Canceled Pixar Movies: A look at what might have been
This week sees the release of Coco, the 19th feature film from Disney•Pixar which is already breaking box office records and could go on to become yet another family favorite. Like most of the arms of The Walt Disney Company, Pixar remains a very secretive production house and though they’ve continued to churn out hit after hit, there have been missteps along the way. Not too many Pixar movies get announced to the public and then canceled, but there are a few, read on below to learn more about them! Which of these canceled Pixar movies do you wish would have happened?
This movie marked the first time that Pixar was set to be involved in a live-action feature film with Oscar winner Brad Bird at the helm. A co-production between Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, and Warner Bros., the film would have been an adaptation of the novel by James Dalessandro, which told the story of events surrounding the San Francisco earthquake and fire. The author began writing the idea for the novel after the success of Titanic in 1997, pitching it around town as “Titanic was a boat in the North Atlantic–this is an entire city, the most beautiful we’ve ever seen, destroyed in 48 hours” and calling it “truly the greatest American epic: not because I wrote it, but because it was.”
Bird became attached to the project fresh off the success of The Incredibles and developed the project for a long time. He did briefly pause his work on 1906 to direct Ratatouille, for which he won the Oscar. With his second Academy Award in hand, he went back to the project and actually opened up about it in interviews, telling The Hollywoood Reporter: “At the time, Chinatown was coexisting with the Barbary Coast, which was like the Wild Wild West, and at the same time Nob Hill had the upper class. It was a time between two centuries. You had horses and cars existing simultaneously. It’s just a volatile mix of things and then you throw in an earthquake. I mean, come on, if that doesn’t buy popcorn…”
The project’s budget reportedly ballooned to upwards of $200 million and the project began to worry the studios involved thanks also in part to the extensive script. After years of development and various drafts of the script, however, as of 2012, Disney and Pixar had abandoned the project.
Unlike other canceled Pixar movies that would go on to become something else (more on those later), newt was a film that had art released to the public and was even teased in Toy Story 3. Originally set for a summer 2011 release, newt was officially described as follows by the company in an official press release:
What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can’t stand each other? That’s the problem facing Newt and Brooke, heroes of “newt,” the Pixar film by seven-time Academy Award(R) winner for sound Gary Rydstrom, and director of Pixar’s Oscar-nominated short, “Lifted.” Newt and Brooke embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science.
The film had been delayed by that point and eventually removed from Disney’s release calendar altogether. Years later, Pixar president Edwin Catmull revealed the real reason the film was canceled, saying: “Newt was another unlikely idea that wasn’t working. When we gave it to somebody new (Pete Docter, director of Up), he said, “I’ll do it, but I have another idea altogether, which I think is better.” And we thought it was better too. That was the reason we didn’t continue with Newt.”
Docter’s idea would go on to become the Academy Award-winning film Inside Out.
The Shadow King
Following his work on stop-motion animated films like A Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Coraline, director Henry Selick was hired by Disney•Pixar to develop four brand new movies for the animation studio.
“I first met John Lasseter when we were classmates at CalArts,” Selick said in a statement. “I’ve watched with awe and amazement as Pixar created a new way to make animated movies with computers.”
Unlike previous Pixar films though, these wouldn’t be computer animated but in Selick’s trademark stop-motion. Titled ShadeMaker (later as The Shadow King), the film was given a October 4, 2013 release date. No official synopsis for the movie was released by Disney, but years later one would make its way online and reads:
THE SHADOW KING is a deliciously magical tale about nine-year-old New York orphan Hap who hides his fantastically weird hands with long fingers from a cruel world. But when a living shadow girl teaches him to make amazing hand shadows that come to life, his hands become incredible weapons in a shadow war against a ravenous monster bent on killing Hap’s brother Richard and ultimately destroying New York.
Not long afterward, Disney canceled their involvement in the film after it failed to meet production goals and it was never to be seen again. Selick was given the option to take it to other studios with K5 International picking up the rights and hiring the likes of Pamela Adlon, Brendan Gleeson, Jeffrey Tambor, and Catherine O’Hara for the voice cast. The project never made it to the big screen though.
The Abandoned Sequels
Before Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, the studio was just in a distribution agreement with the production company which gave them the rights to the films and characters they produced for the first seven movies. As talks began when the contract was nearing its completion, things got heated between then Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar owner Steve Jobs. As a sort of bargaining chip, Disney created Circle 7 animation, which was made specifically to sequelize Pixar movies. Only three films were ever developed and though they would later make their way to theaters in another form, they previously looked very different.
Finding Nemo 2
Of the three projects that made it the least far into development was a follow-up to the 2003 feature film. The film’s script was written by Laurie Craig and a review of the screenplay made its way online to the website CC2K. The review of the draft noted the film saw Nemo’s father Merlin as the missing fish in the sequel, that the forgetful Dory would fully gain her memory back, a long-lost brother of Nemo would appear, and there would be appearances by polar bears and dolphins. Finding Nemo 2 was the final project commissioned for the studio and never made it past the script stage before ties between Disney and Pixar were reunited.
Monsters, Inc. 2
Another project that made it quite far into development was Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise. The sequel would have centered on Mike and Sully crossing over into the human world for a simple task: Giving Boo a birthday present. Unfortunately, when they arrive they find out that Boo and her family have moved, meaning the two have to find her. Concept art for the film was released online for the film well afters its cancellation.
Toy Story 3
The project that made it the furthest along at Circle 7 was a sequel to Toy Story 2. Screenwriter Jim Herzfeld was hired to pen the script, which saw a worldwide recall of Buzz Lightyear toys. Andy’s toys head off on a globe-trotting journey to save their friend, while the space ranger meets other recalled toys. Promotional art for the movie was even created and released but the project quickly went away once Disney purchased Pixar.