A Few Thoughts on Pixar Canada’s Closure

Last night my social media fairly lit up with some pretty heartbreaking news – Pixar Canada has shut down, leaving over a hundred employees jobless.

Pixar Canada has been mostly responsible for short content that extends and supplements Pixar’s feature film lineup, and they’ve produced some seriously wonderful work, my personal favorite of which has to be the Toy Story short Partysaurus Rex. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Of course, I’m not privy to the inner politics of the Disney family, but I have some suspicions about the timing of the closure.

This year saw the first Pixar-franchise product brought to market by a non-Pixar company, DisneyToon Studios. “Planes” had a pretty mixed critical reception, but given its shoestring budget (around $50,000,000, small beans for a big animated feature) and hefty returns (boxofficemojo has its total gross at $180,000,000)

So DisneyToon has created a successful extension of a Pixar product without needing the Pixar branding, presumably at a lower cost than the Pixar Canada branch would have required.

So it’s hard for me to read “Pixar Closes Canada Office” and not think the headline should actually read “Disney Replaces Pixar Canada with DisneyToon”.

It may not be a bad move on Disney’s part, business-wise, but it’s a trend that is very worrying to me as an artist in this industry. Disney Studios Animation had a big win with Wreck-it Ralph last year as well. Now, with no Pixar film in 2014 and a string of less-than-stellar films the last couple years, will Pixar be on its way out if Disney loses confidence in the brand’s necessity?

One side note in all of this – Vancouver’s film subsidies are still in place, and just as lucrative as ever. This doesn’t seem to be a casualty of the subsidy race like Imageworks Albuquerque (another satellite facility with around a hundred employees let go, by the way).

Whatever the reasons, my best wishes go out to Pixar Canada’s staff. You should try Texas – we’re warmer, at least.

Comments

  1. Gastown arts says:

    I think you are right about the cost to produce at Pixar Canada and the lack of brilliant product being a key reason to close the branch. It was probably originally hatched when the Canadian dollar was .65 cents US which went to par by the time they opened. Next, they spent a fortune renovating the 100 year old Gastown bldg trying to design a hip workspace that was supposed to foster creativity but ended up forcing employees into unnatural work environments that resulted in poor product. Also notice how they didn’t talked any of the so-called talented Canadian workers and give them jobs at Pixar US. A side note to all this is how Pixar and the landlord bullied out 7 companies who had valid leases in the building that became Pixar’s. I should know, I had my valid lease renewal cancelled and 6 other local creative companies were evicted. In the end, you get a bunch of displaced local companies, a bunch of unemployed animators, an empty 20,000 sq ft lease, a waste of millions of Disney dollars for a few crappy animations no one ever saw. This is greed and contrived environments at its worst, and an example of Disney tactics of the worst ethical nature.

    • Ed Whetstone says:

      Quite the contrary, I think Pixar Canada produced excellent work, especially considering that the majority of their projects had to live in the Cars universe. Honestly I’d rather watch any one of their shorts than Pixar’s actual Cars features. Another point to keep in mind is that the majority of the artists working at the facility were not “Canadian” as you seem to imply – these divisions of larger studios almost always bring talent from all over the world, and especially the U.S. Part of the reason people are willing to uproot their lives and move north is because a company like Disney promises that they are investing in the future of the facility – renovations on a century-old building would be one way that happens. I can’t comment on the real estate issues, but I’d be interested to read more into it.

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