By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist December 9, 2010 at 2:27AM
Is This Why Pixar's 'Newt' Was Cancelled?
Ever since his debut in 2002's "Roger Dodger," Jesse Eisenberg's career has gone from strength to strength. Following that film fairly swiftly with a brilliant performance in Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale," before having a banner year in 2009 with both Greg Mottola's "Adventureland" and the sleeper hit "Zombieland," he gave the best, and most acclaimed, performance of his career thus far in David Fincher's "The Social Network." But the next time he'll be heard of on screen, following up his almost-certainly Oscar-nominated portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg? He'll be playing a nervous blue macau.
Eisenberg is toplining the Fox animated movie "Rio," alongside Anne Hathaway, as Blu, a parrot with a fear of flying, who's the last male in his species. His owner takes him from Minnesota to Brazil to mate with the last female (Hathaway), but the pair are stolen, and have to find their way back to society. Rodrigo Santoro, Leslie Mann, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Jamie Foxx and Will.i.am are also among the cast for the film, which is the dream project of Carlos Saldanha, the director of the "Ice Age" sequels, and the latest from Blue Sky Studios, behind such films as "Robots" and "Horton Hears A Who"
A new trailer's gone online over at Apple, revealing the film's plot, and most of the characters and, to be frank, it looks pretty weak. Blue Sky's output is beloved by kids, but is leagues behind Pixar, and even Dreamworks' best output, and despite the theoretically appealing combination of Eisenberg and Hathaway, this looks very routine, full of fish-out-of-water cliches, slapstick gags, irritating comedy sidekicks and tired pop culture gags. In fact, normally we wouldn't have bothered writing about it. Except that we have a theory...
Back in February, the news was reported that "Newt," a Pixar animation that would have marked the directorial debut of sound designer Gary Nydstrom, and was set for release in the summer of 2012, had been canceled, news that was confirmed this September. The plot involved Newt and Brooke, male and female blue-footed newts, and the last of their species, who are forced together to propagate their kind, and, as leaked concept art demonstrated, went on some kind of adventure through the wild. Sound familiar?
This wouldn't have been the first time that animated movies with similarities would have been in the works -- many compared "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" when the two were released within a few months of each other, while "Finding Nemo" and "Shark Tale" shared a setting, and "Flushed Away" and "Ratatouille" both had rodent protagonists and a sewer setting. But in those cases, very different stories were being told, whereas it sounds like "Newt" and "Rio" were essentially telling the same story, with cosmetic differences -- namely, with different creatures at the heart of the tale.
When they discovered the similarities, and knowing that "Rio" was going to beat it into theaters by over a year, did Pixar decide that the plots were just too close, and pull the plug on their project? It's not outside the realm of possibility, particularly as if a project isn't working, the studio tends to completely retool the films, as they did with "Toy Story 2" and "Ratatouille," then cancel them entirely.
It could have been entirely coincidental -- we're speculating here, and it's entirely possible that Pixar felt that their film simply wasn't working. Either way, we'll see if "Rio" stands up on its own when it's released on April 8th, 2011.