Pixar is a studio which is primarily known for two things: its beautiful artwork, and its quality storytelling. The Pixar logo is a seal of quality which fans know they can trust to deliver a solid, enjoyable animated adventure.
Along the way to developing this image, however, Pixar has had to be very careful about the projects that the studio works on. Many Pixar movies have been either cancelled, or completely scrapped to be reworked from the ground up. Along the way, plenty of interesting projects have been shelved to make room for better, more emotive storytelling.
Here are 10 Pixar Movies That Were Cancelled Before They Were Completed – we’ll never get to see them, but we can imagine what they might have been like.
10. Finding Nemo 2
With Finding Dory making a splash in cinemas, fans of the original Finding Nemo are given the opportunity to enjoy returning to revisit some old underwater friends for the first time since 2003. Had Disney had their way, however, Nemo, Marlin, and his friends would have returned to movie theaters far sooner than originally intended.
When Pixar and Disney’s time of working together came to an end in 2005, Disney began to worry that without Pixar, the company would lose its footing within the animation marketplace – after all, most of Disney’s own CGI productions (such as Meet the Robinsons and Arthur and the Invisibles) had failed to gain the traction that the company had hoped for.
As Disney retained the rights to all of the Pixar brands that had been developed while the companies were working together, Disney set about commissioning a series of sequels to popular existing movies, setting up the production studio Circle 7 for the express purpose of churning out follow-up films for key Pixar properties.
Plans to create Finding Nemo 2 were put into place, but they didn’t get very far – ultimately, instead of trying to go it alone without Pixar’s help, Disney bit the bullet and simply purchased the entire Pixar company. In the years since, Disney has merged the two studios together, and overseen Pixar’s creation of a variety of sequel films including Finding Dory, Monsters University and Toy Story 3.
9. Toy Story 2
Flush with success after the enormous hit that was Toy Story, Disney wanted a quick, direct-to-home release sequel that could generate some extra income from the property. This was at a time when sequel quality wasn’t all that high on Disney’s agenda, as movies like The Lion King, Aladdin, and others saw similar sequels that had a notable dip in production value from the original movie. How to do this with Toy Story created a lot of debate – there was talk of making the sequel using traditional animation methods instead of in CGI.
Ultimately, a few key sequences were animated in CGI, and Disney executives were convinced that they had another hit on their hands. Opting to give Toy Story 2 a full theatrical release, Disney tasked Pixar and John Lasseter with stretching out what would have been an hour-long movie into a full feature film.
It was at this point that Lasseter began to seriously question what he felt Pixar should stand for in terms of quality and storytelling. Deciding that creating quick, poorly made sequels was not in the company’s best interest, Pixar went back to the drawing board and rebuilt an entirely new Toy Story 2 from a different concept – in order to meet the deadlines imposed by Disney, this meant assembling the movie in just a few short months.
Miraculously, the entire project worked and Toy Story 2 set the standard for Pixar’s sequels in future. In spite of this, though, many fans wonder what the original sequel would have been like. Pixar has been understandably tight-lipped about the movie, even though it was for the most part planned out when it was ultimately cancelled.
Completely shelving ideas is not something that Pixar does lightly – often, rejected concepts from movies get reworked into different movies, or stories are told in different ways. Newt, however, is the sole movie project from Pixar that is likely to never resurface in another form.
Development for Newt, the story of two rare lizards who are forced together to mate to save their species, went through the typical process that Pixar uses, and it’s clear that the studio were excited about what they were working on – Easter Eggs referencing Newt can be found in Toy Story 3 and Brave, hinting at the fact that Pixar were sure they had a hit on their hands.
Unfortunately for Pixar, though, Fox Animation Studios beat the company to the punch. The 2011 animated feature Rio treads very similar water to Newt’s original concept, with rare birds being forced together for the sake of their species, and, not wanting to seem derivative, Pixar put Newt on hold.
In an attempt to rework Newt, the project was offered to director Pete Docter. While enthusiastic about working with Pixar and happy to take the job, Docter suggested an alternative story idea that he’d been developing: the story of emotions within people’s heads. Pixar loved the idea, and Inside Out was created, while Newt was finally cancelled.
