Pixar’s Ousted Founder Returns With Apple and ‘Luck’ | Big Indy News
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Pixar’s Ousted Founder Returns With Apple and ‘Luck’



LOS ANGELES — The most Pixar movie of the summer is not from Pixar. It’s from Apple TV+ and the lightning-rod filmmaker-executive who turned Pixar into a superpower: John Lasseter.

Five years ago, Mr. Lasseter was toppled by allegations about his behavior in the workplace. Almost overnight, his many accomplishments — building Pixar from scratch, forging the megawatt “Toy Story” and “Cars” franchises, reviving a moribund Walt Disney Animation, delivering “Frozen,” winning Oscars — became a footnote.

After employees complained about unwanted hugging by Mr. Lasseter, Disney investigated and found that some subordinates occasionally felt him to be a tyrant. He was forced to resign as Disney-Pixar’s animation chief, apologizing for “missteps” that made staff members feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”

Mr. Lasseter, 65, is now on the verge of professional redemption. His first animated feature since he left Disney-Pixar will arrive on Apple’s subscription streaming service on Friday. Called “Luck,” the $140 million movie follows an unlucky young woman who discovers a secret world where magical creatures make good luck (the Department of Right Place, Right Time) and bad luck (a pet waste research and design lab dedicated to “tracked it in the house”). Things go terribly wrong, resulting in a comedic adventure involving an unusual dragon, bunnies in hazmat suits, leprechaun millennials and an overweight German unicorn in a too-tight tracksuit.

Apple, perhaps the only company that safeguards its brand more zealously than Disney, has been using Mr. Lasseter as a prominent part of its marketing campaign for “Luck.” Ads for the film, which Peggy Holmes directed and Mr. Lasseter produced, describe it as coming “from the creative visionary behind TOY STORY and CARS.”

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, shared a look at the film in March at the company’s latest product showcase event. “Luck” is just the beginning of Apple’s bet on Mr. Lasseter and Skydance Media, an independent studio that — contentiously — hired him in 2019 as animation chief. (Skydance hired lawyers to scrutinize the allegations against Mr. Lasseter and privately concluded there was nothing egregious.) Skydance has a deal to supply Apple TV+ with multiple animated films and at least one animated series by 2024.

Pariah? Not at Apple.

“It feels like part of me has come home,” Mr. Lasseter said in a phone interview, noting that Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, helped build Pixar before selling it to Disney in 2006. “I really like what Apple TV+ is doing. It’s about quality, not quantity. And their marketing is just spectacular. It’s the best I’ve ever seen in all the movies I’ve made.”

Mr. Lasseter’s return to full-length filmmaking comes at an awkward time for Disney-Pixar, which appears to be a little lost without him, having misfired badly in June with a “Toy Story” prequel. “Lightyear,” about Buzz Lightyear before he became a toy, seemed to forget what made the character so beloved. The movie, which cost an estimated $300 million to make and market worldwide, has taken in about $220 million, which is even worse than it sounds for Disney’s bottom line because theaters keep at least 40 percent of ticket sales. “Lightyear” is the second-worst-performing title in Pixar’s history, ranking only above “Onward,” which came out in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Lasseter declined to comment on “Lightyear,” which arrives on Disney+ on Wednesday. He also declined to discuss his departure from Disney.

More than 50 people have followed Mr. Lasseter to Skydance from Disney and Pixar, including Ms. Holmes (“Secret of the Wings”), whom he hired to direct “Luck.” The screenplay for “Luck” is credited to Kiel Murray, whose Pixar and Disney writing credits include “Cars” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Mr. Lasseter and Ms. Holmes hired at least five more Disney-Pixar veterans for senior “Luck” crew jobs, including the animation director Yuriko Senoo (“Tangled”) and the production designer Fred Warter (“A Bug’s Life”).

John Ratzenberger, known as Pixar’s “good luck charm” because he has voiced so many characters over the decades, pops up in “Luck” as Rootie, the Land of Bad Luck’s unofficial mayor.

