Published January 27, 2005
No one wants to direct "Toy Story 3."
That's the word in Hollywood's animation world, where the third installment of the incredibly successful Pixar series has no director, writer or, possibly, stars.
My sources in the animation biz tell me that Disney, which will make "Toy Story 3" without Pixar, cannot find a director to guide the project.
John Lasseter, who directed the first two movies, will stay with Pixar after he finishes its last Disney-distributed movie, "Cars," set for release in 2006.
It's also undetermined whether stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen will reprise their roles in the new film. The odds are that Hanks won't, but that Allen — who's made some successful family films at Disney — will.
Hanks, it's noted, is very close to former Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who now runs Dreamworks. Hanks has already made two films for Dreamworks, thanks to his friendship with another of the company's three principal partners, Steven Spielberg.
Pixar just received four Oscar nominations for its current Disney-distributed film, "The Incredibles." "Cars" will mark the last collaboration between the two studios, since Disney's Michael Eisner has essentially told Pixar to take a hike.
Disney has the right to make sequels to all the Pixar movies it distributed, including "Toy Story," "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo," etc. But there's a hitch — since Pixar developed all the animation materials to create the movies, it also gets to keep them.
In other words: Disney is now trying to hire another team of animators to recreate Buzz Lightyear, Woody and all the other "Toy Story" characters so that they look the same. It will have to start from scratch to reproduce Pixar's creative work.
The next step, of course, is to find a writer and director for the project. With Lasseter gone, my source says, "Every single animator of note has turned down the director's job. They don't want to cross Pixar. They've become the only deal in town."
One source told me that a possible offer had been floated to an assistant director who worked on Disney's straight-to-video traditional cartoon, "The Lion King 1½."
But even that film was a bastardization, since most of the creative people who worked on the original 1994 "The Lion King" were long gone from Disney.
Both the original "Lion King" director, Roger Allers, and writer, Irene Mecchi, are said to be now working on Pixar projects. Allers' last big project for Disney animation was "Kingdom of the Sun," the movie that became "The Emperor's New Groove" after he was unceremoniously replaced.
The entire debacle was recorded in a wonderful but unreleased documentary called "Sweatbox," made by Trudie Styler while her husband, rock singer Sting, was writing songs for the film which were ultimately cut from the final release.
Meantime, Disney announced last week that the script for "Toy Story 3" would be based on a proposal submitted to them by a young student in their feature animation story development program.
Most of the attention at the Sundance Film Festival has focused on films without distributors, such as "Thumbsucker," "Lonesome Jim," "The Aristocrats" and the just-sold "Hustle & Flow."
But one film that made a splash right at the beginning of the festival may cause a lot of trouble for ... Madonna. That's "Layer Cake," a Sony Pictures Classic release directed by Matthew Vaughn. He's the stepson of "Man From U.N.C.L.E." star Robert Vaughn and the husband of supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
But Vaughn has until now only been known as the producer of movies directed by Mr. Madonna, Guy Ritchie. Vaughn (with Trudie Styler) produced "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch," Ritchie's first two feature films.
Now Vaughn, who says that Ritchie was unavailable for "Layer Cake," has gone and directed a Ritchie-type thriller himself.
In the process, he's made a much better film than anything Ritchie has done. (I'm excluding here the remake of "Swept Away," perhaps the worst movie ever made aside from "Gigli" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space.")
Instead of a hard-to-decipher and harder-to-comprehend feature, Vaughn went for a more middle-of-the-road approach.
He hired Daniel Craig, the hot British actor who looks remarkably like a young Steve McQueen, to play the lead. Even when "Layer Cake" gets little confusing (as these thrillers do), Craig is nothing less than mesmerizing as a coke dealer trying to take his profits and head for retirement.
The supporting cast, led by Colm Meaney as one of many characters with Runyonesque nicknames, is superb as well.
Meanwhile, it would seem that Vaughn and Ritchie have parted ways since the catastrophic "Swept Away."
Ritchie's new movie, called "Revolver," is being produced by Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element"). It stars Ray Liotta and Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy from "The Sopranos").
As Sundance heads its into its waning days, the traffic and crowds are beginning to recede. Celebrities are beginning to drift away, too, as the "swag" shops start closing up or running out of junk to give away.
Some stars were more welcome sights than others. Sharon Lawrence, for example, bought tickets and stood on lines like everyone else for most of the week. The former "NYPD Blue" star, now on "Desperate Housewives," took a low-key approach and won a lot of fans because of it. She told me she's making the 7-hour drive today from Park City to Reno, Nevada, to meet husband Dr. Tom Apostle, who's flying in from Los Angeles for a long weekend.
Glenn Close was the guest of honor at a lovely dinner hosted by Sony Pictures Classics, Merchant Ivory Productions and fave PR guy Jeff Hill for her movie, "Heights," on Tuesday night. Close, one of our great actresses, was in three Sundance films this year.
Creative Coalition president Joe Pantoliano ("Memento," "Bound," "The Matrix") jaunted over to Park City to present the group's Visionary Award to Kevin Bacon, who directed "Loverboy," a popular Sundance entry this year. Pantoliano then got stuck on a miserable Delta flight yesterday from Salt Lake to New York with yours truly. A 5½-hour delay due "to mechanical difficulties" was ameliorated by the airline offering us $7 meal vouchers and "free" $2 headsets. Joey Pants, ever the sport, treated a contingent to TCBY yogurt while we acted out scenes from "The Terminal".
Also ... congrats to our colleague Liz Smith for announcing the upcoming publication of Jane Fonda's autobiography in April. That's good news, since this column broke the news back on January 31, 2001, that Fonda had put to pen on paper.
Fonda told us then: "There are six books out there already. So I figured it was time to do one of my own."
She wrote the book, "My Life So Far," without assistance.
"And I'm a pretty good writer, it turns out," she said.
This will be the must-read of the spring season.