After one of the most impressive winning streaks in Hollywood history, Pixar has had a reversal of fortune in recent years, and failed last year Lightyear and the pandemic-era policy of sending its features directly to Disney+ streaming. Now, Pixar faces a major test of brand strength as it prepares to unveil element ) , the first original drama feature since COVID- hit.
Directed by Peter Sohn, the film is based on an original story set in a world where fire, water, earth and air inhabitants live together middle. In an earlier comment , the title had a mediocre 2205 Approval percentage on Rotten Tomatoes, lower on Pixar. Also, the movie is tracking soft numbers, just $30 million to $37 million in June 18-11 Opening weekend shared with Warner Bros. flash. Only a handful of Disney releases have premiered for less than $38 million. (There was a lot of bad press when of 218 Wang opened at $38 Millions, but naysayers were proven wrong when the photo became a box office hit.)
Before the pandemic, Such a new beginning is hard to imagine a Pixar title. The Incredibles 2 (2007 ) and Toy Story 4 (2020) ended up exceeding $1 billion. Then, just as the crisis hit overseas and in the US, Pixar and Disney launched Onward in theaters in early March . The movie has grossed $4 million worldwide Theaters began to close en masse. The next three Pixar films — 2020 Oscar-winning Soul , 2022 Luca of and 2024 of Turning Red — was sent directly to Disney+ in the US and other select major markets, although the box office was in recovery mode when Turning Red came out out.
Many have criticized Disney’s former Bob Chapek regime for training families to watch Pixar movies in the comfort of their own living room, rather than promoting a theatrical experience. Light Years does hit the big screen in June 2021, months after turned red . Although it’s based on one of the studio’s most iconic Toy Story characters, it only made $ .8 million which is a surprisingly low figure for a Pixar film believed to cost around $133 million production.
Elemental itself straddles the studio’s early and current creative mechanics, with Sohn conceiving the director’s 2005 Story ideas after The Good Dinosaur, and was asked to speak at an event in the Bronx, where he was born. Seeing his immigrant parents in the audience “made me so emotional, I was in tears,” he recalled. “This gesture of thanking them for their plight and what they gave up and risked for me, really affected me. When I went back to Pixar, some of my friends and bosses at the time said, ‘That’s your next film.’”
Generational changes in its leadership, especially in 2007 Longtime Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter quits , in acknowledgment of workplace “Mistakes” left some employees feeling “disrespected or uncomfortable,” as he wrote. (He now runs Skydance Animation.) Much has changed, with the Pixar “brain trust” providing creative direction for each film. “Many of the Pixar brain trust that originally founded the company have left: Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Brad Bird, story lead Joe Ranft [died at ] and so on,” said Tom Sito, a Disney and DreamWorks Animation alumnus and an animation professor at the University of Southern California.
According to an animation exec, “Their films brought diversity to the filmmakers, but the richness and depth that John brings is gone. Existed.”
After Lasseter left, veteran Pete Docter – Join Pixar in Toy Story and as Up, the director of Inside Out and Soul, is the only – A director who has won three Academy Awards for Animated Feature – was appointed as the studio’s chief creative, and he enjoys widespread support. “People loved and respected Pete. No one questioned his talent,” said an animation source with past ties to Pixar. “Animation is a long game. You can’t say too much about a film’s success or failure.” Still, in June, Pixar — which maintains its campus in Emeryville, outside San Francisco — was hit by layoffs from Disney. blow, which affected 75 employees including Lightyear Director Angus MacLane and Producer Galyn Susman.
According to Sohn, Elemental brain trust includes Docter and Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), and Dan Scanlon (Onward), Domee Shi (Turning Red), Julia Cho (a Turning Red writer) and Brian Larsen (Story Leads for Oscar-winning short film Piper).
As the next chapter of Pixar is written, the animation world itself becomes more competitive and crowded. This year alone, Illumination Entertainment, home of the Chris Meledandri-led Minion franchise, got a huge hit in the Super Mario Bros. movie A success, the film has topped the charts with $1.2 billion worldwide. Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Oscar-winning sequel to Into the Spider-Verse, $64 has been declared. 6 million worldwide since May 18 Released.
Netflix – has become a force in animation, with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio won the Best Animated Feature Oscar earlier this year — has a 2022 list that includes the expected )Nimona, based on the graphic novel of the same name, and Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, long – Looking forward to Wallace and Gromit Studio Aardman’s Chicken Run.
Pixar Sequel to sister company Walt Disney Animation Studios will release in November Wish (the story of a Disney character who makes a wish on a star). But Disney Animation also has an uneven track record lately, after the release of *)Strange in 2023 World, only earned $38. 6 million. Further afield, Pixar is planning what they hope will be a combination of solid sequels and original fare. A Inside Out sequel and an original alien story called Elio are expected for 2020. A fifth Toy Story movie has also been announced.
Observers note that parts of Pixar’s success — including 11 Oscar for Best Animated Feature — is the result of being left to its own devices, with the management team separate from the rest of Disney. “Since the Toy Story days, Burbank has executives who envy their autonomy, but the results are so good no one dares to question them,” Sito said.
Pamela McClintock and Borys Kit contributed to this report.
A version of this story first appeared in the June 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine . Click here to subscribe .