An end of an era at WDAS and Pixar

Hello everyone. It has been a while since I’ve written a rant/discussion blog, especially about Disney. One of the main reasons was due to the stress of being on strike for a few months, and dealing with a stressful job for the last two months. Another reason was simply because the Lasseter news took me out for a while, and I just did not feel like talking or thinking much about Disney for a while. It became clear to me for months now where this was going, and as a person who likes to discuss eras and whatnot, I knew I was going to have to discuss this eventually.

Before I get to the Lasseter stuff, it is important to address that it became clear for a few years now that we were in the grasps of another era for both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. The main culprit behind this thought for many people were the sequels we were getting (Wreck-it Ralph 2 and Frozen 2 for WDAS; Finding Dory, Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4 for Pixar). For the former, it was very unprecedented for them to make sequels in general, and now they were really embracing and using it to function spoke volumes, and while Pixar did do some sequels, to have them in 4 consecutive years was incomprehensible for many people. It’s not like either company is in desperate need of money, or going through financial issues, so to see them stoop to the level of other studios with sequels is definitely disheartening, and a big sign that their image and mentality is shifting, whether it is for the positive or negative.

 

Since 2006, Lasseter had his hands in both Pixar and Disney after the acquisition, while being the face of both studios, whether it was by choice or not. The two companies were starting to get an interchangeable reputation and appearance, with a lot of it having to do with him representing both, and suggesting ideas for both companies that were similar, regarding filmmaking and animation techniques. How often have people said that Big Hero 6 and Wreck-it Ralph seem like Pixar films, while The Good Dinosaur and Brave seem like WDAS films? My point is, there is no way we can completely divide the two companies regarding their identity and appearance anymore, at least to the extent that we could a decade and a half ago.

With all of that stuff aside, we heard on November that John Lasseter was called out for his inappropriate actions with female staff members. This was released after a bunch of people in Hollywood were called out due to the #MeToo movement, so the stigma only increased. Several sources (ex employees) went to the blogs about how Pixar is toxic and misogynistic for women, which some people predicted after how the Brenda Chapman situation took place, and how a director or something was booted from Toy Story 4. He was reported to get out of control during wrap parties after drinking, and was known for “hugging and kissing women” around the studio. Ultimately, it was enabled since he was seen as a “little boy who could not control himself”. Long story short, he decided to take a year break in November of last year (at least the press spun it that way, since we don’t know if the higher-ups let him go, or let him spin it into him leaving).

 

It was quickly speculated by the fanbase that Pete Docter would replace Lasseter in Pixar, and Jennifer Lee would replace Lasseter in WDAS. Months later, it was revealed that they both would be replacing him, and I honestly do not know how I feel about this. What I found interesting was that most of the reports were about the atmosphere in Pixar, and not WDAS, despite being tied together. Does this just mean that Pixar is more of the “boys club”, or are they just protecting WDAS? It’s different being a director, and then being a Chief Officer or whatever of a studio, so I don’t know if those two will be up for the task. With the role being split between two people, maybe WDAS will gain their own identities, and start to be seen as more separate again.

 

Do I honestly think that it will change the underlying dynamics, atmosphere, and structure within the studios? I hope it will for the better, but I cannot say so with confidence. I do think the quality of their films will change slightly, but I don’t know if it will be for the positive or the negative. Either way, it is going to be interesting to track down the progress of both studios. What I also find interesting is if the both of them will be able to fulfill their new jobs and direct at the same time, so they might need to find another top-reputable director in their current lineup, which could lead to a massive change too.

I initially was not going to include this (since I started writing the article a few days ago, and the news was not out yet), but in other non-surprising news, Disneytoon studios is closing down.  From some of the articles I have read, they are closing it down mainly due to the DVD market shrinking down over the last few years, which I could believe. Their last several films (the later Tinkerbell movies, and the Planes movies) were all theatrical films instead of direct-to-dvd films. A spokesperson has stated that this move was in the works for a while now, even before Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter’s promotions were known, which I believe. When I ended my Disneytoon reviews about 2 years ago, I noted that they had no film in development outside of an untitled one in 2019, which was too odd with how secretive they are about it, and why there is such a large gap between film releases.

 

When Lasseter came into fold a decade ago, he stopped all of the Disney sequels, and forced them to make the Tinkerbell franchise, which was initially successful, but then decreased with their sales. After that ended, they tried to make a Planes franchise, but it never really went anywhere right from the very beginning. It was clear that the studio had no direction for the last few years now, and it really isn’t worth the hassle anymore. Ultimately, 75 staff members will be laid off, and it is unknown whether they will be transferred over to Pixar or WDAS. Despite most of their films not being very good, they have played an important part of a lot of our childhoods, and a few generations from the mid-90s to now. It was bound to happen, and I’m shocked it took them so long.

 

That was a lot of Disney news to cover, but it’s clear that a change is coming, which we need to follow and analyze very closely to determine key points for the direction of animation. Thanks for reading.

8 thoughts on “An end of an era at WDAS and Pixar

  1. I am torn about Jessica Lee. I mean, I am so happy about a female leading one of those studios. But, well, based on the projects she has been involved in, she might be the source of the newest trend to sh… all over the classic Disney movies and princesses in Disney’s own movies. And I HATE that trend.

    1. A part of that definitely has me skeptical too. These recent films have gotten way too formulaic with some of their storytelling elements, and the trends need to change.

    1. I’m actually quite shocked. For a few months, there was nothing going on in the animation world, and now it’s a bunch. Crazy how quickly things can change.

  2. Pixar will be fine, they have a very solid team that isn’t reliant on one person only. I don’t expect their original upcoming films to be all masterpieces, I’m sure they won’t be all bad either. They just need a hand in marketing from Disney.

    WDAS on the other hand is unpredictable. It’s jarring to see brilliant classics like Moana and Zootopia being followed by Wreck it Ralph 2, an unnecessary follow-up about celebrating 2010s culture, and the polemical Frozen 2. Not that they can’t be good but it’s like when we went from Tarzan to Emperor’s New Groove.

    DisneyToon’s closure was going to happen eventually but it’s kinda saf. They had enough talent to do TV series or even movies for the upoming streaming service.

    1. Pixar definitely does have more stability, and their team has been relatively solid for going on 3 decades now. It seems like people have finally come to accept that they aren’t perfect.

      Not looking forward to Wreck-it Ralph 2, which is sad, since it’s one of my favourite WDAS films. Their formula has to run out at some point.

      I completely forgot aobut the streaming service.

  3. I have been wondering about changing of eras as well (for WDAS, people don’t separate Pixar yet to eras quite the same way even though it does have one already with pre and post Disney ownership). I do not really remember the era change form Renaissance to whatever it is after it (Experimental Era is the nicest option). With the start of Revival it was not really spoken until Tangled and not certai until Frozen even though now Princess and Frog is seen as the start. But Disney itself seems to have put Bolt as the star in some material I have seen since it’s the first fully Lassater era film. So I wonder if this is start of the new era and if it is when will the audience notice it.

    And Jennifer Lee seems nice and has some good creative instincts but she might not have enough experience. And I don’t know if it’s her or Ava DuVernay that is at fault with Wrinkle in Time. Or Disney. She would not be at fault for the costumes at least but someone or multible people changed the message from Christian ones to generic girl power and the movie overall had issues.

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