The story as I know it goes like this: for a while, Ron Clements and John Musker were working on designs for a Disney film based on Terry Pratchett’s Mort with plans to make it in hand drawn animation. Something went wrong – either they couldn’t get the story to click or couldn’t lock down all of the rights, or both – and the project was abandoned.
But while it was in development, one of the artists working on the film was Sue Nichols. Here’s something of interest she has since posted to her personal website, all about a project she worked on at Disney in 2010 and ’11:
Now, I don’t think I can say what I was working on since the project was shelved. But those of you who know my love of Halloween and the morbid would know how much I LOVED working on this drop-dead idea. I really hope they eventually obtain the rights to do this.
And there’s an image too, with a caption:
A personal holiday card I sent during the development of this nameless idea.
Of course, Nichols’ Reaper might not have looked like anybody else’s, much less any final design that could, potentially, have been settled upon if the film did go ahead.
Still in progress at the studio, and expected to progress to full production for a possible 2015 or ’16 release, is the next film from Ron and John. I’ve shared what I know about it recently, but here’s what Nichols had to say:
In 2011-2012, I was called back again by Ron Clements and Jon Musker to design some development ideas for the next story to replace the last one I can not talk about. Since this is the film they are currently developing, I once again can not say what it is until the movie starts production and hits the official press releases.
And this was accompanied by this caption and image:
I just love Paul Gauguin. Don’t you?
Ssomething “fresh and original, not a fairytale movie,” apparently has a setting somewhere in the south pacific and a Tiki carving as a character… being developed in a new style of CG that’s somewhat like but certainly not identical to the techniques used on Paperman.
The exact look of their film is very much still in development at the moment, in parallel to the film’s character designs and storyboards, and there’s a little while before it will have to be locked in place for production to go full steam ahead.
Nichols’ tease does consolidate what I’ve heard about the “painterly” look of the new technique. We’re a long way from knowing if Disney will go ahead with this, but there’s a lot of buzz inside the studio, and the audience response to Paperman was certainly very strong… I feel good about its chances.
And I certainly feel good about the ambition.