Andrew Stanton Talks Wall-E

Wall-E

IGN has an interview with director Andrew Stanton about Pixar’s next feature Wall-E. The following comment from Stanton perfectly encapsulates what sets Pixar apart from almost every other major feature animation studio:

One of the keys to us is we’ve never thought about our audience, or never thought about who our audience might be. We honestly are just making the movies that we want to make, that if we didn’t show it to anybody else but ourselves we’d be fine…[I]t’s all artistic; there’s not a single sort of corporate kind of audience point of view looking at any of the stuff we do — at least within the walls of Pixar.

Incidentally, one can find similar sounding quotes from any number of Golden Age animation directors like Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Allowing a filmmaker to make the film that they want seems like the most obvious concept, the only requirement being that the filmmaker’s vision has to be trusted. Sadly, with the exception of Pixar, most contemporary animation studios don’t extend that type of trust to their directors.

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  • http://www.abelboddy.com C. Edwards

    I have a hard time believing that. Don’t get me wrong I think Pixar movies are the best, they hit their mark everytime, but they are so clearly family pictures. They are incredibly smart family pictures, but intended for children and their parents nonetheless.

  • E

    How silly. Pixar, like the best of disney, doesn’t make pictures “intended for children and their parents.”

    They make them for the GENERAL AUDIENCE. It’s a much harder thing to do. They make mature films for audiences of a wide age range with discerning taste, not silly fart movies or japanese cartoons that can’t communicate to an audience. Some are better than others, but none play only to “children and their parents.” I guess that’s why a majority of Pixar films theatrical audiences are adults between the ages of 20 and 48 (according to Variety).

  • Noah

    I would counter to say that they have just begun tackling more adult issues, thanks in part to the efforts Ratatuoille and The Incredibles. I would also say you don’t need corporate tinkering if your fine tuning you work to be viewed by women, children and men all at once. It’s the same thing to me. Would it hurt your pride or your revenous to try something specific and daring? Not involving animals perhaps ….

  • Benjamin De Schrijver

    FF Coppola in “Hearts of Darkness”, while battling some of the worst production difficulties you could ever imagine, talking about how he wanted Apocalypse Now to have everything an audience could ever want, while also having something to say, and the fear of being pretentious by adding that message.

    “One one hand you’re aspiring to really do something, and on the other hand you’re not allowed to be pretentious. And finally you say, fuck it, I don’t care if I’m pretentious or not pretentious or if I’ve done it or I haven’t done it, all I know is that I am going to see this movie and that for ME it has to have some answers…”

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    “Sadly, with the exception of Pixar, most contemporary animation studios don’t extend that type of trust to their directors.”

    I’m wondering if Jan Pinkava and Chris Sanders (Disney, but close enough) would agree?

  • red pill junkie

    I agree that the success in Pixar is they make a movie that appeals everyone regardless of their particular age.

    However, I wonder if the incredible success Pixar has enjoyed would allow them to make more risky projects. If they decided to make, say, a movie in which the bad guys win, or where the tone is darker and sadder, will the audience approve it, or will they say “Wait a minute, THIS is not a Pixar movie!”.

    Maybe Pixar should consider starting a division that deals with PG-15 projects, to bring to the theaters more complex stories. I’m sure Brad Bird could do a much better job telling the story of BEOWULF than Robert Zemeckis (you guys have seen the trailer yet?), and wihtout falling in the whole “uncanny valley” thing, but also without diminishing the impact and drama of what’s basically a heroic saga that deals with a lot of battles and death.

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

    ‘films intended for children and their parents’?
    surely that is everyone on the planet. i think it is true what he says… look at TV cartoons… all made by money men who will never even watch them.. there is such a difference that it is undeniable

  • George

    There isn’t a studio in corporate Hollywood lacking the ego allow its creatives free reign over their own material.

  • http://intracerswetrust.blogspot.com Dav-Odd

    The difference is clear (mick’s comment). But the claim is unbelievable. I assume the directors at Pixar are all adults, and adult imaginations cover a much broader and complex (not to mention darker) territory. Not thinking about the audience? Malarkey. But it’s a nice quote all the same, because it’s something to aim for…Something too few do.