For the most part, Pixar has kept its footing securely in animation. Aside from brief snippets of recordings in the movie WALL-E, Pixar’s movies have stayed far away from live action cinematography – but this wasn’t always going to be the case.
Brad Bird, the successful director of Pixar’s The Incredibles, was at one point working on a live action movie for Pixar. Bizarrely, this movie was set to be a joint collaboration between Pixar, Warner Bros studios, and Disney. Even stranger is the movie’s source material: a fictional historical novel about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
While it’s not clear exactly why the project failed to take off, it can be surmised that the demands of keeping both Warner Bros and Disney happy, along with Pixar’s complete lack of familiarity with live action filmmaking, probably had something to do with the decision to quietly shelve the project. It likely also didn’t help that the movie would have been very ambitious, calling for a large budget to accurately portray the earthquake that drives its plot.
Brad Bird has since moved on to different movies, having had success directing a Mission Impossible film, and relatively less financial success with Disney’s Tomorrowland. The director is currently set to return for an Incredibles sequel with Pixar.
6. Monsters Inc 2: Lost in Scaridise
At the same time that Disney’s fledgling sequel factory-cum-animation studio Circle 7 were getting off their feet with development on Finding Nemo 2, the studio was also simultaneously working on a sequel to Pixar’s hit film Monsters Inc.
The original Monsters Inc ends somewhat quietly, with the blue, hairy monster Sulley finally finding his way back to see the little girl, Boo, that he’s grown attached to over the course of the movie. While Boo isn’t seen, she can be heard calling Sulley ‘Kitty’, her pet name for him.
Lost in Scaridise intended to take the story in a different direction, revealing that Boo’s family move to a new house without Sulley, nor his earnest green friend Mike Wazowski, being aware. Mike and Sulley then find themselves trapped in the human world, and take off on an adventure to track down Boo at her new address.
When Pixar finally returned to the Monsters Inc universe to craft a follow-up movie, the studio decided to create a prequel rather than a direct sequel, telling the story of how Mike and Sulley first became friends at college. As such, it’s possible that elements of Lost in Scaridise might be used in a film one day, but it will most certainly be very different to the original ideas created by Circle 7.
Compared to many movies on this list, WALL-E’s production went relatively smoothly – there was no need for a complete ground-up overhaul of the script, and no original version of the movie can ditched in order to try again.
That said, the originally scripted version of WALL-E had a very different third act – elements of this first attempt at the story made their way not only into initial storyboards, but also into some rare test screenings of the movie.
In the finished film, WALL-E finds himself following his love interest, EVE, to a human colony ship that’s floating in space. The humans have evolved over the years into enormous, rotund, baby-like creatures who are never leave their hoverchairs, as the spaceship caters to their every whim. In the original version of the story, though, this evolution would have gone even further: humans would have been presented as little more than gelatinous sacks of flesh, who over the years have evolved to the point that they’re unable to speak in any discernible language.
This original idea would have made WALL-E a very different film – without any characters that are able to speak in English, the movie would have been communicated entirely by visual storytelling, something which even the finished version of the movie does an excellent job with for the majority of its runtime. What’s more, though, making the humans more identifiable helps audiences to invest in them emotionally, and to have hope for the future.
One other element of the film which was changed at the eleventh hour is the ending: in the final version of the film, WALL-E is fatally wounded saving EVE and the humans, before being taken back to Earth to be fixed. In the original version, which was animated in its completion and played in many test screenings, EVE is injured instead and it’s up to WALL-E to save the day. It was ultimately decided that WALL-E’s sacrifice fit the story better from an emotional standpoint.
4. Toy Story 3
Perhaps one of the most emotional movies in the Pixar library (which is saying something), Toy Story 3 deals with the heartbreak of ending relationships, and growing up. It’s also darker than any of the other movies, featuring a scene wherein all of the primary characters, facing death inside a furnace, hold hands and wait to die. As powerful as the final movie is, it wasn’t always going to be the Toy Story 3 that audiences were going to get.
As part of Disney’s plans with Circle 7 to create a slew of sequels to existing Pixar properties, development began on a version of Toy Story 3 which dealt with a very different story. Instead of preparing for abandonment as Andy moves away to college, the toys are tasked with travelling to Taiwan to rescue Buzz Lightyear, who has been recalled to the manufacturer after it’s discovered that his toy line is defective.
