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After Pixar Ouster, John Lasseter Returns With Apple and ‘Luck’

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LOS ANGELES — This summer’s best Pixar movie wasn’t Pixar. That’s from Apple TV+ and John Lasseter, the lightning rod filmmaker who turned Pixar into a superpower.

Five years ago, Mr. Lasseter was overthrown by allegations about his conduct at work. He built Pixar from the ground up, crafted the megawatt “Toy Story” and “Cars” franchises, resurrected the dying Walt Disney Animation, delivered “Frozen,” and his Academy Award-winning Many achievements became footnotes almost overnight.

After an employee complains unwanted hug According to Lasseter, Disney investigated and found that some of his subordinates occasionally perceived him as a tyrant. He apologized for “mistakes” that forced him to step down as Disney Pixar’s head of animation and made staff members feel “disrespectful or offensive.”

Mr. Lasseter, 65, is now on the brink of professional redemption. His first animated feature since leaving Disney Pixar arrives on Apple’s subscription streaming service on Friday. It follows a young woman as she discovers a secret world where magical creatures bring good luck (Department of Right Place, Right Time) and bad luck (a design lab specializing in pet waste research and “tracking”). . in the house”). Things go horribly wrong, resulting in the comedy His Adventures featuring rare dragons, bunnies in hazmat suits, millennial leprechauns, and overweight German unicorns in too-tight tracksuits.

Apple, perhaps the only company to protect its brand more diligently than Disney, has used Lasseter as a key part of its “luck” marketing campaign. Directed by Peggy Holmes and produced by Mr. Lasseter, the film’s advertisement comes from “Toy’s story and the creative vision behind Cars.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the film in a company update back in March. Product introduction event“Fortune” is just the beginning of Apple’s bet on Lasseter and independent studio Skydance Media. Skydance Media hired Mr. Lasseter as his chief of animation in 2019. (Skydance hired a lawyer to review the allegations against Mr. Lasseter and privately concluded that nothing was malicious.) trading to supply Apple TV+ to deliver multiple animated movies and at least one animated series by 2024.

Untouchable? not apple.

In a phone interview, Lasseter noted that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs helped build Pixar before selling it to Disney in 2006, saying, “A part of me is going home. I feel like I’ve come,” he said. I’m doing It’s quality, not quantity. And their marketing is just spectacular. It’s the best of all movies ever made. ”

Lasseter’s return to feature filmmaking seems a little lost without him for Disney Pixar, which misfired with its “Toy Story” prequel in June. ‘Lightyear’, which depicts Buzz Lightyear, seems to have forgotten why this character was so beloved. The film cost an estimated $300 million to produce and sell worldwide, but grossed about $220 million. This is even worse than considering Disney’s bottom line. “Lightyear” is his second worst-performing title in Pixar history, just ahead of his March 2020 release “Onward,” when the coronavirus pandemic began. increase.

Lasseter declined to comment on “Lightyear” coming to Disney+ on Wednesday. He also declined to speak about his departure from Disney.

More than 50 people followed Mr. Lasseter from Disney and Pixar to Skydance. Among them is Mr. Holmes (“Secret of the Wings”), whom he hired to direct “Luck.” The script for ‘Luck’ is credited to Kiel Murray, who wrote ‘Cars’ and ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ for Pixar and Disney. Mr. Lasseter and Mr. Holmes have added at least five more of him for work on the senior crew of “Luck”, including animation director Yuriko Senoo (“Tangled”) and production designer Fred Watter (“A Bug’s Life”). of Disney/Pixar veterans.

John Ratzenberger, known as the “master” of Pixar.charmHe has voiced so many characters over the decades that he appears in “Luck” as Ruthie, the unofficial mayor of a country of bad luck.

Bottom line: “Luck” has all the hallmarks of a Pixar release: glittery animation, attention to detail, a twisted story, and a touching ending. (Reviews arrive on Wednesday.) Some who have seen the film have commented on the similarities between “Luck” and his 2001 Pixar classic “Monsters, Inc.” Both films deal with elaborate secret worlds accidentally destroyed by humans.

“I want to take the audience into a very interesting, beautiful and clever world,” Lasseter said. “He wants audiences to book a week-long vacation to where the movie was just shot.”

But it’s true that Mr. Lasseter continues to be a polarizing figure in Hollywood. Cartoon Network Director Ashlyn Anstey told The Hollywood Reporter Last week, she was frustrated that Skydance “allows so-called creative geniuses to continue to occupy positions and spaces in an industry that can start to fill with different people.”

Emma Thompson hasn’t changed her public stance on Mr. Lasseter since she turned down the role in ‘Luck’ in 2019. She was cast by the film’s first director, and she resigned when Mr. Lasseter joined Skydance.

“It feels very strange to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with a pattern of cheating like Mr. Lasseter,” Thompson said. wrote in a letter To Skydance CEO David Ellison. (Her character, a human, no longer exists in the radically remade film.)

Holmes, director of “Luck,” said he had no reservations about joining Mr. Lasseter at Skydance.

“It was a very positive experience and John was a great mentor,” she said.

Holly Edwards, president of Skydance Animation, a division of Skydance Media, also agreed with Holmes. “John was great,” she said. “We pride ourselves on creating an environment where people have their own opinions and know their opinions are being heard,” Edwards previously said of DreamWorks Animation. He has been working there for nearly 20 years.

Some of Lasseter’s creative tactics haven’t changed. One is the willingness to overhaul the project while it’s on the assembly line. This includes dismissal of directors. He believes that such decisions, while difficult, are sometimes critical to quality results.

credit…Michael Tran/FilmMagic

“Luck”, for example, was already ready when Mr. Lasseter arrived at Skydance. Alessandro Carloni (“Kung Fu Panda 3”) is hired to direct the film, which follows a battle between human agents of good and bad luck.

“As soon as I heard the concept, I was actually kind of jealous,” Lasseter said. “It’s a subject that everyone in the world can relate to, and that’s very rare in a film’s basic concept.”

However, he eventually threw almost everything away and started over. The main cast includes Jane Fonda, who voices a pink dragon who can sniff out bad luck, and Whoopi Goldberg, who plays Taskmaster, a drool leprechaun. Flula Borg (“Pitch Perfect 2”) ) voices the overweight, bipedal unicorn, who is the primary scene stealer.

“Sometimes you have to demolish a building from the foundation, frankly, in this case even the site,” Lasseter said.

Lasseter did not invent the concept of conducting real-world research to inform animated stories and artwork, but he is known for pushing it far beyond what is normally done. It is “Luck” invites researchers to delve into the components of good and bad luck in countless cultures. The filmmaking team also researched the foster care system and told part of the story. (The main characters are raised in foster care and are adopted repeatedly.)

Much like Pixar and Disney, Mr. Lasseter has set up a “Story Trust” council at Skydance, where an elite group of directors and writers candidly and repeatedly critique each other’s work. , Brad Bird from the long-running Pixar films (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) is coming soon. Brad Bird recently joined Mr. Lasseter’s project to develop an original animated film called “Ray Gun”.

Mr Holmes said Mr Lasseter is a creative force, not a tyrannical one.

“John gives me notes on the sequence,” she said. “He suggests dialogue. He comments on color, timing, or effects. He suggests story ideas. I can’t.”

“And it’s up to you and your team to act on those notes.

Holmes added: He really ok with that

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