The Good Dinosaur is one of the more highly-anticipated upcoming animated movies, as it’s the first original Pixar film since Brave (2012) and only the second original property since the Oscar-winning Up in 2009. The premise, from director Bob Peterson, “envisions an Earth where dinosaurs never became extinct.” 

Peterson co-directed Up, which fused a sense of maturity and poignancy to an oddball premise (an old man floats his house to South America, with a little kid accidentally in tow), all heightened by some of the studio’s most impressively spare animation and design.

With increasing pressure on the studio to return to its commercially and critically dominant status, Pixar president Ed Catmull announced only a few months ago that the studio would put a renewed emphasis on original films rather than sequels. However, these Pixar originals tend to see more shake-ups at their highest creative levels.

After a period of speculation following Peterson’s absence during the presentation of The Good Dinosaur at this year’s D23, the The L.A. Times confirms that Pixar has removed Bob Peterson as director of The Good Dinosaur.

In an official statement by the studio, Catmull said:

“All directors get really deep in their films. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to get the idea out. Sometimes directors … are so deeply embedded in their ideas it actually takes someone else to finish it up. I would go so far as to argue that a lot of live-action films would be better off with that same process.”

This apparently will not change the film’s release date: May 30, 2014, just over nine months from now. With “various creative choices unmade,” Pixar is now looking to a team of key studio talent to ensure the film’s completion.

Each member of the group – which includes Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter, Brave director Mark Andrews, the original co-director of The Good Dinosaur, Peter Sohn, and Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich – will be working on a different aspect of the production.

This move marks the fourth time Pixar has switched directors on a major release. The studio replaced original Ratatouille director Jan Pinkava with Brad Bird, Lasseter himself took over Cars 2 from Brad Lewis, and most recently (and controversially), Mark Andrews took over Brave after the studio removed Brenda Chapman. Given the commercial success of all of those releases (over half a billion dollars worldwide), it’s understandable that Pixar feels justified in making these high-level choices.

Pete Docter, who directed Up, Monsters Inc. and 2015’s Inside Out, has commented on the director selection process at Pixar:

“We take our best guess. We try to diagnose: What are the necessary skills? How does this person measure up? They’re going to need buttressing here, here they totally shine, and try to pair them with the right people. But if you figure it out, let us know.”

The long production schedules and large crew needed to mount an animated film of this size does require a unique set of skills, and multiple directors are common, as are certain shifts in the creative direction. Since the film in progress cannot simply be re-shot, ditching a chunk of completed animation means writing off years of work. Peterson has not commented on what led to Pixar’s decision, but he’s still at Pixar, with another directing project in development. According to general manager and executive vice president of production Jim Morris:

“Bob is still working at the studio, and we hope he will stay here for the rest of his natural life.”

So Pixar clearly has a lot of faith in Peterson, and his removal appears to have been for the good of the film, echoed by Ed Catmull’s comment that “our goal is to make the movie great.” Fans of Pixar’s more inventive, experimental originals like Up and Wall-E (as well as dinosaur fans of all ages) will be waiting to see how these decisions pan out.

The Good Dinosaur will premiere on May 30, 2014.

Source: LA Times