Earlier this evening I received an email response from Walt Disney Company archivist Dave Smith (or a representative) informing me that Pixar's Newt "has been cancelled". This confirms the rumors that have been swirling around the film in the past few months.
When news broke a few hours ago that the film had been deleted from the latest supplement to Smith's Disney encyclopedia Disney A to Z, I emailed Smith at his public address firstname.lastname@example.org:
I was just wondering why there's no information on Pixar's Newt in the latest supplement to Disney A to Z? The entry seems to have been deleted.
Somewhat sneakily, I sent the question from my personal email address with no mention of this blog.
Shortly after 6:00 PM I received the short reply, which I really wasn't expecting. It was unsigned but came from Smith's address:
The film has been cancelled.
The rumors that Newt was in trouble began in February with a web comment made by Disney Legend and animation industry insider Floyd Norman saying that "Newt is dead". I didn't give any credence to Norman's statement at the time and, in fact, opted not to post about it because I couldn't confirm that it was actually him commenting on the Animation Guild Blog, which has been host to some anti-Pixar comments in the past.
Newt (officially branded newt, logo in all lower case letters) was first announced to media at the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios 2008 Animation Presentation in New York City in April of that year. The film was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2011.
The film was being directed by Gary Rydstrom, sound designer and director of Pixar's 2006 Oscar-nominated short film Lifted, and produced by Presto producer Richard Hollander. The official press release named Rydstrom and Everybody Loves Raymond writer/producer Leslie Caveny (she wrote some of my favourite episodes of the series) as writers on Newt.
Concept art was leaked online soon after the presentation, and Ain't It Cool News (AICN) published an excellent, insider report with details on the film's story and what was shown at the presentation.
Less than six months later, in September 2008, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter announced at a Disney media event in Hollywood that production on Cars 2 (originally scheduled for 2012) would be accelerated (pardon the pun) and that the film would be released in Summer 2011. This appeared to push Newt back to Summer 2012 and we heard nothing more about the film, except that a very cool NEWT CROSSING traffic sign had been put up at Pixar's headquarters.
But with the announcing of Monsters, Inc. 2 last month for November 2012, Brave (previously The Bear and the Bow) was moved to Summer 2012 and no mention was made of Newt's status and no new release date was given.
What a sad state of affairs. This is the first time I can remember I've been so disappointed with something Pixar has done. They've never publicly cancelled a film before. Why was it announced in the first place? It's a black eye to the studio that was able to bring Toy Story and Toy Story 2 to the screen under extremely difficult circumstances and with far less time and resources.
As I've said over and over, Newt was the future Pixar project I was looking forward to the most, right from the start. The tale of Newt and Brooke, the "last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet...forced together by science to save the species" sounded like a lot of fun and pure Pixar. An animated romantic comedy.
There's always the chance that production on the film will be restarted someday, having perhaps attained a sort of mythic status among animation fans, like an unreleased work by a musical or literary genius. Unlikely, yes. But Pixar should try.