Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, Pete Docter, shared his insights on how 2022 Lightyear made a mistake. Decades of work in the animation industry earned Docter numerous awards, including three Oscars in Best Animated Feature Films. These were for directing Up, Inside Out and Soul.
Apart from directing, he has also written and produced quite several features showcasing well-loved characters as stories. Titles such as Wall-E, Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Luca, even Brave and much much more attest to his dedication to creative work.
This year, the Los Angeles branch of the International Animated Film Association, ASIFA-Hollywood, will be presenting Docter with the Winsor McKay Award at this year’s Annies. His name will be among the ‘greats’ of the animation industry, and he couldn’t be more thrilled.
Talking about his career and how much he can do in guiding new animators in the industry, Docter zeroes in on finding joy in what he is currently doing. In his way, he finds his creative mind enjoying more of what is present.
Pixar Learns How They Did Lightyear Wrong
In a recent interview with The Wrap, Docter shared his thoughts on previous projects, including last year’s Lightyear starring Chris Evans and Keke Palmer. Angus MacLane directed the film featuring Buzz Lightyear’s story.
While it did reflect decent ratings from critics and general audiences, as it scored Certified Fresh 74% on the Tomatometer and 84% from verified audiences, its box office performance did not shoot into space. With only $219M in the worldwide box office from a $200M budget, it barely breaks even, and numbers are even sadder when marketing costs are taken into consideration.
From A-List actors to top-notch directors, the movie did not shine as brightly as they hoped for. Docter admits:
We’ve done a lot of soul-searching about that because we all love the movie. We love the characters and the premise. I think probably what we’ve ended on in terms of what went wrong is that we asked too much of the audience.
Coming from a franchise featuring toys that come to life while no one is looking, last year’s movie was too separate from what people associate the lead character to. Docter continues:
When they hear Buzz, they’re like, great, where’s Mr. Potato Head and Woody and Rex? And then we drop them into this science fiction film that they’re like, What Even if they’ve read the material in press, it was just a little too distant, both in concept, and I think in the way that characters were drawn, that they were portrayed.
The difference or disparity between the Buzz Lightyear in the movie, Lightyear to the one in the Toy Story franchise actually became the reason that the movie failed at the box office. This time, the audience’s familiarity with Buzz as the toy actually hurt the intention to bring his ‘real’ story to light. Docter says:
It was much more of a science fiction. And Angus, to his credit, took it very seriously and genuinely and wanted to represent those characters as real characters.
Nevertheless, his appreciation of the movie is still intact. Giving the director’s talent and skill credit, he knew that the film in itself was a good, animated science fiction feature. Thus, he concludes the mistake they made in positioning the movie at the time, saying:
…the characters in ‘Toy Story’ are much broader, and so I think there was a disconnect between what people wanted/expected and what we were giving to them.
Lightyear Mistake Pixar Made
There truly are instances when a product is wrongfully advertised or promoted that even though it is the best in its function, it still doesn’t sell well. Given this mistake that Pixar made for Lightyear, chances are they won’t make the same mistake for future projects.
People who have seen the movie have mixed to good reviews. Some say it is boring, but it is on the point that they are comparing it to the comedy of the Toy Story franchise. Indeed, the disappointment lies in the disparity of the movies.
Personally, I share the impression that they should have kept Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz and that the ‘origin’ movie should have featured ‘episodes’ of the action figure that Andy had from the beginning of the franchise. Hopefully, they will also look into this possibility down the road.
Do you agree with Pete Docter’s conclusion on where they made their mistake in the movie Lightyear? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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