4 Awesome Sounding Pixar Movies We'll Never Get To See
Pixar has made a ton of movies over the past 27 years, including some good ones, some decent ones, and the Cars ones. But, like every studio, Pixar has projects that have fallen between the cracks, some of which sound like they could have ended up being quite remarkable -- or, at the very least, saved us from another Cars movie. Like ...
Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book And Henry Selick's ShadeMaker
It's kinda baffling that author Neil Gaiman doesn't have more animated adaptations, especially considering that the film version of his book Coraline is the third highest-grossing stop-motion movie of all time. And also, you know, pretty good. Gaiman has written a whole bunch of ... not exactly "children's books," but more like "sophisticated fantasy books that can be read by children." Among these is The Graveyard Book, which starts with the idea of "What if the kid from The Jungle Book was raised by ghosts and an old retired vampire instead of animals?" and gets weirder from there.
In 2012, it was announced that The Graveyard Book would be adapted by Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick as part of his deal to make several stop-motion films at Pixar, and it seemed like a shockingly good fit on all fronts. Selick would actually have his own Pixar-linked studio, Cinderbiter Productions, which was described as "a new stop motion company whose mandate is to make great, scary films for young 'uns with a small, tight-knit crew who watch each other's backs" (that sounds like a cool movie premise in itself).
Gaiman has said that he was "really excited" about The Graveyard Book becoming Pixar's first adaptation, and really, if they wanted to start doing someone else's stories, might as well go with Gaiman. Selick was supposed to start work on this movie right after finishing his first Pixar/Cinderbiter project, an also awesome-sounding stop-motion film called ShadeMaker or The Shadow King, about a kid with freakishly long fingers who learns how to make his shadow puppets come to life. The existing clips from this movie make it clear that it would have ended up in the same "Movies That Traumatize Your Kid Siblings But Which They Can't Stop Re-Watching" Netflix category as Coraline:
It's also worth mentioning that long-time Pixar collaborator Lou Romano, who has done design work for movies like Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Luca and voiced the human sidekick in Ratatouille, was on board this project as designer and supervising animator:
Unfortunately, in October 2012, Disney pulled the plug on ShadeMaker (and Selick's Pixar deal in general) at a cost of $50 million because of "creative and scheduling" problems, and totally not because Tim Burton's Frankenweenie had just underperformed at the box office and they decided to bail out on the entire stop-motion movie subgenre.
According to Gaiman, every once in a while, Disney tells him that they hired a new screenwriter for The Graveyard Book and they really like how the script is shaping up, only to fire them and start over again. Even if they do eventually get a good script, the chances of the project landing at Pixar again are pretty much nonexistent, given that they've since made an original movie about a kid who surrounds himself with ghosts. They're more likely to make another "culinary genius rat controls inept chef" movie than one of these.
Monkey (Or: The Original, Nuttier Dragon Ball)
Pixar's first-ever movie project is also one of its most intriguing because it would have used the same source material Dragon Ball is (very loosely) based on, albeit indirectly. Still, it's fun to imagine muscular aliens punching each other for hundreds of episodes while rendered in exquisite CGI and with Randy Newman songs as the soundtrack.
Monkey was conceived in 1985, while Pixar was still part of LucasFilm, and would have been based on the 1942 novel of the same name, itself an abridged version of the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West. It stars Sun Wukong (pronounced "Son Goku"), a mischievous "Monkey King" who uses an elongating staff as his main weapon, can surf on clouds, and embarks on a sacred mission to obtain specific objects accompanied by a group of weirdos, one of whom is a perma-horny, shape-shifting talking pig. Presumably, Pixar would have toned down this last part more than Dragon Ball did ...
The novel is hugely influential in Asia, but curiously it has never had a big profile adaptation in the west -- the closest thing was the BBC dub of the 1978-1980 live action adaptation, also called Monkey, which boasts one of the greatest theme songs in existence.
According to the book The Pixar Touch, Pixar had financing from a Japanese publisher on this project but it never went past "detailed story meetings." The only existing art consists of some sketches by John Lasseter. Before they could get very far, Pixar spun off into its own company with Steve Jobs' help and had to re-focus on selling hardware, since their "making movies" pipe dream didn't look very realistic -- especially once they calculated how long and costly the Monkey project would end up being at that point in time, which scared away the Japanese publisher.
By the time Pixar had the money and computing power to make a feature-length animated movie, it looks like they'd long forgotten about Monkey. Or maybe not, since they did include this delightful guy in the third Toy Story:
1906: Pixar's Live-Action Historical Disaster Epic
If we offered you $100 to correctly guess the plot of the next Pixar movie, most people would probably say stuff like "a talking horse wants to learn to play the clarinet" or "angels form a union" or something silly like that. Not many would say "a sordid true story of love, crime, and corruption amid a disaster that killed 3,000 people" -- but that's exactly what The Incredibles and Ratatouille director Brad Bird wanted, and apparently still wants, to do.
Bird's movie would have been based on the historical novel 1906, which is set before, during, and after the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires (which ended with emergency services dynamiting 80% of the city). The writer actually envisioned the story as a movie in the first place in the '90s, emboldened by the fact that Titanic had just proved that long-ass disaster films could be profitable, and there was interest from studios right away, but production stalled for so long that he ended up writing a novel while waiting. Eventually, Bird got involved and announced that the movie would be co-produced by Warner Bros. and Pixar, which he claimed was "evolving into a place where all kinds of movies, not just animated ones, can come out." That was in 2007, by the way.
So what happened? Apparently, the epic was just too epic. The long and intricate stories surrounding the earthquake are better suited for a TV show, but the earthquake itself can only be done properly with a giant movie budget -- it would be underwhelming if they cut to a title card saying "One massive, historic earthquake later ..." and continued with the plot.
The last time Bird talked about the project, in 2018, he talked about the possibility of making it as a movie and a TV show, sorta like how Marvel movies and shows sometimes tie into each other. Who knows, maybe if they end up making it like that and it's a hit, this could be the start of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake-verse.
Top image: Harper Collins, Chronicle Books