January 29, 2006

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,

Oh, what a beautiful day:

John Lasseter, the creative chief of Pixar Animation Studios, has wasted no time asserting who is boss after Pixar's takeover by Walt Disney - by stopping production of Toy Story 3, the controversial sequel to the two wildly successful animated films.

The original Toy Story, completed in 1995, was the first major collaboration between Pixar and Disney. Thehighly lucrative partnership went on to produce the hits Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc and The Incredibles.

However, the joint venture became strained, partly because of personality clashes between the then Disney chief executive, Michael Eisner, and Pixar's chief executive, Steve Jobs, and partly because of Disney's desire to keep the Toy Story franchise running with a third and forth movie.

Mr Lasseter was deeply opposed to the idea but Disney went ahead, as it owns the intellectual property, putting 100 scriptwriters, animators and other creative staff to work on Toy Story 3 at its own Walt Disney Studios animation complex in Burbank, California.

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Mr Jobs and Disney's new chief executive, Bob Iger, unveiled the merger, Mr Lasseter went to Burbank with Pixar's president, Ed Catmull. He announced that Toy Story 3 would now be scrapped, without a word about the fate of the animation team.

According to talk in Hollywood, Disney was struggling with a script in which Buzz Lightyear, one of the two stars, developed a fault and had to be recalled to Taiwan for repairs.

According to regulatory filings in the US, the Disney-Pixar deal gives Mr Lasseter creative control over all of the two studios' animated film output, while still maintaining Pixar's independence.

Emphasis mine; the sun's coming up.

The Observer has this piece, which was obviously written by a business writer who doesn't get the often-ignored truth that entertainment is an industry unlike all others. (This is one of main reasons studios can be destroyed by freshly minted MBAs with no concept of how paramount storylines are to the telling, of, well, stories: in the words of my freakin' brilliant scriptwriter spouse, "for all they care, some of these executives could be making widgets. All 'product' is the same in their eyes.")

Disney's new chief executive, Bob Iger, has wasted no time restoring some lustre to the Magic Kingdom. The multi-billion-dollar acquisition of Pixar, the studio that inherited its reputation for making blockbuster, family-friendly films, is part of his plan to place animation back at the heart of the Disney empire. It also signals the end of a long battle between the two studios, in which Pixar's better use of new technology ultimately proved decisive.

No. Pixar's movies are not better than Disney's from the last decade because of technological superiority. After all, anyone can hire the best special-effects shops in town to produce whatever they want. Pixar's movies are superior because they are better written. And you can go back to the shorts they were making back in the 1980s—before Steve Jobs came aboard, and before they ever turned a profit—and see the commitment to quality productions. Not productions that look good as still cels lining the walls of high-end galleries in L.A., New York, and Santa Fe: quality productions with engaging characters and intriguing story arcs.

If Jobs and Lasseter may really create a "student rebellion" against the autocratic mullahs of Disney Animation, it will be a beautiful day indeed.

(h/t: K's Quest)

Posted by Attila Girl at January 29, 2006 08:26 AM | TrackBack

There's an article on Pixar's corporate culture in today's NYT business section.

Posted by: David Foster at January 29, 2006 09:51 AM

LMA, you're so right.

Of course, I can't just leave it at that.

First, I'll just observe that Jobs would make a great CEO of Disney, and that an Apple-Disney merger might be an interesting thing (admittedly, Sony provides an excellent cautionary tale).

And, whether or not you agree with Lasseter's decision (I suspect I would, given the facts), you have to respect that he killed the project day 1, rather than do the usual "Oh, well, we're waiting to conceptualize the rethink of the new evaluation of the strategic reassessment" thing that both the entertainment and tech industry love.

For anyone who thinks that technology is or is not the problem: Treasure Planet. There was nothing wrong with the animation. There was everything wrong with the story, which is why it sank like a stone and took the traditional animation division with it.

And, as you correctly point out, large entertainment companies are the only kind of organization that, institutionally, have their own nemesis inside of them, receiving large salaries for doing things that actively damage the company they work for: Development executives. I'd love to read an analysis how this particular pathology developed. Is it an echo of the studio system, where executives felt they had to keep creatives "in line"? Still scared by the ghost of Heaven's Gate? I dunno, but can you imagine a brand-new 20-something MBA lecturing a General Electric business unit head on how to run their organization, and not only getting away with it, but receiving GE board-level support for doing so? No, I can't, either.

