Legendary Pixar Director Admits Audiences Don’t Like New Films

in Disney, Pixar

Carl from the Pixar movie Up

Credit: Pixar

Pete Docter, the legendary director and artist behind some of the greatest animated movies of all time, is well aware that audiences don’t like Pixar as much as they used to.

From L-R: Jessie, Woody, Bullseye, and Buzz in 'Toy Story 2'
Credit: Disney/Pixar

While Pete Docter might not be a household name as a director like Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino, he is basically behind all of your favorite animated films. Along with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Joe Ranft, Docter came up with the story for the original Toy Story (1995) and supervised animation on Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and all the rest.

He has remained associated with the Toy Story franchise since, up to and including the most recent Toy Story 4 (2019) and the spinoff Lightyear (2022). Between the first movie and now, he also directed Monsters, Inc. (2001), Up (2009), Inside Out (2015), and Soul (2020), and has won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature three times, the only person to ever do so.

Sulley in Monsters, Inc.
Credit: Disney / Pixar

In short, Pete Docter is one of the primary architects of modern animation and, currently, the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios.

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So, when he gives an interview to the New York Times and subtly reveals that he is aware that a new Pixar film is not the cultural event that it once was, it really says something.

In the feature, Pete Docter said, “I always felt that [the recent Pixar film] Elemental would speak to a lot of people, and I’m so happy it has… But we have also taken another look at the projects we’re working on now. What are the kinds of films we want to be making? I really think I want to double down on what allowed us to speak to audiences to begin with.”

Wade and Ember ride the subway in 'Elemental'
Credit: Pixar

While the Peter Sohn film Elemental managed to turn its financial fortunes around, it appears the initially low box office performance of the film managed to spook Disney Pixar executives enough to make them think they had to return to their roots.

Elemental premiered in theaters in June with the lowest opening box office grosses of any Pixar movie ever and was swiftly pegged as a flop and a sign of the studio’s diminishing cultural cachet.

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Unusually, however, Elemental stuck it out in theaters and eventually ended up grossing nearly $500 million at the box office, pushing it into the top ten highest earners of the year so far. When the film landed on the Disney+ streaming service in September, it broke records and immediately out-performed the heavily promoted live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Live-action 'Little Mermaid' shot
Credit: Disney

Despite that, if Pete Docter’s words are any indication, Pixar is unnerved by its diminishing public profile and will likely be retreating into the ideas and stories that made it an animation powerhouse to begin with. We better get ready for some more Toy Story and Cars sequels.

Do you agree with Peter Docter that Pixar needs to look to the past to succeed in the future? Give us your opinions in the comments below!

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