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“Incredibles” sequel is stalled until Bird can get “1906” off the ground

“Incredibles” sequel is stalled until Bird can get “1906” off the ground

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Well, “Toy Story 3” is definitely on its way (This eagerly awaited sequel will roll into theaters on June 10, 2010). As is “Cars 2” (The Studio recently moved up its release date to June 24, 2011). But based on the questions that Pete Docter kept fielding at Saturday’s “Up” panel at New York Comic-Con, what the fanboys really want to know is when is “The Incredibles” sequel showing up?

Mind you, the “Monsters, Inc.” director did have a bit of good news for the crowd in the IGN Theater. And I quote:

“Brad’s talked about it. He has some ideas.”

Which Bird himself referred to in a 2007 interview with the Associated Press. When – while he was out doing press for “Ratatouille” – this fanboy favorite was quoted as saying:

“I love the world (of “The Incredibles”). I love the characters. And if I could come with a story that was as good or better than the original, I’d go there in a second. I have pieces of things that I would love to see in (an “Incredibles”) sequel. But I haven’t got them all together yet.”

Brad Bird stands in front of a display of "Ratatouille" artwork
Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Which is really great to hear. Except that Brad Bird’s not going to have the opportunity to play with any of those “Incredibles” pieces until he finishes helming his first live-action feature, “1906.

Based on James Dalessandro’s 2004 best seller, “1906” is nothing if not ambitious. It’s this romantic mystery set in and around San Francisco just prior to the earthquake & fire that basically flattened Baghdad-by-the-Bay back in 1906. And – yes – Brad wants to recreate all of that carnage as part of his big screen epic.

The only problem is … A movie of this size & scale is going to be hugely expensive. Which is why Warner Bros. and Disney / Pixar are teaming up to co-produce “1906.” Which means that – instead of having to please just one studio head (i.e. John Lasseter at Pixar Animation Studios) – Bird (who is not only directing “1906” but also rewriting the screenplay that Dalessandro himself wrote for this project) has to make three separate sets of Suits happy before production can then begin on his film. This is why – even though Brad originally signed his “1906” contract back in March of last year – this project still doesn’t have a start date.

Mind you, back in the Spring of last year, it really did look like “1906” was a go project. Which is why Warner Bros. put a hold on all of the soundstages that were available on its Burbank lot. Figuring that they’d need virtually every resource that this Studio had at its disposal in order to make this mammoth motion picture happen.

Some of the devastation that San Francisco experienced in
the wake of the Great Earthquake of 1906

But then execs at WB & Disney reportedly became concerned about the scope & ambition of Bird’s screenplay. Which attempted to touch on virtually every aspect of what made San Francisco so fascinating during this era in the city’s history. Chinatown. The Barbary Coast. Nob Hill.  Even the city’s transition from horses to horseless carriages.

It was just a bit too much for the Suits. Brad’s expansive storytelling. Not to mention the projected cost of this production. And while the folks at Warners Bros. and Disney / Pixar clearly saw “1906” ‘s enormous box office potential (Virtually every Studio official that I spoke with while researching today’s story had the exact same thing to say. That – if Brad can actually deliver the goods here, deliver a truly romantic disaster film – this could be “Titanic” all over again. The sort of movie that makes billions of dollars worldwide) ... But given that Bird had never directed a live-action film before. Never mind a motion picture of this size … Even with three separate companies coming together to shoulder “1906” ‘s projected $200-million-plus price tag, the financial risks involved here were deemed to be too high. Which is why – late last Spring -- Warner Bros. quietly released that hold it had on all its Burbank soundstages and then allegedly asked Brad to rework his screenplay. Both as a way to reduce this picture’s projected production costs as well as narrow the focus of the story that he was trying to tell.

Interesting side note here: When “1906” relinquished its hold on all of Warner Bros. soundstages, for a brief time last summer, the production team behind yet another epic disaster movie with a number for a title – “2012” – expressed an interest in filling all those vacancies on the Burbank backlot. But then – what with the looming Screen Actors Guild strike (which – at that time – was threatening to get underway in July of 2008) -- Roland Emmerich decided it best to get out of LA. Which is why the director of “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow” took “2012” up to Vancouver instead.

Copyright 2008 Sony Pictures

Getting back to “1906” now … Since his start date slipped back in the late Spring of 2008, Bird has been hard at work revamping & refocusing his screenplay for this project. But as Brad said to a reporter with Latino Review late last week at the premiere of “Coraline” :

“It’s (been) a really hard script to write … Mostly because there are so many interesting things going on in that place and that particular period of time that -- anytime you're going towards something -- you're going away from 5 other cool things.”

But that said, “1906” is still moving forward. As part of last week’s chat on the red carpet, Bird went on to say:

“We’re looking at places to shoot it … We’ll see if they have the courage to make (it).”

