After Pixar fired, John Lasseter returns with Apple and Luck

LOS ANGELES — This summer’s most Pixar movie isn’t from Pixar. It’s from Apple TV+ and the lightning rod director who turned Pixar into a superpower: John Lasseter.

Five years ago, Mr. Lasseter was led the accusations about his behavior in the workplace. Almost overnight, his many accomplishments—creating Pixar from scratch, creating the megawatt Toy Story and Cars franchises, resurrecting a dying Walt Disney animation, creating Frozen, winning an Oscar—became a footnote.

After employees complained about unwanted hugs near Mr. Lasseter, Disney investigated and found that some subordinates sometimes considered him a tyrant. He was forced to resign as Disney-Pixar animation chief, apologizing for “gaffeswhich made employees feel “disrespectful or uncomfortable”.

mr. Lasseter, 65, is now on the cusp of professional redemption. His first animated film since he left Disney-Pixar will hit Apple’s subscription streaming service on Friday. The $140 million film Luck is about a hapless young woman who discovers a secret world where magical creatures bring good luck (Department in the right place at the right time) and bad luck (a pet waste research and design lab dedicated to ” tracked he in the house”). Things go horribly wrong, leading to a comedic adventure involving a quirky dragon, rabbits in hazmat suits, millennial leprechauns, and a fat German unicorn in an overly tight tracksuit.

Apple, perhaps the only company that defends its brand more zealously than Disney, uses Mr. Lasseter as an important part of its “Luck” marketing campaign. An advertisement for a film directed by Peggy Holmes and Mr. Black. Produced by Lasseter, describing him as “the creative visionary behind toy stories and cars”.

Apple CEO Tim Cook shared a look at the film in March at the company’s latest presentation. product demonstration event. “Luck” is just the beginning of Apple’s bet on Mr. Lasseter and Skydance Media, the independent studio that – controversially – hired him in 2019 as an animation supervisor. (Skydance hired lawyers to scrutinize the allegations against Mr. Lasseter and privately concluded there was nothing egregious about them.) supply deal Apple TV+ with several animated films and at least one animated series by 2024.

Pariah? Not at Apple.

“It seems like a part of me has come home,” said Mr. Lasseter said in a phone interview, noting that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs helped build Pixar before selling it to Disney in 2006. “I love what Apple TV+ does. It’s about quality, not quantity. And their marketing is simply breathtaking. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in all the films I’ve done.”

mr. Lasseter’s return to making feature films comes at an awkward time for Disney-Pixar, who seem a little lost without him as they suffered a major misfire with the Toy Story prequel in June. “Light year”, about Buzz Lightyear before he became a toy, seemed to have forgotten what made this character so beloved. The film, which cost an estimated $300 million to make and sell worldwide, grossed around $220 million, which is even worse than it looks for Disney’s bottom line as theaters hold at least 40 percent of ticket sales. Lightyear is the second worst game in Pixar history, only surpassed by “awkward”, which was released in March 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

mr. Lasseter declined to comment on Light Year, which hits Disney+ on Wednesday. He also declined to discuss his departure from Disney.

Over 50 people subscribed to Mr. Lasseter in Skydance from Disney and Pixar, including Ms. Holmes (“The Secret of the Wings”), whom he hired to direct Good Luck. Good Luck is credited to Keel Murray, whose credits for writing Pixar and Disney include Cars andRaya and the last dragon“. mr. Lasseter and Mr. Holmes hired at least five other Disney-Pixar veterans to senior roles on the Lucky team, including animation director Yuriko Senu (Tangled) and production designer Fred Warter (A Bug’s Life) .

John Ratzenberger aka “Pixar”.good luck charm“because he’s voiced so many characters over the decades, appears in Luck as Ruthie, the unofficial mayor of Bad Luck Land.

Bottom line: With brilliant animation, attention to detail, plot twists and an emotional ending, Luck has all the hallmarks of a Pixar release. (Reviews due Wednesday.) Some people who have seen the film have noted similarities between Luck and the 2001 Pixar classic Monsters, Inc. Both films feature elaborate secret worlds that are accidentally destroyed by humans.

“I want to introduce viewers to a world that is so interesting, beautiful and smart that people like to be in it,” he said. Lasseter said. “You want viewers to want to book a week’s vacation at the location where the movie just took place.”

However, it remains true that Mr. Lasseter continues to be a controversial figure in Hollywood. Ashlyn Anstey, director of Cartoon Network, told The Hollywood Reporter Last week, she was angry that Skydance was “allowing a so-called creative genius to continue to fill positions and space in an industry that could start to fill up with other people.”

Emma Thompson has not changed her public stance on Mr. Lasseter has since turned down a role in Luck in 2019. Lasseter joined Skydance.

“It seems very strange to me that you and your company are considering hiring someone along with Mr. Wilson. The Lasseter Misconduct Model,” said Ms. Thompson wrote in a letter David Ellison, CEO of Skydance. (Her character, a human, no longer exists in the radically revised film.)

Mrs. Holmes, director of Good Luck, said she had no doubts about joining Mister. Lasseter in Skydance.

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

Holly Edwards, president of Skydance Animation, a division of Skydance Media, supported her. Holmes. “John was incredible,” she said. “I’m proud that we’re creating an environment where people know they have a voice and know they’re being heard.” Mrs. Previously, Edwards spent nearly two decades at DreamWorks Animation.

Some or Mr. Lasseter’s creative tactics have not changed. One is the willingness to drastically overhaul projects while they’re on the production line, including firing the director, which can cause resentment and backlash from fans. He believes that such decisions, while difficult, are sometimes critical to a quality outcome.

Credit…Michael Tran/FilmMagic

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

“As soon as I heard this concept, I even got a little jealous,” Lasseter said. “It’s a topic that every single person in the world has to deal with, and it’s very rare in the basic concept of the film.”

But in the end, he threw away almost everything and started over. The main cast now includes Jane Fonda, who voices the pink dragon who can smell bad luck, and Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the funny taskmaster leprechaun. Flula Borg (“Pitch Perfect 2”) provides the voice of a fat bipedal unicorn who is the main scene stealer.

“Sometimes you have to take a building down to its foundations and, frankly, in this case, down to its fate,” he said. Lasseter said.

mr. Lasseter did not invent the concept of conducting real-world research to create animated stories and illustrations, but he is known for going far beyond what is usually done. Regarding “Luck,” he asked researchers to study what constitutes good luck and bad luck in countless cultures; the film crew also explored the foster care system that became part of the story. (The protagonist grows up in a foster family and is repeatedly given up for adoption.)

Like Pixar and Disney, Mr. Lasseter established a “story trust” board at Skydance, in which a group of elite directors and writers candidly and repeatedly critique each other’s work. The Skydance Animation version will soon include Brad Bird, a longtime Pixar collaborator (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), who recently joined Mr. Bird. Lasseter’s operation to create an original animated film called “Ray Gunn”.

Mrs. Holmes said Mr. Lasseter was an educative creative force, not a tyrannical one.

“John will give you notes on the sequences,” she said. “He will offer a dialogue. He will comment on color, timing or effects. He will suggest ideas for stories. He’ll draw something: “Oh, maybe it will look like this.”

“And then you and your team have to complete those notes. Or not. Sometimes we would come back to John and say that the note didn’t work – and here’s why – or we decided we didn’t need to solve it.”

Mrs. Holmes added: “When the answer is no, it really suits him. He really ok with that“.