Trouble may be brewing at Pixar Animation Studios. It has now been confirmed that the famed studio has removed director Bob Peterson from their next feature, The Good Dinosaur. There were hints, perhaps, of Peterson’s departure from the film when the director didn’t attend the recent D23, the Disney fan conference in Anaheim earlier this month, where early footage of the film was presented.
This isn’t the first time that a director has been replaced mid-production on a Pixar project. Brad Bird stepped in for Jan Pinkava on the 2007 film Ratatouille, John Lasseter replaced Brad Lewis for 2011’s Cars 2, and most contentiously was when original director Brenda Chapman was booted and replaced by Mark Andrews on last years Brave. All three films eventually went on to become blockbusters and in the case of Ratatouille and Brave, critical acclaim and Academy Awards followed.
Pixar’s president Ed Catmull commented, “All directors get really deep in their films. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to get the idea out. Sometimes directors… are so deeply embedded in their ideas it actually takes someone else to finish it up. I would go so far as to argue that a lot of live-action films would be better off with that same process.” Replacing directors in an animated feature is indeed more commonplace. For instance Sony’s 2012 hit Hotel Translyvania burned off six directors until settling with Genny Tartakovsky throughout its production. However it is a bit rare for a film of any variety to make such a swift decision only nine months before it’s scheduled release date.
Peterson directed the Oscar-winning and thunderously applauded Up and provided the voice for the cuddly Dug (“Squirrel!”), and while Pixar insists there’s no acrimony in this decision – executive vice president Jim Morris told the Los Angeles Times, “Bob is still working at the studio, and we hope he will stay here for the rest of his natural life,” but this is the latest blip in what many have noted is a downward trajectory in the once stalwart studio. The critical receptions of their recent films Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University have all fallen below the once gold standard norm. The recent penchant for sequels and further branding of their films hasn’t quite sat well either with many devout fans, especially with Finding Dory, a sequel to Finding Nemo already a go.
The Good Dinosaur tells the story of a 70 foot dinosaur named Arlo who befriends a young human boy in an imagined world where dinosaurs never went extinct. Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, Bill Hader, Frances McDormand, Lucas Neff and stand-by John Ratzenberger lend their voices to the feature. The film is still, at the moment, set to be released May 30, 2o14.