Teddy Newton is developing a feature film at Pixar. That last sentence should excite anyone who knows Newton’s work.
One could be forgiven though for being unfamiliar with his career because the amount of Newton’s work that has made it to the screen is a fraction of what he’s produced throughout the years. He is probably best known today for directing the hybrid drawn/CG Pixar short Day and Night.
But Newton, who has worked at Pixar for over a decade, has also done character design on the short Presto, designed the end credits of Ratatouille, and provided voices on films like Toy Story 3 and WALL·E. He once described his role at the company as being “like a spice that you don’t put too much in.” His most significant animation contribution has been to the Brad Bird feature The Incredibles (and prior to that, The Iron Giant) for which he provided conceptual ideas, character designs and storyboards.
Newton’s notoriety stems in part from his unreleased work (like his faux-animation documentary The Studio of Tomorrow), his unused gags (legend has it that at Disney he once pitched a story sequence with Pocahontas having her time of the month), and his personal work, which includes the feature film The Trouble with Lou:
and the short Boys Night Out:
On this new project, Teddy is working with screenwriter Derek Connolly, who wrote last year’s well received indie film Safety Not Guaranteed. With Newton at the director’s helm, there is every reason to anticipate an exciting and original film. But there is also an inherent risk in asking a highly individual artist to package their style and sensibility for the creativity-inhibiting world of big-studio feature animation.
While flipping through some old files, I found a 1996 issue of Variety with a spotlight on Pixar. The issue featured a congratulatory ad from Teddy Newton. It was made years before he started working at Pixar, at a time when he was involved in an indie outfit called O’Plenty Animation Studio. The ad features a drawing by Newton riffing on the only film that Pixar had made at that point, Toy Story. As I look at this drawing, all I can hope is that Newton finds a way to merge his creative instincts with the Pixar style in a manner that pleases everyone.
UPDATE: Brew reader M. R. Horhager points us to this DVD featurette about Teddy Newton’s work on The Iron Giant:
(Teddy Newton photo via fxguide)