” so it’s thrilling to see Pixar stand up for creative integrity. Sure, little kids may not have minded seeing another love story about a nearly extinct species, but Pixar realized it has a legacy to protect and didn’t want to put out a film that looked like an also-ran. Good for them. Now if we can just figure out their creative reasoning behind “Cars 2,” we’ll be all set.
“Rio” is out now and “Cars 2” will hit theaters on June 24th.