  • http://www.abelboddy.com C. Edwards

    E: Isn’t a “general audience” still an audience? And if they were making movies for them (which I what you’re saying), wouldn’t that mean they are indeed making a film with an audience in mind?

    All I’m saying is, I have a hard time believing that PIXAR, who is the current creator of the best family films (yes, I said “family”, because let’s face it, that’s what “general audience” means) doesn’t think about their audience while making their great family films.

  • Dan Jeup

    In response to red pill junkie:

    “However, I wonder if the incredible success Pixar has enjoyed would allow them to make more risky projects.”

    More risky projects? Consider your question from a financial perspective. Have you checked the latest costs for producing, marketing and distributing an animated feature these days? Throw in the fact that Pixar must compete with either the latest big-budget summer or Christmas release plus an inferior animated feature or two. Granted, odds are Pixar will make a better picture and profit more than their rivals. Still, making a movie is like going to Vegas, they’re a huge gamble. I’d say the stakes are pretty high already. Besides, creatively speaking, Pixar has and DOES take more risks than anyone currently producing animated features.

    “If they decided to make, say, a movie in which the bad guys win, or where the tone is darker and sadder…”

    I can’t speak for Pixar, but I can say from having worked on a couple of their films, why would anyone, especially Pixar, want to make a darker, sadder movie in which the bad guys win? Why would that sort of content be better than what they’re producing now? Who is the audience for this sort of thing? Okay, perhaps, a small niche crowd that enjoys dark, cynical material. That’s a tiny group compared to the vast audience Pixar films reach. Besides, I believe making animated features for family audiences is a privilege, and believe Pixar feels the same way. Bringing humor and something positive to the world is a lot more fun and rewarding than the thought of adding another ‘dark and edgy’ downer into an already large pool of negative entertainment. Frankly, the dark, sad, anti-hero trend that seems to permeate films and comics these days is both baffling and bothersome to me. I just don’t get it.

  • red pill junkie

    “I can’t speak for Pixar, but I can say from having worked on a couple of their films, why would anyone, especially Pixar, want to make a darker, sadder movie in which the bad guys win?”

    I don’t know Dan. Perhaps to enter into new uncharted territory, to try something totally new TO THEM, which I believe is one of their main directives: not to repeat themselves.

    Yes, the niche for such films would be much smaller, that’s why I imagined the idea that from Pixar could grow a new branch of the studio dedicated to exploring some more experimental kinds of films. Just like Fantasia was for Disney Studios, which was one of the greates accomplishments, but at the time widely misunderstood and an economic bomb.

    But I agree with you, making animated features for family audiences is indeed a privilege, something many studios are not aware of. The success of Pixar comes that they actually RESPECT their audience.

  • http://doubleben.blogspot.com/ Emmett Goodman

    I find all the opinions here to be mixed. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think the point should be taken. Pixar makes films that the whole studio agrees on, just like the golden age animators did. The fact is that many animation studios wish to copy Pixar. So why not ask how they can copy them?

  • http://wardomatic.blogspot.com Ward

    Honestly, being a movie-going dad with two kids, it’s refreshing to see whatever Pixar puts out because I know that it’s going to be high quality entertainment. And I can trust them. There’s a dearth of good content for “general audiences” out there currently, anyway, so for me to know that these guys are going to make movies that I know that they love themselves, all the better.

    When I first saw Toy Story and saw the gag in the way they animated the toy soldiers walking, I knew that this was more sophisticated than your average “family film.” The jokes and gags had more substance to them — without all the self-referential wink-winks and nudge-nudges. Good, classic entertainment. It doesn’t have to be considered “family” but just something any audience will like.

    My two cents.

  • Dan Jeup

    To red pill junkie:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Pixar or anyone taking risks and doing something new. I just don’t agree that the risk should include content that aims to be “dark, sad” or to tell a story “in which the bad guys win.” I think that approach would be disasterous for them. Like it or not, Pixar represents something positive to their audience. There’s an expectation and a trust that has been built up over the years, that in my opinion would be damaged if they did something too dark or negative. It would be a betrayal to the audience they’ve worked so hard to build up.