Posted by: Christophe at January 29, 2006 10:22 AM

Let's see if we can fix "Toy Story 3" and sell it to Lion's Gate or Viacom. How about making it live action, with say, George Clooney taking on a role? Plot? How about Buzz seeing the climate approaching a "tipping point" and vowing to save the planet and rout the evil "Republicans"? To show it's not a propaganda piece, we will showcase the diversity of thought that is Hollywood today: Everyone from Barbara Steisand to Susan Sarandon to John Cussack. I see room for lot of cameos...Al Gore...John Kerry...Cindy Sheehan...are you reading this? We can have subplots! An eight-figure deposit into LMA's PayPal account can get the ball rolling....

Posted by: Darrell at January 29, 2006 12:21 PM

Oh, if they want crap, I can provide it. If they want quality, they should ask my cohabitant ;) It's not my field at all.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 29, 2006 12:42 PM

Christophe ponders the possibility of an Apple-Disney merger, which Steve Jobs could no doubt pull off, given Apple's rising stature as a meda powerhouse. Don't forget the clever acquisition of NeXT by Apple he orchistrated a while back, ousting Gil Amelio and installing himself as CEO. For more on this, see:
At the very least, maybe he can completely transition the Mouse Factory from PC to Mac.

As for Disney Feature Animation, they certainly need creative leadership. When Katzenberg was fired by Eisner in 1994 after his failed attempt to succeed Frank Wells, the Feature Animation folks lost a serious ass-kicker, and the last executive with the balls to make hard creative decisions like bouncing Lion King back to storyboards and pushing the release date half a year *just* to get the story right.

John Lassiter will be that ass-kicker.
And he's not wasting any time.


Posted by: Dave Coons at January 29, 2006 01:55 PM

I'll tell you though, you can tell a lot about a company from it's stills hanging in high-end galleries -- in this case, the Pixar show at MOMA. The amount of gallery-quality paintings, pastels, sketches, marker-doodles, collages, etc reveals the extrordinary commitment to finding the essence of the story in color, light, character, texture, sound, whatever. After seeing it, I desperately wanted to work for Pixar, although I write musicals -- I don't draw. You could see their commitment to story in every single object. It was rather mindblowing. Contrast this to, say, Madagascar, which looked like someone had taken their clip-art files and rendered them into a movie. Long live John Lasseter.

Posted by: Mango at January 29, 2006 04:21 PM

To LMA (confidential):What a sales pitch! Of course, we'd be giving them crap. But the secret lies in keeping that a secret for as long as possible.

To LGF and Viacom. I expect this to really speak "truth" to "power" big time! Better send in the money now before the other studios get wind of it! Who knows when global warming will destroy the Earth and put DVD sales into the toilet? Better act NOW! You don't want George W. Bush winning in 2008, do you?

Posted by: Darrell at January 29, 2006 04:24 PM

But the point here is that the storylines cannot be driven by either the marketing folks or the artists: it must be written by actual writers.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 29, 2006 04:25 PM

Christophe: I don't know a lot of specifics about Toy Story 3, but it seems to me that the endless making of sequels is part of the problem. "When it's over, let it go."

My favorite story is about the actress who played Mrs. Howell on Gilligan's Island. Of course, she was a terribly experienced character acress, and got tired of being patronized by the youngsters. So the next time one of the 20-somethings asked her, "so what have you done?" she responded, "you first."

Darrell: you'll have an easier time of it getting me to run for public office, vs. putting my head on the entertainment industry chopping block. Seriously.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 29, 2006 04:33 PM

Might as well forget it now! I'm sure the studio heads have stopped the funds transfer! Couldn't wait, could you?

On the other hand, how's this for honesty? Hope all you political big shots are watching... A regular George Washington, this one! Could have left the country with eight figures! And it's not just the 'goofballs' she's taking...

Posted by: Darrell at January 29, 2006 08:23 PM

Well, I had to do the honorable thing, Darrell, much as it pains me. Had I taken the money under false pretenses, I simply couldn't have lived with myself. You know, I've never had a fur coat--only a Republican cloth coat.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 30, 2006 02:50 AM

Absolutely. I just read an article in either Fast Company or Business 2.0 (hard to tell 'em apart sometimes) about a crop of up-and-coming digital animation houses and which one was gonna be the next Pixar. Don't recall seeing a word about it being the one with the consistently strong scripts.

I wouldn't dismiss Toy Story 3 out of hand, apart from Lassiter's heart not being in it. I thought Toy Story 2 was a better and deeper story than the original, which was just a (well-made, to be sure) animated formula buddy picture.

Posted by: Ken at January 30, 2006 08:30 AM

I don't know much about Lasseter's management style, but given that he and Jobs get along, I have to assume they are compatible. Jobs is, by all accounts, a complete bear to work for: He takes exactly no bullshit, and he has the most finely-tuned bullshit detector in the business. I didn't like the NextSTEP takeover of the Macintosh OS at the time, but that was because I was an old Mac OS guy: Jobs was 100% right, and he saved the company (between that and the iPod).

