Disney Pixar Exec Confirms Studio “Not Making Children’s Programming”

in Entertainment, Pixar

Anger screams while on fire in 'Inside Out'

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Disney Pixar has had a tough run in its latest string of movies.

Pixar, which is known for its beloved animated films, was initially founded in 1979 as the Graphics Group, a division of Lucasfilm. In 1986, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., purchased the studio and renamed it Pixar. The studio’s first feature-length film, Toy Story, was released in 1995 and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. In 2006, The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar, and it became known as Disney Pixar. Under this collaboration, Pixar continued to create original and beloved animated films, while Disney provided distribution and marketing support.

Pixar Place at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Credit: Disney

From there, Pixar continued to establish itself with many more popular films and franchises, including the Toy Story franchise, Finding Nemo (2003), Finding Dory (2016), The Incredibles (2004), The Incredibles 2 (2018), Monsters, Inc. (2001),  Monsters University (2013), Cars series, Ratatouille (2007), Wall-E (2008), Up (2009), Inside Out (2015), Coco (2017), and many others.

As of late, Pixar has fallen on tough times. The studio just saw several major layoffs after the latest budgeting failures coming from The Walt Disney Company. Pixar saw a string of three movies– Soul (2020), Luca (2021), and Turning Red (2022)– all released on the streaming platform Disney+, rather than going to theaters.

The animated studio premiered its first movie in theaters in over three years last summer when Lightyear premiered on June 17, 2022. The film, which was supposed to tell the story of the “real-life” Buzz Lightyear voiced by Chris Evans instead of Tim Allen,  had a massive budget and faced plenty of controversy. The result saw it absolutely bomb, bringing in a pedestrian $226.4 million compared to a budget of over $200 million. For reference, Univeral’s Illumination Studios released Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) a matter of weeks later, and the movie skyrocketed to the top, bringing in $935 million on a budget of less than $100 million. Lightyear Director Angus MacLane was let go earlier this year following the film’s failure.

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) in 'Lightyear'
Credit: Disney/Pixar

Now, as Pixar releases its new film Elemental, the movie is projected to hit an all-time low for an opening weekend in the studio’s history. These recent failures in animated content have propelled Disney to announce several sequels to established IPs, including Pixar’s Toy Story, which will see its fifth installment.

Recently, Creative Chief Officer Pete Docter sat down for an interview with Variety, where he elaborated on his thoughts on the studio “not making children’s programming.” Instead of looking at it from child’s perspective, Docter revealed that the studio “makes stuff we want to see ourselves.”

“We’ve always looked at what we do as we’re the first audience,” Docter said in the interview. “We make stuff we want to see ourselves. There’s a Chuck Jones quote that I love and he said, “We like to make films that are simple enough for adults, but sophisticated enough that kids will find them interesting too.” It’s just the switch on what you’d expect. We all have kids and we know that kids are going to watch them, but we want to find something at the heart of all these movies that speaks to us as human beings so there’s something there for the parents. We’ve had that approach from the very beginning.”

wade and ember in elemental in a hot air balloon
Credit: Pixar

In another question, Docter was asked if he ever felt that the characters were “too complicated” for audiences to understand.

“As we get into filmmaking, we think of it in layers,” he shared. “The first thing as we’re developing the story is probably the more adult aspect of the thing, trying to tap into something that appeals to our common experience as human beings: The loss of loved ones, becoming a parent, and the struggle between duty and love. Those are things that I think kids may or may not have gotten to that point yet, but the adults really resonate with that. With the layers, we go in, and we try to do physical and verbal comedy. We look at the visual puns and approach as many different venues as we can, so that there’s really something there for everybody. That’s the hope.”

One interesting point in the interview came at the very end when he was asked if we could see sequels to several other popular IPs, like The Incredibles, Cars, and Finding Nemo. Docter responded by saying, “it’s all fair game.”

“Our movies on the surface are about fish, cars and monsters, but just below that, they’re really about all of us, and the challenge of dealing with loss, becoming a parent, finding our place in the world,” he said.

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in Entertainment, Pixar

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