    Should their films (or any good animated feature) have a range of emotional moments, including sadness or intensity? Sure. Should they push the bounderies of color, design, music, cinematography, caricature, comedy, drama and the worlds their characters inhabit. Absolutely. Fantasia, as you’ve mentioned, did this, and is a different arguement than your initial post. My point is that, whatever Pixar does in the future, should continue to create content that is ultimately positive, funny and uplifting.

    Don’t agree with me? That’s fine, I respect your opinion. But one doesn’t have to look that far in the past to see what became of Disney Feature Animation when they stopped making Disney films. By that I mean, when they eliminated heart, caricature, humor and fantasy in their approach. After their Broadway template grew tired, you’ll remember they ‘dared to be different’ by attempting to compete with live-action sci-fi and dark fantasy films (Atlantis and Treasure Planet). Disney animators (who I respect) wanted to emulate Frank Miller’s comics or the latest James Cameron epic. Unfortunately, this is when the audience turned away in droves. Doing something dark, sad or ‘different’ might sound good to you on paper, but it doesn’t play well at the box-office if you happen to be Disney or Pixar. It’s intrinsically not what either studio was built upon or represents. Nor is it what I believe the vast majority of their audience wants.

  • http://www.hobbit1978.deviantart.com Mr. James

    From the teaser trailer PIXAR released for this one, I’m just not psyched about seeing Wall-E. Ratatouille was a great film and I loved it! However, I hated CARS and really thought that it could have done with a good editing on all fronts; length, characters, plot. So, for me the last 2 films I’ve seen from PIXAR have been 50/50, good/bad. I’m withholding my opinion until I see more material.

    On the subject of gearing their films towards a mass audience I think they do a great job of diversifying the subject matter for the widest audience appeal. You’ve got your areas in each film that speak to everyone on some level. However, I’m like a lot of the folks on here, I’d like to see what they could do with a meatier subject. Or, tackle something with some scope! I have no idea what that could be but I’d love to see it. Maybe taking on a larger piece that’s not so modern. When was the last time we saw a truly great movie taken from old world myths and legends and done well? Hhhmmm, never?

  • Hippityhop

    Pixar always makes great movies they are artistically beautiful AND tell a great story… I think he is telling the truth that they don’t have to necessarily worry about the audience because they know they are making a quality product that anyone would enjoy.
    Wall-E looks like another beautifully crafter movie experience by Pixar and I can’t wait to see what they come out with this time.

  • greg manwaring

    Hear hear Big Dan! I agree with all that you say.

    Disney has yet to recover from those past few films. They have an uphill battle to rebuild the brand. Thank god Schumacher wasn’t allowed to put out that one project that he gleefully hoped “Would shake up middle America” – that would have been the nail in the coffin.

    That old regime knew NOTHING about what makes Disney Animation! Pixar – made up of Artists, have proven time and time again that the artists that live and breathe this medium/artform know best in all things pertaining to making an entertaining animated feature film. MBA’s should only be on board in a supporting role (I don’t say that in a mean way, but rather in a way that acknowledges their necessary contributions to the process).

  • Dan Jeup

    Thanks Big Greg.

    To be fair, and in defense of Tom, one can’t deny that he is an exceptional story editor. I personally have been in screening review meetings in which he was always (as was Steve Jobs) spot on in his criticisms and advice on how to improve the movie. Both Tom and Steve would see the films every several months or so and came in with keen objective eyes. They were incredibly good at nailing what the movie’s intended theme was, or what was missing from a particular character and could immediately zero in on how strengthen it.

    Still, I agree with you that Pixar’s success is due to the fact that they’re an artist and director driven studio.

  • red pill junkie

    I understand your arguments Dan, I respect them and find them truly interesting (that’s why I’m here for, to have meaningful discussions with intelligent people)

    However, I can’t help but feel that Pixar has, paradoxically, become trapped in their incredible success. Like Ward in a previous post mentioned, the audience expects something very definite from Pixar films; as you have mention it yourself: we expect a Pixar movie to be positive and uplifting.

    I’m ok with that. For the record my favorite Pixar movies is still “Finding Nemo”. I still cry every time I watch the end when Nemo hugs Marlin (and I’m not even a dad!). But I think cinema is a very big world where every taste and genre can be accomodated, and I think we all here agree animation can tell ANY type of story, no matter how “mature” or “dramatic” it is.

