Pixar Lays Off 175 Employees, 14 Percent of Staff, Shocking No One Who’s Tried Watching Their Recent Films

Samantha Masunaga, reporting for the LA Times:

Walt Disney Co.-owned computer animation studio Pixar is laying off 14% of its staff, as it cuts back on the number of streaming series it produces. The layoffs, which will affect about 175 employees, were signaled as far back as January. [...]

But Emeryville, Calif.-based Pixar, in particular, has also struggled to break out of a pandemic-induced slump at the box office. While the storied studio known for “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up” once churned out hit after hit, its recent performance has been mediocre.

Animated films such as “Toy Story” spinoff “Lightyear,” released in 2022, was a disappointment at the box office, as was 2020’s “Onward.” Last year’s “Elemental” opened with weak ticket sales but managed to recover thanks to strong word-of-mouth reviews.

After Lee Unkrich’s Coco (2017), Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2 (2018), and Josh Cooley’s Toy Story 4 (2019), I couldn’t name a Pixar film off the top of my head. After a few duds I stopped watching new Pixar movies automatically and waited for ones that were well-regarded. And I’m still waiting.

The core “Pixar braintrust” is gone — Steve Jobs is dead, Joe Ranft is dead, Ed Catmull retired, and John Lasseter was driven out of the company by scandal. Unkrich left Pixar in 2019. Stanton is still listed as creative vice president, but his most recent Pixar movie was co-writing Toy Story 4. Of the braintrust, only Pete Docter — now Pixar’s chief creative officer, and the director of Monsters, Inc., Up, and Inside Out — remains. Stanton has directed a lot of live action episodic content since Toy Story 4, including Obi Wan for Disney, Better Call Saul, For All Mankind, and the only good episode of Netflix’s 3 Body Problem. His next two projects are live action films, Revolver and In the Blink of an Eye. Brad Bird is directing a cool-sounding “retro-futuristic detective story” titled Ray Gunn, with Lasseter producing, but that’s for Skydance Animation, not Pixar.

There’s just nothing special about Pixar any more. Excellence is fragile, and genius talent is rare.

Tuesday, 21 May 2024