Sur­vival in­stinct

Jim Mor­ris takes fire at ru­mours of a cri­sis at Pixar

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Jim Mor­ris, pres­i­dent of Pixar, is in Dublin for the Ir­ish Vis­ual Ef­fects & Animation Sum­mit and for the launch of The Good Dino

saur, the stu­dio’s Christ­mas re­lease. I need to broach a sen­si­tive is­sue.

The pub­lic feel pro­tec­tive about Pixar Animation. The com­pany was ac­tu­ally formed way back in 1974 as a cadre within Lu­cas­film, but didn’t reg­is­ter with gen­eral au­di­ences for an­other 20 years.

The re­lease of Toy Story in 1995 ranks along­side the ar­rival of sound and the in­ven­tion of colour as a key in­no­va­tion in the in­dus­try.

Like the moon land­ing, the first com­puter-gen­er­ated fea­ture hap­pened a lit­tle sooner than the tech­nol­ogy seemed to al­low.

More sur­pris­ing still, it was ab­so­lutely su­per. Pixar has now raised a gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren. It is – along­side cor­po­rate part­ners Walt Dis­ney – one of the very few film com­pa­nies whose work has a clear (and lik­able) iden­tity. Who would say a bad word against them?

Whis­per it. In the past few years, after an un­in­ter­rupted run of crit­i­cal smashes, Pixar looked to have sunk into some­thing of a slump. Brave got so-so re­views. Mon

sters Univer­sity re­ceived shrugs. Cars 2 – se­quel to the marginally more lovely orig­i­nal – got gen­uine stinkers from the crit­ics. It is for this rea­son that In­side

Out, a lovely epic set in­side a young girl’s head, was cel­e­brated as a “re­turn to form” ear­lier in the year. Pixar fans weren’t just happy there was a good film in cin­e­mas. It was a lit­tle as if an ill friend had made a re­mark­able re­cov­ery.

Does Mor­ris buy this? Was there a cri­sis?

“What peo­ple aren’t aware of is that we were mak­ing In­side

Out as we were mak­ing all those other films,” he says. “So the no- tion of a ‘re­turn to form’ is hard for us to credit. Some peo­ple like some films more than oth­ers.

Cars 2 was a high con­cept film that was not as deeply emo­tional.

Brave had a Princess feel to it, which maybe felt more like Dis­ney. Mon­sters Univer­sity is a great film, but it’s a fran­chise. In the gestalt of that group pre­ced­ing In­side Out there was noth­ing that felt like a new chap­ter in the story. I can ap­pre­ci­ate why peo­ple would have that feel­ing.”

Does that sound like an ad­mis­sion? I can’t say for cer­tain.

“We try to do our best with them. There are peo­ple who tell me Cars 2 is their favourite film.” Okay then. Mor­ris, who looks like a smoother John Banville, has had a busy ca­reer. A grad­u­ate of Syra­cuse Univer­sity, he be­gan as a

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