And by “they,” Brad means the executives who put the brakes on “1906” back last Spring. Those very same folks who would love to be associated with a “Titantic” -sized blockbuster but just can’t stomach this romantic epic’s $200-million-plus price tag.

So Bird continues to whittle away at his screenplay.  Knowing fully well that – with each day that passes – the heat that Brad enjoyed last year due to “Ratatouille” ‘s Academy Award win continues to dissipate. And then when you factor in the worsening economy along with Hollywood’s extremely short memory … Well, that just makes it less & less likely that Warner Bros. and Disney / Pixar will actually greenlight a pricey production like “1906” anytime soon.

Mind you, were Brad able to persuade a few names to appear in his first-ever live-action feature … Well, the Suits might then allow a slimmed-down version of “1906” to begin production sometime later this year. And if what Bird said last week while talking with the Latino Review actually proves to be true (i.e. “There are some wonderful people who are interested [in “1906”]. And I hope they're still interested when I finish the script”) … Some serious star power would go a long way to calming those jangled nerves in the executive suite.

But for now, the only names (other than Brad’s, of course) that are associated with this project are Paula Weinstein and John Walker. Who are producing & executive producing “1906” respectively. Plus – of course -- “WALL*E” director Andrew Stanton and Pixar Big Kahuna John Lasseter. Who – as Bird explained:

“I had some questions about (the script for ‘1906’) and (Andrew) and John Lasseter gave me some feedback on that.”

But even with all of these production-related problems, Brad still has high hopes for “1906.” Which – as he explained in a 2008 interview with /Film – would (to Bird’s way of thinking, anyway) seem to be this can’t-miss setting for a major motion picture.

“At (that) time, Chinatown was coexisting with the Barbary Coast, which was like the Wild Wild West, and at the same time Nob Hill had the upper class. It was a time between two centuries. You had horses and cars existing simultaneously. It’s just a volatile mix of things and then you throw in an earthquake. I mean, come on, if that doesn’t buy popcorn …”

If all goes according to plan and executives at Warner Bros and Disney / Pixar finally do sign off on the next rewrite of Bird’s “1906” screenplay, production of this live-action epic could get underway as soon as late this year / early in 2010. Which means that we could all be watching San Francisco shake itself to pieces by 2011.

Copyright 2004 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved 

And once that project is in the can … Well, maybe then Brad can get started on sorting out all those loose pieces. Put together an “Incredibles” sequel. But for now, the guy’s still struggling to come up with a “1906” screenplay that the Suits can all get behind.

So wish Brad Bird luck, folks. Because today’s Hollywood likes safe, pre-sold properties like the Smurfs, Yogi Bear and Tom & Jerry. Even Walt Disney Pictures’ big release for next month – “Race to Witch Mountain” -- falls into this same category. That sort of movie where the Studio isn’t forced to waste any of its marketing money on trying to explain what this picture is actually about. That sort of film where the audience walks into the theater already knowing what they’re going to see.

Which (you’d think) would work in “1906” ‘s favor. After all, this would be the big screen version of a best-selling book. A romantic movie mystery set in and around one of America’s greatest tragedies.

The only problem is … The market research that Warner Bros. and Disney officials have done to date suggest that the 15-to-25-year-olds that the Studios will be heavily relying on to come out and support this $200-million-plus co-production reportedly have little or no knowledge of the Great San Francisco Earthquake. That – to be blunt – this historic tragedy just doesn’t have that same sort of resonance / name recognition with young adults that the sinking of the Titanic enjoys.

Which again explains why “1906” still doesn’t have a start date. Disregarding Brad Bird’s obvious skills as a filmmaker … What’s the point of making a cinematic epic (especially in this economy) if you’re not entirely sure that there’s actually an audience out there that will come out & support this type of picture? Especially one that’s projected to cost as much as “1906” is?

Your thoughts?

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  • 1906 has always struck me as a great idea for a film.

    Yet I have never understood the desire for a couple of things.

    First, using images from the period as a guide, it makes more sense to me to make large scale use of CGI for recreations of much of the locations for the film. Some actual locations and equipment from the era do exist in the City and could be used. most notably in the Presidio. On the Main Post, soon to be home to the Walt Disney Family Museum, there are many buildings that date before 1906.

    Second, I think Brad Bird would be better served to steer clear of the story outlined in the novel. Think Titanic. Sure, we all knew the boat was going to sink. Same for 1906. We know there will be an earthquake and fires. But the actual stories of drama, tragedy and heroics from the events are much more interesting than anything anyone could write. Why not make use of factual events than go with something fictional?

    Case in point: As much as folks (especially teenaged girls) bought tickets to see Titanic over and over, A Night To Remember is generally looked upon as a better telling of the stories from the sinking of the ship. Given that, had James Cameron gone for a compelling story based more upon reality than a bad romance novel, I believe that audiences of all ages would have made an even more emotional connection with the stars of the film.

