Pixar’s in-development animated feature newt has been shelved according to a report from The Pixar Blog, who received word from Disney archivist Dave Smith (or someone using his email address) that “[t]he film has been cancelled (sic).”
Newt was original scheduled to be Pixar’s big release for next summer until it had been pushed back a year to make room for Cars 2. With the recent announcement of dates for Monsters Inc 2 and Brave (formerly The Brave And The Bow) in 2012, newt mysteriously disappeared off of the studio’s schedule entirely. Although rumors had swirled in recent months about the film’s possible fate, it was Pixar Blog that reached out for confirmation.
According to Pixar’s official description of the film, newt was about “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?” To me, it sounds like something of a first for the studio- an animated romantic comedy.
It strikes me as unusual that Pixar would just flat out kill a project in this way. When management wasn’t happy with the development of 2007’s Ratatouille, management replaced director Jan Pinkava with Incredibles helmer Brad Bird who provided the creative push necessary to make the film a hit. It was a move that signaled to many that the studio was willing to continually invest in an idea that they believed in rather than just cut their losses at the first sign of development problems. It was an investment that paid off extraordinarily well for the studio, as Ratatouille managed to bring in nearly $624 million at the box office worldwide and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
But Pixar might not have the talent available to devote to newt. Ratatouille‘s Bird was just signed to direct the live action Mission: Impossible IV and is still developing 1906, his project about the infamous San Fransisco earthquake. Andrew Stanton, co-director of Wall-E, is deep in development on the long brewing adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter Of Mars pulp science-fantasy novel series.
Still, Up co-directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson aren’t currently tied to any announced projects and Toy Story 3‘s Lee Unkrich isn’t scheduled for anything once his duties on that film wrap up later this year. Are they currently working on projects that are so new that they haven’t reached a stage where they can be announced yet? Monsters Inc 2 still doesn’t have an announced director yet. Are one of them working on the film?
But I must confess some to being a bit disappointed by this news as well. For years, Pixar maintained the attitude that they would only do a sequel if they felt that they had a good enough story to warrant one. And while I don’t doubt that they have good ideas for their Cars and Monsters, Inc follow ups, it is hard not to see them as moving focus and resources away from the production of new original films. While we do not know for certain whether it was the number of sequels in their production pipeline that squeezed newt out or if they just couldn’t make the idea work, I’m hoping that the upswing in sequel production will not cut into the studio’s continuing original output.