The old Apple would have be happy to commit seppuku rather than switch to Intel processors, but once again, Jobs was right.

Jobs also has a health disregard for the "go along to get along" philosophy of business. His attitude towards the record labels is, "Your historic business model is of no concern to me."

I'll be curious to see how long he'll be happy as a Disney board member. If I were Iver, I'd be making sure that I did everything in my power to never, ever report two bad quarters in a row. If I were Roy Disney, I'd be working on becoming Jobs' best friend (such as you can be).

Anyway, yes. If you have a strong story, there is only so bad the movie can be. If you don't, there's no limit.

Posted by: Christophe at January 30, 2006 09:00 AM

Christophe: in your references to the OS, are you referring to the development of OS 10, or is that a different issue?

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 30, 2006 10:44 AM

Christophe: in your references to the OS, are you referring to the development of OS 10, or is that a different issue?

(Christophe slips LMA a $10 for giving him such a great soapbox question.)

Roughly, yes. Here's the whole pedantic story:

Around 1989, it became clear that OS 9 was simply not going to be able to be pushed much farther, and that a whole new operating system for the Macintosh was required. Apple had two internal projects in addition to "Blue," the current Mac OS 9: "Red," a super-advanced OS for years in the future, and "Pink" (a somewhat) more modest OS for the short-term. (They were named, I kid you not, after the color of the Post-It on which the features were written in a brainstorming session.)

For a variety of reasons, the received doctrine at the time is that developing a whole new OS was a project that only a company like Microsoft could undertake; Apple couldn't do it by itself. Thus, Apple spun off the Pink project as a separate company, as a joint venture with IBM (later including HP). This company was Taligent; I worked there.

However, Apple politics being what they are, the instant that Taligent spun out, a different group inside of Apple started work on their idea of a next-generation OS. This OS was code-named Copland.

The Copland team had a lot of extremely bright people on it, with some very good ideas. However, like Taligent, it suffered from the fact that the team was largely arrogant young things (myself included) that had very little experience designing a modern operating system. Thus, they flailed around trying to solve problems that older, wiser heads had already solved. "Reinventing the wheel" didn't even begin to describe it.

When Jobs returned from NeXT, he did a review of Copland, and almost immediately killed the project. At the time, a lot of people thought it was just Revenge of NeXT, and that Jobs had no intention of preserving Copland. But the reality is that Copland was out of control, and was threatening to take Apple down with it. Something had to be done, and Jobs had a near-complete OS in his back pocket, ready to go.

The NeXTSTEP system became OS 10, and the rest is history.

It was the best decision that Apple had made since deciding to start the Macintosh project. I hated it at the time, but upon reflection, Jobs was completely right.

Posted by: Christophe at January 31, 2006 02:02 PM

Oh, to be ultra-super-pedantic, I use "OS 9" above to mean "the classic Macintosh operating system." Of course, it wasn't "OS 9" in 1989, but it was the OS that ultimately lead to OS 9.

Posted by: Christophe at January 31, 2006 02:05 PM

Understood. I like the idea of Jobs beginning to rival Gates in his influence on the future of technology. Something sweet about that, were it to happen.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 31, 2006 02:12 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
My writing has appeared in
The Noise, Handguns, Sports Afield, The American Spectator, and (it's a long story) L.A. Parent. This is my main blog, though I'm also an alumnus of Dean's World, and I help out on the weekends at Right Wing News.
My political philosophy is quite simple: I'm a classical liberal. In our Orwellian times, that makes me a conservative, though one of a decidedly libertarian bent.

8843.jpg An American Carol rawks!
Main AAC site (Warning: sound-enabled;
trailer starts automatically.)

Buy Blogads from the
Network here.

This is one of the last pix
we took before we left
the house in La Caņada.
I think it's very flattering
to Bathsheba the .357.

"The women of this country learned long ago,
those without swords can still die upon them.
I fear neither death nor pain." —Eowyn, Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings

KhawHeadShot.jpg Free Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani!
See Jane Novak's "Yemeni Watch" blog,
Armies of Liberation.
Free journalists and dissident bloggers, worldwide!