    I don’t know. I just feel that “Pixarized” would become as much a familiar adjective as “Dineyfied”, and that the studio would risk losing flexibility if they stick to the same genre they are so good at. That’s why guys like Tim Burton leave companies like Disney because in that enviroment they can´t express their own special aesthetics, you know what I mean?

    Wouldn’t it be cool to have a joint collaboration between a fellow like Tim Burton and a team like Pixar? I’m well aware Burton rejects CGI and has done wonderful stuff with puppets in seminal works like “The Nightmare before Christmas”. But still there may be a time when he stumbles upon a particular story that may benefit greatly from the expertise of a studio like Pixar. Oh well…

  • http://gagaman.blogspot.com The Gagaman

    I honestly can’t wait to see more of WALL-E. The idea of Pixar making a film in which the characters communicate in an almost pantomime fashion really intrigues me, and I can’t wait to see how well they pull it off, it’ll be a new direction for them and further prove that they are willing to take “risks” and create something that will really stand out from other cinema releases.

  • Dan Jeup

    Red pill, we agree that animation can do anything and tackle any genre. Does this mean that Pixar should venture into different material? I feel mixed about this, because although I think it would be interesting to see what they’d do, again I’m not sure their audience would embrace it. I suppose it depends on what the material is. However, my gut still tells me from a business stand-point it’s very risky. Again, Pixar, like the name Disney once did, represents a particular thing to a massive audience. Part of that ‘thing’ includes innovation. To me it’s more about continuing to have good ideas and telling them well and less to do with exploring a particular genre.

    As for your desire for a Burton/Pixar match-up. First, let’s set the record straight. Tim Burton DID get to express his vision at Disney by making VINCENT and FRANKENWEENIE. True he left partly because his work didn’t fit into what they were interested in at the time, but also because he was offered to do PEE-WEE’s BIG TOP. This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gotten his break at Disney to begin with. As for him ever teaming up with Pixar, certainly it’s an interesting notion, but a) it will never happen and b) I’m not convinced that his films, if he had full control over them, would be better than what Pixar is making now. I’m probably not as big a fan of Burton’s work as you are. I like the above mentioned films and like his design sensibilities, but his storytelling and cinematic abilities are no match to the Pixar story guys and directors. Plus, I would argue that Tim’s work has the very ‘sameness’ you argue against. This is not a knock against Burton, it certainly works for him and people obviously like it. It’s just that artists/directors tend to gravitate towards the things, styles, and themes that they connect with, therefore, Burton or Pixar or any other director for that matter (i.e- Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense) will naturally do the things they do best.

    If ever Pixar becomes as you say “Pixarized”, then they will likely have to allow new ideas and/or directors to enter into the mix. I presume they already have or will, by the mere fact that they have to generate product. This alone will make the films by their very nature ‘different’. The vision and storytelling is what matters, not the genre.

  • cooldude

    What a load…. There is no art to ripping off short circuit. I’m sure there was a lot of people who just had to tell the story of nascar with no idea that middle america loves it. The problem with pixar is they believe their own hype. They are boring, middle of the road, and cliche… You can guess the ending to all their films from the trailers alone….when compared to bad films they shine but that doesn’t mean they are good movies.

  • greg manwaring

    Well, Bigger Dan, he/they still had a knack for greenlighting projects and puttin gtheir thumbprints all over that should have never become Disney Animated films in the first place! ;)

    And don’t get me started for that groups disrespect for the creative talent – and their ruthlessness in that regard. I can’t stand abuse of power and bullies in general.

    There are so many people like yourself, Tim Hauser, Bill Kroyer, Eric Goldberg, Brad Bird, who have such a respect for the Disney legacy and brand, who could be brought in to alleviate the workload of John L. and help to guide the company back up. I hope Disney is back on track with this type of thinking – after all, as their lawyers (used) to point out during orientation – All revenue from Disney trickles down from the Animated Feature.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    japanese cartoons that can’t communicate to an audience.Yeah because in japan animators just work for their own amusement and noone ever watches the stuff, right? :-/

    E, insert “American” in there please, thanks. Otherwise you’re right.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    japanese cartoons that can’t communicate to an audience.

