While in London, Walt Disney Animation and Pixar COO John Lasseter spoke at length about Disney’s upcoming projects. Though some may be disappointed that he did not announce Kingdom Hearts 3: Marvel Edition, many will be happy to know that he gave some new details about Pixar’s latest projects. After proving septuagenarians can still be leading men with “Up”, Pixar has decided to make another new foray and has hired Reese Witherspoon to voice a 10th century Scottish princess in “The Bear and the Bow.” Pixar has studiously avoided the so-called princess genre but it appears there is a first time for everything. Also unexpected, Lasseter announced the continuation of the “Tinkerbell” movie line. This is an about face from two years ago when Lasseter said that “Tinkerbell” was “virtually unwatchable” and that direct to DVD sequels and spinoffs like it only hurt Disney because they diluted the value of the original film. Hit the jump to learn more about the newest princess and what Tink is up to now.
According to Empire Blog, “The Bear and the Bow” will be about the rebellious Princess Merida who prefers roaming free in the Scottish Highlands rather than being closed up in with her parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Eleanor (Emma Thompson) and her younger triplet brothers. Further details were scarce but don’t expect a prince to figure prominently in the plot, which is supposed to focus more on Merida’s relationship with her mother. Lest you confuse it with a Nora Ephron film, “Bow” will also feature a villainous “Wise Woman” who is voiced by Julie Walters. Conception art is all that is available right now but it is supposed to be very impressive.
As far as the “Tinker Bell” series is concerned, little else was said other than that more films would be released to DVD. The lack of further information is puzzling. Did Lasseter really give his approval for these films? Or, given Disney’s imminent $4 billion expenditure, is CEO Robert Iger putting an emphasis on relatively safe products to ensure the coffers stay full? In that context, it is not unreasonable to also wonder whether doing a princess story was an organic idea that Pixar developed or if it was a Disney directive that Pixar worked with. Pixar’s track record has long given them fair degree of independence so out of character moves like these stick out.
That said, I am still excited for “The Bear and the Bow.” Even if it is a princess story, it is still a Pixar princess and that distinction is important. “Tinkerbell,” however, is a different matter. Nothing has changed since Lasseter made his pointed and very accurate observations about the damage movies like “Cinderella 3” and “Mulan 2” were doing to the Disney. Even so, “Tinkerbell,” as the cornerstone of the Disney Fairies Brand that hopes to mimic the success of the Disney Princess Brand, unfortunately has received a stay of execution. Disney will likely regret giving “Tinkerbell” a second chance. The first film cost about $50 million to make and barely recouped that expense. Disney films are not meant to be a dime a dozen. They are supposed to be made with world-class animation, heartfelt storytelling and, yes, a little bit of magic. Lasseter knows and he knows that “Tinkerbell” is sorely lacking in those regards but it appears he does not have the final say on the matter.
“The Bear and the Bow” is expected to be released for the 2011 holiday season and “Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure” flits into stores later this fall.