Toy Story 4: Considering “Creative Differences” and John Lasseter’s “Missteps”

Yesterday’s breaking news about John Lasseter’s six-month sabbatical from Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, resulting from accusations of “missteps” brought against him, hit me like a ton of bricks, as I’m sure it did many other Pixar fans.  But before anyone starts sharpening their pitchforks to come at me, I’d like to clarify that the intention of this post isn’t to be political, or controversial.  Until more concrete details come out, I respectfully choose to keep my views and opinions to myself.  One thing I do want to address, however, is the insight that this situation has brought to light regarding the delays Toy Story 4 has suffered in production over the past few years.

There has been ambiguity for a while as to what happened to Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (pictured above with Lasseter at the 2015 D23 Expo) as the film’s screenwriters – first in October 2015, when the initial date change was announced, and Pete Docter was named as being a part of the writing team alongside Jones and McCormack; and then earlier this year, when Martin Hynes was mentioned briefly as the movie’s screenwriter, without any further details.  An article in the New York Times yesterday finally provided some potential answers, as Jones stated that she and her partner left the film’s production due to “creative and philosophical differences” (not the “unwanted advances” that were previously and erroneously reported).

What we still don’t know is the timeline.  If I were to venture a guess, I wonder if Docter was brought on to assist with the “differences” that were complicating the script-writing process; and that the writing team’s departure occurred sometime thereafter, when those differences couldn’t be resolved, leading them to be replaced by Hynes.  It does seem, however, that the upheaval caused by the original writers’ conflicts and subsequent resignation played a large role in the film’s setbacks.  I don’t know that we’ll ever learn the true story of this apparently-tumultous turn of events, but when we were at the D23 Expo this past July, my husband boldly asked someone at the Pixar booth (whose name I failed to get, in my star-struck state) what happened to Rashida Jones with Toy Story 4.  The answer shared with us was that her work with the movie was essentially done, but that her contributions would stay in the film; and that the second delay (in October 2016) was intended to give the new director more time.

Josh Cooley, Toy Story 4 director, at the 2017 D23 Expo

I also was at the D23 Animation Panel when it was announced that Josh Cooley – formerly the film’s co-director – was replacing John Lasseter as director of Toy Story 4.  (I have been working on my D23 recap for months and promise to share that soon, with more details!)  A press conference statement, published shortly after the panel presentation, explained Lasseter’s reasoning behind the decision:

I always felt like I need to keep directing, and that’s why I decided to do Toy Story 4 initially, but I oversee three studios and I think I counted 24 feature films I’m overseeing, and it was not really practical, to be blunt.  But also what made it easy was Josh Cooley was amazing; wait until you see it – he is so good.  And it was time to let go of the bike and let him ride, and he’s doing a great job.  It’s really fantastic.  And I do get creative satisfaction from being the executive producer, the chief creative officer, and helping all of these great filmmakers.  So that’s what made the decision for me, and I’m loving what I do.  I have the best job in the world.

I, for one, was not bothered by the change in director; I have faith that Pixar wouldn’t choose someone who would put their flagship franchise in jeopardy.  And now, considering Lasseter’s leave of absence, I am so thankful that the switch had already been made.  Despite some hateful comments I’ve read online in the past 24 hours concerning the sequel, I hope that Toy Story 4‘s production will continue moving forward in a positive direction, unhindered by the drama currently unfolding.

Before I close this subject, I’d like to include a statement that was made by Dawn Welch, owner of the Rock Cafe on Route 66 in Stroud, Oklahoma, who served as the inspiration for Sally in the Cars films.  She posted her remarks, in defense of John Lasseter, on Facebook this morning (emphasis is her own).  While I’m not trying to stir the pot and say that he’s wholly innocent or wholly guilty of any offenses, I do think that another perspective is beneficial and worth sharing:

I SUPPORT JOHN LASSETER

As the inspiration for Sally, I met with John Lasseter on several occasions.  His behavior for support of strong women and the love of his wife whom he very dearly told of her strength and his love for his wife was why he wanted to develop a female character of strength and wit.  On our first and longest meeting, he had several Disney Pixar “imagineers” ( I call them this because although many carry specific titles – all take part in every piece of the creation process ).  Darla K Anderson, a woman producer, was among them and it was clear he carries much respect and trust for her.  Their relationship was always professional which is fun, whimsical, and magic because the professionalism at Pixar is to speak the truth but from the eyes of a 10 year old just as Steve Jobs instructed John Lasseter from the onset of Pixar.

As I told my story at the Rock Cafe, John made a point for himself and Darla to share their histories and really listen to mine.  I was excited to visit with them because Walt Disney was one of my childhood heroes for his choice to be an entrepreneur who creates and inspires people.  I read his biography at 16 years old and it helped set my path to becoming a person who “sells burgers and magic along the Mother Road”.  I knew it would only take a little sprinkle of the Disney wand over Route 66 to make 10 year old’s customers for decades.

Pixar, Disney, John Lasseter, Darla Anderson, Bonnie Hunt and all involved with the making of Cars not only met my Dreams for Route 66 but far exceeded them.  John’s dream for this movie at its core was wrapped in love for his family including his father, wife, and son’s and to send a message for the World to slow down and enjoy family and close friends within the small towns and communities they come from.

Today, I say to the World; LET’S SLOW DOWN!  This news media seems out of control and SWIFTLY making a wreck and joke out of these UNITED STATES.

I DOUBLE DOG DARE (as the 10 year old would say) you to SLOW DOWN, STAY AWAY FROM THIS MEDIA DEBACLE and ENJOY YOUR FAMILY AND CLOSE FRIENDS.  I TRIPLE DOG DARE! THE MEDIA TO REPOST SOMETHING POSITIVE BY A STRONG WOMAN OF A SMALL BUSINESS IN SUPPORT OF A MAN IN CHARGE OF TWO HUGE CORPORATIONS!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS!  YES this is a picture where WE chose to pose with a KISS!  NOTHING INAPPROPRIATE just a FUN picture with a MAN I SUPPORT!