    1906 has great potential. I'm hoping that it gets the attention it deserves to tell the real and compelling story of those days in April rather than just another contrived plot full of the usual holes.

    As one of my favorite film quotes goes, "The truth is far too much fun."

  • As big a fan I am of most things Pixar (excluding Cars...), all this talk of sequels makes me nervous. Toy Story 2 might have been the greatest sequel ever made, and in my opinion is a far superior film to the first. But can they strike gold for a third time? And can the repeat the success of Incredibles? And can an already weak Cars storyline hold up a second time around? Disney proper's quality of work started slipping when they started pumping out sequels like their life depended on it. Each Pixar film is such a unique journey, and what gives them the street cred that no other animation studio can match is their ability and desire to take risks and produce a big budget film that no other studio would dream of making. I would hate to see this adventerous streak end just to try and knock out a few "sure things".

  • I have zip interest in "Cars 2", since I didn't care much for the first one. I suppose most people are aware that the only reason a "Cars" sequel is even happening is because of the high merchandising sales that arose from the first film. Not a good reason to churn out a sequel IMO. But an "Incredibles" sequel does appeal to me. If Brad can come up with a really good villian - at least the equal of Syndrome, or heck, maybe he could bring Syndrome back somehow - he could come up with a kickass sequel.

    "1906"...hmmm...you know, I read a book not long ago that used the 1906 San Fran earthquake as part of its plot, and it had a romance in it too. Not to mention a link to Disney. It was called "The Fire Rose", and it was a mixture of real-life drama, magic and a retelling of the tale "Beauty and the Beast". It was pretty good. Wonder if Brad would be interested in it...

  • I didn't read the "1906" novel but I think it probably has real potential. I just hope it doesn't become something like that "Earthquake" movie from the 1970's. I can also see the potential story problems compared to "Titanic." The events in "Titanic" all occured on a real ship...in one particular place. "1906" would be literally all over the place as far as locations. I agree that they would CGI the film, of course.

    "Titanic" however had a major advantage. It had a built in audience of enthusiasts who were willing to pay money to the film. Evidence all the Titanic web sites online. "1906" would have to be built up more via promotion.

    I agree with what Mr. Colton wrote about the film "A Night to remember" being a better telling of the Titanic story. It is a better telling of it. (Minus the ship sinking in one piece verses the splitting in half that was depicted in the "Titanic" movie) Then again, we can thank Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck and confirmed the splitting in half.

    I will say, however, regarding "1906", Mr. Bird is a great choice of a person who can come up with a great screenplay.

  • Maybe I missed something, but where did Jim insinuate that the film was costing so much because they weren't planning on using CGI?

  • For more reference, there was a movie made about the San Fransisco earthquake in the 30s that starred Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.

  • 1906 and John Carter are great ideas- and they do have the potential to be candidates for the first R-rated film released by Walt Disney Pictures itself. And that's if MPAA finally stops giving Walt Disney Pictures that "lucky break" that virtually no other filmhouse gets- that is rating the film a more kid-friendly rating (like G or PG), especially when films like the original Pirates Of The Caribbean deserve to be rated R!

    But... I would love to see the following from Pixar:

    Toy Story 4- Andy gets married to his college sweetheart, but the girl the toys have been given to now wants revenge! It's up to the toys to make their escape and be able to attend the wedding and not be in the hands of disaster!

    Ratatouille 2- Remy and Linguini make a culinary excursion to America and attempt to carry on their famed food onto American dinner plates! Will Remy prove to Americans that anyone can cook, or will he be condemned?

    Incredibles 2- Disney/Pixar should be working on this....

    Cars 3- Just something I thought of. Maybe McQueen and Mater will come back to America.

    Up 2- Another thing I thought of. It's up to Pixar to think of what will happen.

    And things I wouldn't want to see or will never be made:

    A Bug's Life 2- I HATED A BUG'S LIFE! I'll be d**ned if this comes about.

    Wall-E 2- Won't be made. Wall-E was overrated and mediocre. Then again, A Bug's Life is worse.

    Finding Nemo 2- Finding Nemo was also overrated and terrible. If this movie gets made, I'm calling the Gorton's fisherman.

    Ideas Pixar has now that need to be scrapped:

    Brave- Terrible direction for Pixar. To be released in 2012, but it can be stopped now. And people say they hate Cars 2? Read the wikipedia article for Brave. It is a worse idea that's worse than Cars or Cars 2. Just as bad as A Bug's Life.

    Monsters University- Yeah, like a child would watch THIS film. A horrible "prequel" to a great film.

    Newt- Good news is, this one got cancelled. Newt WAS a terrible idea.

    Now back to the point. 1906 and John Carter are wonderful ideas. But at this time, Brad Bird should forget them until, maybe 2016? It would be the 1906 S.F. earthquake's 110th anniversary, and therefore the five movies I proposed are right now the right track for Disney/Pixar. And MPAA should stop sugarcoating Disney.

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