Throughout their adventure, the toys would meet a variety of new characters, many of whom are also recalled toys. Interestingly, a version of the finished Toy Story 3’s emotional junkyard scene would have featured in the movie, with the toys working to save Buzz from being scrapped and mashed into garbage.
3. Where the Wild Things Are
Before there was even a Pixar, there was Where the Wild Things Are. Had this project proved a success, the Pixar that exists today might never have been formed, and Disney would have created a series of CGI animated movies long before Toy Story.
While working for Disney, animator John Lasseter, whose specialty was in computer generated animations, was tasked with the job of combining CGI backgrounds with traditionally animated characters. An initial test was created, producing a thirty second clip based around the popular children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, showing how dynamic camera movements possible in computer software could make for far more visually complex animated scenes.
Certain members of Disney loved the test, and commissioned work on a movie that would be built using the technique. Higher-ups within the company, however, were less than impressed, and after a brief meeting in which Lasseter showed off some of his work, the project was cancelled and Lasseter was fired.
While this ultimately proved to be a big blow to Disney’s creative team in the long run, it left Lasseter free to begin working with Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group, the company that would ultimately give birth to the Pixar that exists today.
As much as computer graphics is at the heart of all of Pixar’s existing movies, the company isn’t against the idea of using alternative methods of storytelling when appropriate. In addition to the idea of Brad Bird’s 1906, members of the Pixar brain trust were at one point directly involved with a stop motion animated project.
Shademaker was the brainchild of Henry Selick, the creator behind such stop motion animations as Coraline and The Boxtrolls. In working with Disney and Pixar, Selick hoped to create a story that merged his own signature style with the production value and emotional storytelling for which the two companies are best known.
Unfortunately, however, the movie, about which not much is known except that it centers on the relationship between two brothers, was cancelled, costing Disney $50 million in the process. The reasons given for this cancellation are shaky at best, but it’s believed that Disney and Pixar were unimpressed with the tone of the story that Selick was creating – considering how dark and scary a lot of Selick’s previous work has been, this is hardly surprising.
What’s more, it’s been reported that Selick allegedly clashed with the Pixar higher ups on a frequent basis, as the director had a very different idea of how to go about the process of creating the film and its story. This is a shame, as it would have been wonderful to see a Pixar movie that’s filled with the kind of darkness and rich visuals that Selick has become known for.
1. Toy Story
The first full, feature length movie produced by Pixar is also the one that had the most changes in direction throughout its development.
Originally growing out of the company’s Oscar-winning animated short, Tin Toy, the first draft of Toy Story would have continued the adventures of Tinny, the main character who runs afoul of a rampaging baby. In the full length movie, Tinny would have found himself facing off against an evil ventriloquist dummy who held the toy cupboard under a controlling regime of bullying.
After Disney weren’t thrilled with the direction of the original movie, Pixar went back to the drawing board and created plans for more of a buddy-comedy movie which better matches the vibe of the finished project. After comments from Disney that Tinny was too old-fashioned, his character was turned into Lunar Larry, an astronaut toy. This in turn led to the ventriloquist dummy, named Woody, morphing into a cowboy toy.
Feedback from Disney wanted Toy Story to be a particularly ‘edgy’ movie, breaking the formula for most Disney films in an era where sunny attitudes were overly popular. After developing the movie down these lines for an extended period, Pixar ultimately decided to scrap such a faddish comedy in favor of a more traditional, upbeat and lighthearted story. This meant giving Woody an attitude overhaul – instead of being a jerk who learns the error of his ways, he became a nice guy who is consumed with jealously before making an unlikely friend.
Looking back on Pixar’s vast array of movies, it’s difficult to find a truly sour note among the entire ensemble. Every movie has something unique and emotionally resonant to offer, and while some more recent movies may not live up to the full glory of the Pixar wonder years, there’s still plenty of joy to be had from the series.
While many of the movies on this list are likely gone forever, it’s worth wondering what could have been if Pixar had tried a different approach to key projects. Would they have still proven a success, or were Pixar justified in scrapping movies that they weren’t sure about?
What do you think of this list? Which cancelled Pixar movies would you have liked to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below.