Friday, November 2, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Monsters, Inc. Theatrical Release

11 years ago today, what I consider to be Pixar's most creative film, Monsters, Inc., was released. It turned into Pixar's highest grossing film at that time, making over $525 million worldwide, and was the #4 highest grossing film for 2001, behind some very tough competition - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Shrek.

Pete Docter
Monsters, Inc. was the first Pixar film not directed by John Lasseter. Lasseter knew that to continue growing the studio and to reach their goal of producing two feature films a year, other animators would need to step into the directorial role. Lasseter chose Pete Docter to direct Monsters, Inc. (and had Andrew Stanton direct their next film, Finding Nemo). Docter later directed Up, and is now working on the Inside the Human Mind film, scheduled for a 2015 release.

You may not be aware that the release of Monsters, Inc. was almost delayed by a lawsuit brought by Lori Madrid. The lawsuit named Pixar, Disney and Chronicle Books as defendants, and claimed they had stolen Madrid's 28 line story, There's a Boy in My Closet, and used it as inspiration for Monsters, Inc. Madrid wrote the short story in 1999 and sent it to many publishers, including Chronicle Books. Madrid believed Chronicle Books forwarded it to Pixar, who used it to come up with Monsters, Inc.

Madrid requested a preliminary injunction to block the release of the film until the court case was complete. So on November 1, 2001, the day before the film's release, the film's director, Pete Docter, and Dick Cook, chairman of Disney's Motion Pictures group, were in a Wyoming courthouse. Both Docter and Cook took the stand; Docter explained how Madrid's book had had no impact on the Monsters, Inc. story or film development, and how the development of the film had begun years before Madrid wrote her story. Cook then explained to the judge the substantial and negative impact delaying the film's release would have on The Walt Disney Company. After an entire day in court, the judge ruled in favor of Pixar and Disney, and denied Madrid's request. The film was released on its scheduled date, becoming the #1 film and grossing over $62 million that weekend. The entire case against Disney, Pixar and Chronicle Books was completely thrown out in June, 2002.

Much of the above information regarding the Lori Madrid lawsuit came from David A. Price's wonderful book The Pixar Touch. It is full of great stories from the early years of Pixar, beginning even before John Lasseter and Ed Catmull began working together at Lucasfilm, and going through the years until Pixar was purchased by The Walt Disney Company. If you love Pixar (which, if you've read this entire post, you must!), and want to know more about the company's history, I highly recommend this book.

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