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Gotta Get a Gilliam…

Apparently Terry Gilliam wants to work at Pixar. How incredibly awesome would that be? Even the concept is intriguing. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with Gilliam as most film fans seem to be (his output tends to fluctuate wildly in quality), but Brazil is quite possibly my favourite science fiction film ever. And I love science fiction. Anyway, I would have thought a major studio that is a subsidiary of possibly the largest and most influential entertainment conglomerate in the world would be the last place an auteur like Gilliam would be found.

Evidently, I was wrong.

Rawr! Gilliam's Gonna Get Ya!

Rawr! Gilliam's Gonna Get Ya!

It’s an interesting little nugget. I concede it’s unlikely to happen (one of the dozen-or-so news stories a day that come up in the world of cinema that never actually go anywhere), but man… it sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? I mean, sure, Gilliam has gotten a lot darker and stranger in his old age. Arguably more cynical. You can even see the slow slope towards cynicism in his choice of work. Young fantasy in Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen trailing through to the depression and paranoia of Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, culminating in the just depressing Tideland. Admittedly recent films like The Brothers Grimm and the infamous The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus suggest a hint of the returning fantasy (though still cloaked in the darkness of his other recent works). So, he might need to adjust tonally if he wants to work at the world’s best family entertainment studio.

Not that Pixar films aren’t dark. They aren’t really kids stuff. There is some pretty deep and depressing stuff in those films, it’s just hidden out of shot (The Incredibles is a great example of Pixar’s ability to entertain children and weave a story for adults). In fact, I think Gilliam could find himself quite at home telling stories at Pixar. They might not be as innocent as Toy Story, but very few Pixar films are these days. the studio has evolved. In fact, Up sounds like it could almost be a Terry Gilliam film, only without the auteur’s trademark style. If he could find a way to craft family entertainment (in the truest sense – entertainment for grown-ups and kids), it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Imagine Pixar bringing to life some of Gilliam’s Monty-Python-style animations. As a member of the troupe he provided the unique bridges between sketches that even feature in the movies themselves. He clearly has a unique visual imagination that stretches beyond celluloid, which is another indicator that a union could work. Pixar tends to hire directors in-house. It’s just a technical think. Directing 3D animation is a very technical job, perhaps as much as it is a creative one. The guys at the studio know the animating process better than anyone, so they are the logical choices to direct the film. If (and it’s a big if) Gilliam were to end up at Pixar, one would imagine that Brad Bird or Andrew Stanton serving as a “co-director” or something equivalent (at least for the first feature).

That’s not to say that the relationship would only benefit Pixar. Gilliam has had some of the worst luck when it comes to films. The disasters surrounding his revived The Man Who Killed Don Quixote are so legendary that they spawned their own documentary (Lost in La Mancha). The Adventures of Baron Munchausen ran to twice its budget. He has gone to war with several studios over several films (which is why there are several versions of Brazil, for example). There are numerous other examples of his misfortunes, and – to be honest – not all of them would be solved by a creative union with Pixar, but we imagine that having a steady home working in animation might help in reversing his fortunes.

Still, despite how wonderful it would be and the many reasons it makes logical sense, we can see several huge barriers to the creative union. The first and most obvious would be Gilliam’s independence and his mistrust of the studio system. Sure, he’s singing the praise of the company now, but he is notoriously finicky (which is one of the requirements of being an autuer). Given how some of his productions have been mawled by the studios (and how he himself has been treated at times), we could understand how he might remain suspicious of studios. It’s also inevitable that working with Pixar will bring its own set of requirements (perhaps not as rigorous or toyetic or outright commercial as working for other studios, but still), which will require a somewhat firmer hand over the director’s output. And it’s hard to compromise in any way shape or form when it comes to ‘artistic integrity‘.

It is all speculative, but it’s fun to speculate. It might happen, it might not. We know what we’re hoping for, but we would put any money down at the moment.

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