As you guys know, I love me some good easter eggs, and while watching The Good Dinosaur trailer for, like, the hundredth time, I noticed something: A Newt.
This tiny lizard in its half second of screen time reminded me of a Pixar movie you may have never heard of. You may not have heard of it because because it's the only Pixar film to ever be announced, and then cancelled. Today we find out what happened to that film… what happened to Newt.
If you are a very detail-oriented Pixar viewer you may recall this small sticker on Andy's closet in Toy Story 3 that says 'Newt X-ing.' Some (me) may argue that this is a hint as to the identity of Andy's monster (full Article here) but the stickers main inclusion was as a nod to the then in production film Newt.
As I said earlier, Newt is the only Pixar film to be announced, and then cancelled. So...What happened?
I mean, when you Google it you can see tons of concept art, and given the beauty of that lone shot in The Good Dinosaur trailer I can't help but feel like we are really missing out on a visual masterpiece here! Seriously, how great would this shot look in a Pixar film?
There are several possible contributing factors to the film's cancellation, the first of which is, "Multiple Discovery" or "an idea whose time has come." Basically for whatever reason an idea builds up potential energy, and passes into the social consciousness, and multiple people end up discovering it at the same time. Like Darwin and Wallace with evolution, or Edison and Tesla with the lightbulb. While ideas for animated films are far less scientific than those two examples, they are still subject to the same phenomenon. In the case of Newt, not two, but THREE separate studios landed on very similar ideas all at once.
As you are no doubt aware Pixar is famous for developing completely original films and stories, bringing you to new worlds, and showing you new perspectives. While a large portion of Hollywood is focused on reboots, sequels and translating books to film, Pixar crafts every movie from the ground up, starting with a single idea and rewriting, reworking, revising and repeating this a thousand times until they get it just right. The finished product almost never looks anything like the original plans and that's because, as Pixar President Ed Catmull once said:
At some point, all our movies suck—they really do
So with that in mind, here's what the plot of Newt was going to be. Warning: Spoilers! (Well, not really).
What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can't stand each other? That's the problem facing Newt and Brooke, heroes of "Newt," the 2 embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science.
Sound familiar? Well it should because that was the exact plot of Blue Sky's Rio, except with Birds.. and one of them is afraid to fly.
Now I'm not saying Pixar learned of this film and backed down. God knows they can handle copycats; Finding Nemo vs Shark Tale, anyone? But, like I said Pixar takes its dear sweet time developing these films, and for whatever reason they were not quite happy with the direction Newt was going.
Consider this: Your movie is going through particularly rough growing pains, and another studio comes out with a movie with basically the same plot, and has voice actor Jesse Eisenberg, who is just coming off his massive Social Network fame, while you are replacing your lead director, Gary Rydstrom, with Pete Docter, the guy who came up with Up and Monsters, Inc., and his idea is too...NO WAIT, we'll get to his idea.
In any case it's easy to see why you might decide it's not worth it, especially when thats not the only case of 'Multiple Discovery' happening.
Anyone remember Rango? Yea, so not only was Rio coming out with the same plot but ANOTHER animation studio was releasing a film with a small lizard as the hero.
Now, I'm not saying Pixar learned of this film and backed down - God knows they can handle copycats, Antz vs Bugs Life, anyone? BUT when Johnny Depp is riding the coat tails of Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland fame into the lead role of a movie that is also about a small lizard, and you've got Pete Docter on your team, and he's saying we need to go in another direction and that direction is not left, right, up or down, but INSIDE - wait for it - OUT!
Basically the actual reason we never got Newt is because it was struggling in development, Pixar's answer was to bring in Pete Docter to help fix the film, similar to how they brought in Brad Bird to work on Ratatouille, but Docter said, "Meh I've got a better idea," and pitched Inside Out. Everyone kinda looked at each other and said "Yeah...that IS way better."
So they closed the book on Newt, and five years and three movies later we got the masterpiece that is Inside Out.
See, like I said these movies hardly ever look the same as they do in development. Start with the unlikely loves story of two newts and end up with an 11-year-old girl's emotions trying to sort out moving to a new home in San Francisco.
Basically, the moral of the story is never doubt Pete Docter. EVER.
Will Newt come back into rotation? I honestly doubt it - it's been five years since they scrapped it, and they just announced five more movies they are working on. It's like Edna Mode says: "I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now."