Pixar Vet Gary Rydstrom Is Directing An Animated Feature At Lucasfilm

ucasfilm logoBack in their pre-Disney days, Lucasfilm were working on their first animated theatrical feature film.* It was something to do with fairies, it was going to feature already-known popular songs and some of the animation was going to be outsourced to Singapore, to the studios where much of Clone Wars was created. Any other details were successfully being kept pretty much off radar.

Now, post-Disney deal, there's still a full-length toon in the pipeline at Lucasfilm, though it's not at all clear if it's the same one. In fact, there's every chance that it isn't.

We believe that Lucasfilm have plans for animated Star Wars features and while we have no idea how advanced those schemes are, statements from Disney have made it pretty clear that their principal interest in the Lucasfilm catalogue, at least for now, is focused on the space saga. I wonder if there's room for something else? For just one non-Star Wars project?

Brenda Chapman, veteran story artist and the originator and co-director of Pixar's Brave, has been speaking to Animation Magazine from the Verdens Beste Children's Film Festival in Tromso, Norway. That's unexpected. And fun.

Amongst Chapman's comments was this rather candid, and seemingly final assessment of her working relationship with Pixar:

That door is closed. I made the right decision to leave and firmly closed that door. I have no desire to go back there. The atmosphere and the leadership doesn't fit well with me.

I'm sure that will hook many of you to read the whole thing, and so you should.

But, for now, let's have a look at what Chapman said about her recent tenure at Lucasfilm:

I have been working on a project with Lucas for quite some time — about six months. When Lucasfilm was handed over to Kathleen Kennedy, she asked me to consult on the film to help solve its story problems. It was an opportunity for me to work with her. I felt honored to be asked by her, after what happened at Pixar. DreamWorks was very generous to me in postponing my start date with them so that I could work with Kathleen, also. My work on the project is done. My good friend, Gary Rydstrom, is directing it now.

That's an exciting little bit of news. Rydstrom previously directed the lovely little short films Lifted and Hawaiian Vacation, the latter being part of the Toy Story Shorts series, and he also worked on a feature film called Newt.

Sadly, though, Newt was cancelled outright by Pixar. I'd expect that that Chapman and Rydstrom have spent a little while trading war stories.

For what it's worth, Rydstrom worked on both Episodes I and II of Star Wars in his non-directing capacity as sound designer. He was even a sound technician on Ewoks: The Battle For Endor back in '85, and IMDB links him to Star Tours too. I think we can assume that he knows Lucas' galaxy very well.

But we shouldn't assume – just yet – that this knowledge will be of direct relevance to his new feature.

I wonder if we'll see this project revealed as being Star Wars-related more at next month's Celebration convention? I certainly wouldn't be surprised.

In fact, the way Disney keep storming it with big reveals at Comic-Con and D23, it wouldn't shock me if Celebration pulled off a good few major reveals.

Away from Rydstrom and Lucasfilm, Chapman's interview also reveals that she's now busy at Dreamworks Animation, adapting an unnamed book into a feature. We learn that this book has a female protagonist, "magic and heart" but, really, there aren't enough clues to work out anything more. Something I'll be keeping an eye on, though.

*The "new" Clone Wars got started with a direct-to-disc film that was bumped to a cinema release in parts of the world, but I'm not counting that.