    Yeah because in japan animators just work for their own amusement and no one ever watches the stuff, right? :-/

    E, insert “mainstream American” in there between “an” and “audience” please, thanks. Otherwise you’re right.

  • red pill junkie

    “Does this mean that Pixar should venture into different material? ”
    “I’m not sure their audience would embrace it. I suppose it depends on what the material is. However, my gut still tells me from a business stand-point it’s very risky”

    I agree with you. But at the same time I feel it’s kind of a tragedy. As I stated earlier, once you get TOO big it gets more difficult to take risks. That’s why I find it paradoxical. Yeah I know they are an artis-driven studio, but I bet there were nights when John Lasseter had a hard time sleeping figuring if they could manage all the financial troubles some project might stumble with. They did of course, so one of the things that in my opinion sets Pixar apart from the rest is that they like “not playing it safe”. How “unsafe” are they willing to continue in future projects now that they are the biggest studio in Hollywood? that’s my question…

    “Plus, I would argue that Tim’s work has the very ’sameness’ you argue against. This is not a knock against Burton, it certainly works for him and people obviously like it. ”

    You certainly have a point there. That’s why when he tried to do something like Planet of the Apes… well, let’s not get into THAT shall we??? ;-)

    “If ever Pixar becomes as you say “Pixarizedâ€?, then they will likely have to allow new ideas and/or directors to enter into the mix. I presume they already have or will, by the mere fact that they have to generate product. ”

    Yep, having Brad Bird joining the wagon was certainly a step in that direction. I remember reading that in a WIRED article, when Bird said that in a first interview with Catmull and Lasseter they told him “the last thing we want to do is feel too comfortable with ourselves” (or something like that, my memory is not that great).

    And getting back to “Wall-E”, I do have to be mindful they are taking a MAJOR artistic risk to see if their audience will accept a movie that is almot stripped of dialogue, as this seems to be the case with this particular story. Will a 5-year-old be able to endure a 90 min movie that is almost stripped of any dialogue?? I can’t wait to find out.

  • Benjamin De Schrijver

    Considering Pixar’s developing a live-action film about the 1906 earthquake, I think it’s safe to say that they won’t stop trying new things anytime soon. Personally, I don’t think Pixar necessarilly should do (animated) films for a more limited audience. I wouldn’t mind it, but I’m not looking for it either, since they consistently turn out quality work (though I wasn’t a big Cars fan).

    What I do wish is that a new independent company would start doing it. Instead of wanting to be Pixar, I wish a company comparable to the Japanese Studio 4° would rise up, that creates different and more niche films on a lower budget. One of the main reasons I don’t see Pixar doing, say, an R-rated film, is because their budgets are so high. But a 90-150 million dollar budget is a luxury, not a necessity.

  • Dan Jeup

    Thanks for the plug Greg. That would be great. But obviously, it’s their decision to make.

  • Dan Jeup

    Redpill,

    “Will a 5 year-old be able to endure a 90 min movie that is almost stripped of any dialogue?”

    Of course. Andrew and his story artists and animators understand that animation is essentially a pantomime artform. Board artists constantly scruitinize their work so that the visuals read as if the sound were turned off. As long as the audience cares about the character and are invested in solving his dilemma (which is the hardest thing to do in any movie) then it won’t matter if WAL-E is a robot or a doorknob. If it’s done in a clever and funny way, kids will eat it up.

  • red pill junkie

    I remember reading that Chuck Jones once said: the way to separate between good animation and bad, is to strip the sound from them. If you can still understand the story despite the lack of sound, that is good animation (Meep! Meep!).

    Then again, have you checked how long the SAMMURAI JACK comment thread is?? ;-)

  • greg manwaring

    Yes Red Pill, all of the old masters of animation believed that you should be able to turn off the sound and still understand what’s going on. Animation acting from the old classics was more akin to stage acting, where an actor has to use more body language to sell an emotion for the audience in the cheap seats. I still believe in the caricaturing of motion and emotion, from the physical comedy of Mr. Smee to the more subdued comedic acting of Shere Khan when he interacts with Kaa.