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'Toy Story 3' Coming Along, without Lasseter; More Disney Details Outlined

Toy Story 3 is coming in 2009, but John Lasseter won’t be the director, according to a Daily Variety report.

Lasseter and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull provided extensive details on their upcoming slate in a Walt Disney Feature Animation presentation at Disney’s investor conference Thursday.

In addition to confirming for the first time that a third Toy Story is in the works, most likely for 2009 release, Lasseter said Lee Unkrich will helm it with Michael Arndt, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine, handling the script.

Unkrich co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo but has never before been chief director on a Pixar film.

Lasseter directed the first two Toy Story pictures but is presumably too busy in his new post as chief creative officer of Disney Animation to work on individual films.

Lasseter said, “The greatest thing about the merger of the two companies is that the creators of Toy Story ‘1’ and ‘2’ can make ‘3’ with the story that we wanted.”

Lasseter also revealed a behind-the-scenes shift at Walt Disney Feature Animation – which is separate from Pixar but also under the control of Lasseter and Catmull – by announcing that Chris Williams, a veteran Disney story artist, is now directing the 2008 release American Dog in place of Lilo & Stitch director Chris Sanders, who recently left Disney.

Catmull denied speculation that Walt Disney Feature Animation may become a 2-D-only studio, with Pixar handling CGI, though he did confirm Disney will bring back hand-drawn films.

“We’re really excited about that and have brought back some great directors to work on that,” he said, presumably referring to The Frog Princess, a 2-D pic being developed by Aladdin and Treasure Planet directors Ron Clements and John Musker, whom Lasseter brought back to Disney last year. ‘Princess’ is believed to be on the fast track and may be the division’s next release after American Dog.

Catmull admitted there were problems at Disney Feature Animation when he and Lasseter took over.

“At Disney we have these remarkable artists who were there, but in all candor (they) were not kneaded together in the right way,” he stated. “The whole wasn’t greater than the sum of its parts, but there were some great parts there.”

He said that he and Lasseter are trying to make Disney Feature Animation’s pics more director-driven, as at Pixar, and that members of the two units are giving each other notes and sharing technology.

He didn’t mention the December layoff of 160 animators, about 20% of the WDFA staff.

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