Pixar president Jim Morris: I grew up watching Satyajit Ray’s films

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Pixar president Jim Morris spoke about his plans for Disney+. (Photo: Tower Hill School/YouTube)

In this exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Pixar president Jim Morris talks about the future of the animation studio, the Indian market, plans for Disney+ and much more.

Excerpts from the conversation:

How do you see the evolution of Pixar? What is going to be the future of Pixar?

Our intended future is to continue telling great stories. What has changed over time is that the percentage of our viewership has shifted significantly. What was two thirds domestic and one-third international when I started in the business has now flipped completely. We have a much more diverse audience out there. Even in the US, we have a much more diverse audience than we did 20 years ago. So, what we are actively doing is picking filmmakers who have a much broader palette so that we have different sensibilities. One of our main initiatives is to try to make more films that speak to broader audiences.

From a business point of view, we have to be respectful of who our audiences are. And since our business plan is to let our filmmakers make films that speak to them, we want a broader group of people that are in those roles here. We are working on it.

Did you anticipate the reception of Pixar films universally?

It’s always a pleasant surprise. Toy Story 4 is the biggest film of all time in Argentina. In Mexico, Toy Story 4 has the highest admissions of all time. Endgame did more box office, but Twister did more admissions. So it was sort of pleasantly surprising. We don’t do audience research on these things before we make a film or come up with an idea. We try to make a film that we want to see. We think if we want to see these movies, then maybe other people want to see them because we are all film buffs and family people. So, we hope that we have come up with something that other people want to see.

How does the Indian market fit in Pixar’s strategy?

Our films have not traditionally landed with a broad audience in India. I don’t know all the reasons for that. I know the traditions of popular films in India. Plus, there is a huge number of them. I grew up watching Ray’s films and some of the classic Indian filmmakers, who aren’t necessarily the popular filmmakers there. So, I probably have a distorted idea. I would love any suggestions about how we might penetrate that market fully because that is a huge market we could grow in.

How much will Disney+ change the animation industry?

It will be interesting to see. We are doing several projects for Disney+. Streaming is a new form of television. It has its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths include the reach, pervasiveness and persuasiveness. The downside is being compared to what we do in our feature films. It has financial restraints that are somewhat different. So the good thing about it (OTT platform) is that it gives some opportunities for artists to try some different forms of storytelling. We asked ourselves what could we do for Disney+ that would be similar to the impact Toy Story had on cinema. So, we are trying to work on different types of storytelling for different shows.

Are you reviving any franchise for Disney+?

We already have several franchises. We are load balancing because we have got this company and it is big. We have a certain amount of work we can produce with our artists in a year. We will add some people to do some work on Disney +. We try to have a pretty balanced and stable workforce. So, we are doing a certain amount, but our feature films remain our core business.

And of course, they (feature films) will find their way to Disney+ eventually. So we are trying to do other little things such as taking advantage of the streaming technology and provide the opportunity for some people here to stretch into some different roles that they might not have been in otherwise.

Do you think the growth of OTT platforms, including Disney+, will hamper cinema experience?

Well, I don’t know. There have been many things that looked like they were going to ring in the death of the theater experience and yet it stayed relatively stable. I don’t know the answer. At the end of the day, we have the opportunity. When we make feature films, we put a lot into them because the economics of that business supports it. If a film works, it can play well around the world and be profitable. The economics of streaming is more tricky to measure if you get right down to it. They can measure the number of people that watched it and so forth. It’s just not quite quantified into something that is as understandable as the movie business, which has been around for 100 years.


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