Within the last two weeks I saw Disney’s Bolt and rewatched Pixar’s Wallâ€¢E (as well as moderating a Q&A with writer/director Andrew Stanton). Talking to Stanton about his innovative new film, I was reminded that Pixar’s next release is Pete Docter and Bob Peterson’s offbeat Up and Stanton’s next project is an adaptation of Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars. Two completely different films, pushing Pixar (and animation by extension) in new directions, following several prior envelope-pushing efforts from Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, etc.).
Meanwhile Bolt, the first effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios (the new name of the Feature Animation group), is a good solid commercial production. It plays it safe and gives audiences what it expects from a film labeled with the Disney brand.
I had wondered how John Lasseter, running parallel studios, might differentiate the material Pixar would tackle versus the projects to be released under the WDAS banner. Originally I had hoped that John would return Disney to being a hand drawn animation studio, empowered (as Pixar is) to challenge the preconceptions of what hand-drawn character animation can be. However, the choice of The Princess and The Frog seems (to this outsider) a throw-back to what Disney once was, designed to placate the demand for further Disney Princesses’â„¢, and not the progressive direction I was hoping for.