Cancelled Pixar Film Would’ve Marked Its First Venture into Live-Action

“A Lost Pixar Live-Action Project: The Unfinished Epic ‘1906’”

In the realm of animation, Pixar stands as a juggernaut, having produced 27 feature films over nearly three decades. However, in the mid-aughts, Pixar ventured into the realm of live-action filmmaking with an ambitious project called ‘1906,’ based on James Dalessandro’s historical novel.

‘1906’ is a sprawling epic set against the backdrop of the devastating earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906. The story weaves together real and fictional characters, exploring themes of crime, corruption, and politics during this tumultuous period.

James Dalessandro initially conceived ‘1906’ as a film treatment in 1998, and it garnered interest from various production companies. Eventually, Disney/Pixar and Warner Bros. joined forces to bring the project to life, with Warner Bros. financing the live-action component and Disney/Pixar handling the visual effects.

Brad Bird, known for directing Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Ratatouille,’ was chosen to helm ‘1906.’ Despite being primarily an animation director, Bird expressed enthusiasm for this live-action endeavor.

The film was set in the unique historical period of San Francisco, straddling the transition from the Old West to the 20th century. Bird found this era fascinating, with its coexistence of gaslight and electric light, cars and horses, and other technological and societal changes.

However, despite initial optimism, ‘1906’ faced several challenges that led to its development stalling. The film’s ambitious scope, period setting, and technical demands, such as recreating the devastating earthquake, contributed to its skyrocketing budget, estimated at around $200 million. Additionally, the fact that Bird, a first-time live-action filmmaker, was at the helm may have added complexity to the project.

Over time, the film’s budget and screenplay became unwieldy, making it difficult to proceed. Bird acknowledged the challenges, stating that he loved the movie experience but recognized that the story was too vast for a traditional movie screen.

As a potential solution, transitioning ‘1906’ from a feature film to a television miniseries was considered. The longer format of a miniseries would allow the story to be fully explored and developed, offering a more comprehensive narrative experience.

Although ‘1906’ remains in development limbo, several factors could potentially lead to its resurrection. Brad Bird has since directed live-action films like ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ and ‘Tomorrowland,’ demonstrating his ability to handle ambitious projects. Additionally, the rise of streaming services open to high-budget projects may make ‘1906’ a viable candidate for production.

Despite the challenges, Bird’s passion for the project persists, and he remains interested in bringing ‘1906’ to life in a way that embraces all its possibilities. While the project’s fate remains uncertain, its rich and expansive narrative could still find a home in the ever-evolving landscape of film and television.

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