How Buzz Lightyear Can Save 'Tron'


Walt Disney Pictures

Apparently, Pixar got called in to do some emotional sprucing of the upcoming movie Tron: Legacy. io9 says it's the rare case where a rewrite signals good things rather than bad things, given Pixar's reputation. And it makes sense, besides, since Pixar's in-house at Disney, which is making the long-awaited sequel to the groundbreaking Tron. Obviously, these are particularistic circumstances. But it got me wondering: could Pixar become a successful writing and consultancy shop, in addition to creating gorgeous, deeply-felt movies on its own?

There would be risks, of course. Part of the reason Pixar's done so well, despite the disruption of the transfer to the Disney umbrella, is that they've succeeded by staying relatively small and tight-knit, preserving a creative team that works well and happily together. Getting seriously into the consulting business would require expanding that team, while making sure that the people who joined the company truly shared and understood the company's emotional aesthetic. That's a lot more difficult to teach than a firm like McKinsey's way of looking at the world and approaching problems. But that doesn't mean its impossible: Pixar is, after all, a company rather than an artist's collective, and it's brought in new people and lost old ones. They have to have some sense of what they look for in an employee and how to teach what they do.

Perhaps the real question, though, is whether there's a wider market for Pixar's brand of emotional perceptiveness and sensitivity. I'd hate to think the appetite for honest, unusual movies, for stories about old married couples, and platonic friends, and adorable apocalyptic robots and families of fish only exists once a year, or once every several years. And I don't actually believe it's that limited. I think there's a genuine hunger for the kind of movies Pixar makes, whether they're animated or live-action, aimed at children, or adults, or yearning people of all ages. In other words, there's a market. It will be interesting if Pixar's work on Tron: Legacy will be a one-off, or a potential new business model.

UPDATE: I put this out there as a theory, but it looks like it might have been a smart bet! Pixar apparently took a look at the upcoming Muppets movie, proving whether you're aimed at kids or adults, animated or animatronic, everyone can use that Pixar touch.

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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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