“We ask what-ifs,” said John Lasseter at a recent detailed show-and-tell at Cannes for international press. “What if toys came to life, or a rat wanted to be chef? The next: what if that asteroid missed earth and dinosaurs and human beings co-existed?”
Lasseter, celebrating a decade since he took over the reins with Pixar partner Ed Catmull running animation at Disney/Pixar, gave a preview of the upcoming slate with plenty of footage. It looks impressive indeed. Which is what we’ve come to expect.
“2015 is a milestone year for Pixar,” he said, with two feature films coming out in one year–three over the next 12 months. First up there’s Pete Docter’s innovative and brilliant “Inside Out” (June 19) which after a delay finally premiered at Cannes and is sure to be a knockout summer hit.
And there’s “Partly Cloudy” director Peter Sohn’s feature debut “The Good Dinosaur” (Thanksgiving, see new poster and trailer, below). “It has a unique tone unlike any other Pixar movie,” Lasseter said, partly because the music by composer Mychael Danna (“Life of Pi”) and sound design by Craig Berkey (“True Grit”) “are important in telling the story with a depth of emotion and rich level of detail and thanks to new technology, believability. Also, nature is a wonderful antagonist.”
Timid young Apatosaurus Arlo is the star of this coming of age story that sees him transform into a strong and confident youngster after he loses his Dad in an accident and finds himself lost and alone. “It’s an emotional story of self-discovery,” said Lasseter. In the jungle Arlo meets a barking boy cub called Spot—who becomes his playful and loyal pet. Yes, the movie also has vicious T-rexes and velociraptors and vulture-like flying Pterodactyls.
Also on the Pixar roster is Andrew Stanton’s “Finding Nemo” sequel “Finding Dory” (summer 2016) which asks the question, “where is Dory’s family?” Ellen De Generes and Albert Brooks return, along with Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy. Along her undersea journey Dory encounters a giant squid, Hank the octopus, and a beautiful kelp forest. Pixar per usual did extensive research, in this case at Northern California’s Marine Life Institute.
Another anticipated sequel is “Toy Story 4” (summer 2017), which Lasseter will direct himself (with Josh Cooley). 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of Pixar’s first CG animated feature film–which was followed by some 250 CG animated movies.
On the Disney side of the ledger, coming up is “Zootopia” (also “Zootropolis,” February 2016) from directors Byron Howard (“Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It-Ralph”), which features anthropomorphized talking animals (no humans) living in a utopian modern world complete with clothing and technology. Jason Bateman plays a “sly fox” con man, who is dogged by a “dumb bunny” cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) trying to solve a missing mammal case. In one scene, the diminutive fox insists on buying a giant cone at an elephant ice cream parlor, while in another he takes the bunny to a DMV run by slow-mo sloths. It rings all too true. The movie is playing with “stereotype and bias themes,” Lasseter said, as well as the idea that “natural enemies can work together.”
“Moana” (November 23, 2016) is a Disney princess musical based on the folktales of the South Pacific, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin”) who did deep research on the Oceana of thousands of years ago and the music of the Pacific Islands.
At the presentation Lasseter also showed us a terrific Pixar short from Indian animator Sanjay Patel called “Sanjay’s Super Team” which brings a new set of superheroes to imaginative life, and will go out to theaters attached to “The Good Dinosaur.”