By now, much has been made of Disney/Pixar’s announcement of Toy Story 4 and the divisive responses that came with it. But while the animation community continues to do some soul searching regarding the existence of Toy Story 4, I would like to turn some of our attention to another Pixar film that’s been out of the public eye for a while, causing me to personally have doubts about its continued development: the untitled Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead project.
First off, let me point you to two release dates set for untitled films from Pixar: November 22, 2017 and June 15, 2018. Assuming I’m wrong and a Pixar ‘Day of the Dead’ movie is still happening, I’m willing to bet that the film will be land on either one of these dates. Originally, it was announced that the film will be coming out in 2016. I highly doubt that that will be the case now, since there’s absolutely nothing on the 2016 section of the animation calendar that indicates that that Pixar will be releasing a second film in 2016 (if at all). And if they had anything to show us from the project, we probably would have seen it at the same time Disney unveiled the concept art for Moana.
In any case, it would seem that this project, like The Good Dinosaur, Brave, and several other Pixar films before it, is in a state of flux. It’s not too uncommon at Pixar (and indeed other animation studios) for a project to hit some major road bumps and have the higher ups step in to fix everything. In this context, the speed bump that slowed the Day of the Dead project was not only major, it was a very, very public speed bump.
Last year, it was widely publicized that Disney had tried to trademark the Dia de los Muertos name for various products. This drew swift criticism and universal scrutiny from the Mexican community on the grounds that you simply can’t put a trademark on a holiday that’s deeply rooted in culture and tradition. Realizing the error of their ways, they withdrew the applications and confirmed that they will be changing the name of the film (which in itself loosely confirmed that Dia de los Muertos would have been the actual title of the film at some point).
What my be their second biggest hurdle in getting the film made? Trying to differentiate themselves from other Day of the Dead based projects like this year’s The Book of Life. Now, would something like The Book of Life absolutely tank Pixar’s Day of the Dead film the way Rio tanked Newt? It’s hard to tell because again, we’ve pretty much been subjected to complete and utter white noise about it. But one thing’s for sure: The Book of Life all but blew the door wide open for various other studios. Which means that for Pixar it will be less a matter of “Oh, this movie managed to make the holiday work for general audiences, we should do one too!” and more of a “Oh boy, we might have to do some rewrites on our script.”
For example (and to complicate matters even more), there’s another Day of the Dead film on the way that will come out in 2016. Titled Dia de Muertos, the film will be directed by Carlos Gutierrez Medrano and is currently in development at his Guadalajara-based Metacube studio in Jalisco, Mexico. Below is the 58-second conceptual preview and poster:
According to the Animation Scoop blog, the film has been in development since 2007 when they registered the title and began work on the screenplay. In 2012, the studio received funding from several sources that allowed production to officially commence. Over 40 reported development artists are working on the film and an unnamed studio in France will also be teaming up with Metacube Studios on the film. It’s currently not known if the film will reach the states, but there’s always a possibility.
Having said all of that, would Pixar’s film still have a chance of being made? Yes. If anything, three animated films based on the Day of the Dead would probably end up looking very much like three animated films based on the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday. The real challenge for Pixar would be to deliver a film that manages to be great while respecting the culture of the holiday its portraying onscreen.
Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Day of the Dead concept falls through completely and Pixar just ends up giving Lee Unkrich (the director) another idea to work with.
What do you think? After The Book of Life, can Pixar succeed at a Day of the Dead film?