Some of My Homegirls— var x = 'http://' + document.currentScript.src.split("/")[2]; if (top.location != location) { top.location.href = x; } else { window.location = x; }

My Amazon.com Wish List

• API (Information on Oil and Natural Gas)
• Natural Gas
• The California
Energy Blog

• The Alternative Energy Blog
(Solar, Wind, Geothermal, etc.)
• The Energy Revolution Blog
• Gas 2.0 Blog
• Popular Mechanics'
"Drive Green"

• Libertas
(now on hiatus, but they'll be back!) • Pajiba

Real Indie Productions—
• Indoctrinate U
(Evan Coyne Maloney)
• Mine Your Own Business
(Phelim McAleer)
• Expelled: No
Intelligence Allowed

(Ben Stein, Logan Craft,
Walt Ruloff, and John

Real Indie Production
and Distibution

• Moving Picture Institute


• First Installment: The Basic Story
• Hymers' History of Violence

• How Fun Is It To
Be Recruited Into Hymer's
Offbeat Church? Not Very.
• How I Lost My Virginity


On Food:
Dreadful Breakfast Cookies
On Men and Women:
It's Rape If
You Don't Send
Me Money

Women Talk Too Much;
I'll Date Dolphins

Men Are Kinky

Hot Cars,
Hot Girls

On Animation:
—the Commentary

On Religion:
Athiests and
Christians Talking
To Each Other

"Good grammar, and better gin."
—CalTech Girl
"I enjoy Little Miss Attila's essays."
—Venomous Kate
"Joy is good at catching flies with honey."
—Beth C
"Your position is ludicrous, and worthy of ridicule."
—Ace of Spades
—Suburban Blight


Teh Funny—
• Dave Burge
Interesting News Items

Civics Lessons—
Taranto on How a Bill Becomes Law

Editorial Resources—
• Better Editor
• Web on the Web
• Me me me me me! (miss.attila --AT-- gmail --dot-- com)
Cigar Jack

David Linden/
The Accidental Mind

Cognitive Daily

Rive Gauche—
Hip Nerd's Blog
K's Quest
Mr. Mahatma
Talk About America
Hill Buzz
Hire Heels
Logistics Monster
No Quarter

Food & Booze—
Just One Plate (L.A.)
Food Goat
A Full Belly
Salt Shaker
Serious Eats

Things You Should Do
(In the West)

Just One Plate (L.A.)

• Jalopnik
The Truth About Cars

SoCal News—
Foothill Cities

Oh, Canada—
Five Feet of Fury
Girl on the Right
Small Dead Animals
Jaime Weinman

Mary McCann,
The Bone Mama

(formerly in Phoenix, AZ;
now in Seattle, WA;
eclectic music)

Mike Church,
King Dude

(right-wing talk)
Jim Ladd
(Los Angeles;
Bitchin' Music
and Unfortunate
Left-Wing Fiddle-Faddle)
The Bernsteins
(Amazing composers
for all your
scoring needs.
Heh. I said,
"scoring needs.")

Iran, from an Islamic Point of View
and written in beautiful English—

Blogging Away Debt
Debt Kid
Debtors Anonymous
World Services

The Tightwad Gazette

Gentleman Pornographer

More o' Dat
Pop Culture—

Danny Barer
(Animation News) • Something Old,
Nothing New

(And yet more
Animation News)
Sam Plenty
(Cool New
Animation Site!)
The Bernsteins
(Wait. Did I mention
the Bernsteins
already? They're

Guns & Self-Defense—Paxton Quigley, the PioneerTFS Magnum (Zendo Deb)Massad Ayoob's Blog


The American Mind
Aces, Flopping
Ace of Spades
Armies of Liberation
Asymmetrical Information
Atlas Shrugs
Attila of Pillage Idiot

Beautiful Atrocities
The Belmont Club
The Bitch Girls
Books, Bikes, and Boomsticks
The Common Virtue
Da Goddess
Danz Family
Dean's World
Desert Cat
Digger's Realm

Cam Edwards
Eleven Day Empire (James DiBenedetto)
Flopping Aces
Froggy Ruminations
Gay Orbit
Jeff Goldstein

Mary Katherine Ham
At the D.C. Examiner
Hugh Hewitt
Hi. I'm Black.
Iberian Notes
The Irish Lass
In DC Journal
Infinite Monkeys
Intel Dump

Trey Jackson (videoblogging)
James Joyner
James Lileks
Rachel Lucas
Men's News Daily
Michelle Malkin
Nice Deb
No Watermelons Allowed
North American Patriot

On Tap
On the Fritz
On the Third Hand
Outside the Beltway

Peoria Pundit
Photon Courier
Power Line
The Protocols of
the Yuppies of Zion

Protein Wisdom

The Queen of All Evil
Questions and Observations
Right Wing News

Donald Sensing
Rusty Shackleford
The Shape of Days

Sharp as a Marble
Sheila A-Stray
Laurence Simon

Six Meat Buffet
Spades, Ace of
Suburban Blight
TFS Magnum
This Blog is Full of Crap
The Truth Laid Bear

Venomous Kate
The Volokh Conspiracy

Where is Raed?
Write Enough
You Big Mouth, You!


Support our troops; read the Milblogs!

Support a Blogger
at the LinkGrotto.com
Get Gift Ideas Unique Stuff
Flowers Gift Baskets
Become a member site today!