I’ll extend a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, too!  I’m thankful for this world of toys, created and brought to life not only by John Lasseter, but by a team of talented artists who are worthy of praise and admiration, and who deserve neither to be dragged into the controversy currently attached to their workplace nor demeaned based on the alleged actions of one person.  Regardless of how everything proceeds in this case, I will continue to support Pixar as a studio, in gratitude for all the happiness they have brought to me, my family, and my friends.  And go see Coco!  It’s fantastic!

 

Photos © Disney/Pixar. 

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10 thoughts on “Toy Story 4: Considering “Creative Differences” and John Lasseter’s “Missteps”

  1. Dana November 22, 2017 / 3:52 pm

    Oh My god………..That is it…….I’ve had it………this movie will NEVER BE MADE and it will NOT BE THE WAY JOHN LASSATER WANTED IT TO BE!!!!!!!!!! **SIGH** I’ve really had it…….I give up. I’m really upset.

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    • Heidi November 22, 2017 / 3:56 pm

      There has been NO indication anywhere that Toy Story 4 won’t be made. And who’s to say that John Lasseter’s ideas are the only worthwhile foundations for animated movies? Maybe Josh Cooley has an equally-brilliant vision, just as Lee Unkrich had for Toy Story 3. And if you rely on John Lasseter’s creative inspiration, you should trust his choice in a successor – one who worked alongside him on this film from the very beginning, and undoubtedly is following the path they laid together. If anything, it’s reassuring that Lasseter had already passed the torch to someone else, before these allegations came out. This article is only meant to be an explanation of how things went awry back in 2015-2016.

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      • Dana November 23, 2017 / 2:57 pm

        **SIGH** Well, I am going to PRAY that Toy story 4 is going to be what John Lasseter wanted it to be!! And the movie is in Production not pre production which means that they have the story pretty much locked down………The last thing is post production which means they still have to add the sound effects, voices, ect. …. I just hope that Toy Story 4 is what John wanted it to be! And I hope he is not in trouble of any kind! My God……if it;s not one thing it’s another………

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      • Heidi November 23, 2017 / 3:07 pm

        I’ll just be happy with Toy Story 4 being what Josh Cooley wants it to be, since he’s the director now, has been for a while, and it’s his movie. Pixar’s Braintrust still exists to guide the filmmaking process; Lasseter is/was only one of several immensely creative people. Judging by the timeline of other Pixar movies, they’re likely polishing story details and recording voices now, so animation can begin in the not-too-distant future. Read this reassuring article from the LA Times – it’s a shakeup, but it’s not dire. https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-disney-pixar-lasseter-fallout-20171123-story,amp.html

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  2. Dana November 23, 2017 / 5:36 pm

    You know……….i honestly do not really care who directs the movie, as long as the story is what John wanted in the first place, that is, that he wanted it to be a love story with Woody and Bo peep and them reuniting in whatever way……..and the movie is in production so I do not think they are changing the story……..Production means they are beginning to film the movie, and of course it might not be all the way filmed yet….but when it IS filmed, then it goes into post production which means they have to do the sound effects, voices, ect. I just hope that the movie will be what John wanted it to be in the first place, regardless of a new director, that’s all.**SIGH**

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    • Heidi November 23, 2017 / 5:51 pm

      The director matters as it’s his overall vision, but Pixar has confirmed that it’s still about Bo Peep and has mentioned no change in the main theme of the story. I saw concept art at D23; Bo is still very much in it. And I understand the pipeline of movie making and what “production” means, I’ve read books about Pixar and been to a museum exhibit about how they make their films. The actual animation or “filming” as you say is one of the last steps. They write the story, and re-write, and re-write again, and storyboard scenes over and over to piece them together into rough preview showings, that are then approved to move forward into animation or sent back to the drawing board to be polished up. It’s possible to tweak elements of different scenes in a story, without changing the overall plot, pretty far into production. Voices are recorded before any animation occurs, because they have to match the mouth movement and facial expressions to what’s being said and how – actors have confirmed some recording has already been done. Then lighting and such can be finalized as the scenes come into full focus. It’s a long process, and one that’s somewhat fluid as they’re always trying to make the movie the best it can be.

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      • Dana November 23, 2017 / 5:58 pm

        I’m sorry I’m not as educated as you are about this….**SIGH** And I don’t know how they can finish recording the voices as Rickles has passed away….I’m sorry I’m so stupid.

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      • Heidi November 23, 2017 / 6:04 pm

        You’re not stupid, and I didn’t mean to imply that. 🙂 I’ve done my research, out of interest and for writing purposes, but there are others out there who are more knowledgeable than me. If you understand the whole pipeline, though, you can see how things aren’t as terrible as you fear. Slinky’s voice actor passed away between Toy Story 2 and 3, and they recast him and it worked out wonderfully. Don Rickles was one actor who hadn’t recorded yet – they said so at the time of his passing – so that leaves things open to cast someone new, if that’s the path they choose. It doesn’t have to negatively affect the story.

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  3. Dana November 23, 2017 / 6:27 pm

    **SIGH** I just hope that whoever the director is, that the movie will still be about Woody and Bo pep reuniting and then (praying) That she will stay with him…..I just hope that this incident with John won’t affect the story. And I do not know if McCormack and Jones wrote the screenplay or somebody else, but I Pray whoever DID write the screenplay respected what John wanted for the story…that is that he wanted it to be Woody and Bo’s love story and reuniting and Praying she will stay with Woody. I’m just concerned that’s all. **SIGH**

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