The upshot: With its glistening animation, attention to detail, story twists and emotional ending, “Luck” has all the hallmarks of a Pixar release. (Reviews will arrive on Wednesday.) Some people who have seen the film have commented on similarities between “Luck” and the 2001 Pixar classic, “Monsters, Inc.” Both films involve elaborate secret worlds that are accidentally disrupted by humans.

“I want to take the audience to a world that is so interesting and beautiful and clever that people love being in it,” Mr. Lasseter said. “You want the audience to want to book a week’s vacation to the place where the movie just took place.”

It remains true, however, that Mr. Lasseter continues to be a polarizing figure in Hollywood. Ashlyn Anstee, a director at Cartoon Network, told The Hollywood Reporter last week that she was unhappy that Skydance was “letting a so-called creative genius continue to take up positions and space in an industry that could begin to be filled with different people.”

Emma Thompson has not changed her public position on Mr. Lasseter since backing out of a role in “Luck” in 2019. She had been cast by the film’s first director and quit when Mr. Lasseter joined Skydance.

“It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct,” Ms. Thompson wrote in a letter to David Ellison, Skydance’s chief executive. (Her character, a human, no longer exists in the radically reworked film.)

Ms. Holmes, the “Luck” director, said she had no qualms about joining Mr. Lasseter at Skydance.

“It has been a very, very positive experience, and John has been a great mentor,” she said.

Holly Edwards, the president of Skydance Animation, a division of Skydance Media, echoed Ms. Holmes. “John has been incredible,” she said. “I’m proud that we’re creating an environment where people know they have a voice and know they are being heard.” Ms. Edwards previously spent nearly two decades at DreamWorks Animation.

Some of Mr. Lasseter’s creative tactics have not changed. One is a willingness to radically overhaul projects while they are on the assembly line — including removing a director, something that can cause hurt feelings and fan blowback. He believes that such decisions, while difficult, are sometimes crucial to a quality outcome.

Credit…Michael Tran/FilmMagic

“Luck,” for instance, was already in the works when Mr. Lasseter arrived at Skydance. Alessandro Carloni (“Kung Fu Panda 3”) had been hired to direct the film, which then involved a battle between human agents of good luck and bad luck.

“As soon as I heard the concept, I actually was kind of jealous,” Mr. Lasseter said. “It’s a subject that every single person in the world has a relationship with, and that is very rare in a basic concept of a movie.”

But he ultimately threw out almost everything and started over. The primary cast now includes Jane Fonda, who voices a pink dragon who can sniff out bad luck, and Whoopi Goldberg, who plays a droll leprechaun taskmaster. Flula Borg (“Pitch Perfect 2”) voices the overweight, bipedal unicorn, who is a major scene stealer.

“Sometimes you have to take a building down to its foundation and, frankly, in this case, down to its lot,” Mr. Lasseter said.

Mr. Lasseter did not invent the concept of doing real-world research to inform animated stories and artwork, but he is known for pushing far beyond what is typically done. For “Luck,” he had researchers dig into what constitutes good luck and bad luck in myriad cultures; the filmmaking team also researched the foster care system, which informed part of the story. (The lead character grows up in foster care and is repeatedly passed over for adoption.)

As at Pixar and at Disney, Mr. Lasseter set up a “story trust” council at Skydance in which a group of elite directors and writers candidly and repeatedly critique one another’s work. The Skydance Animation version will soon include Brad Bird, a longtime Pixar force (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”) who recently joined Mr. Lasseter’s operation to develop an original animated film called “Ray Gunn.”

Ms. Holmes said Mr. Lasseter was a nurturing creative force, not a tyrannical one.

“John will give you notes on sequences,” she said. “He will suggest dialogue. He will comment on color or timing or effects. He’ll pitch story ideas. He’ll draw something — ‘Oh, maybe it could look like this.’

“And then it’s up to you and your team to execute against those notes. Or not. Sometimes we came back to John and said the note didn’t work — and this is why — or we decided we didn’t need to address it.”

Ms. Holmes added: “When the answer is no, he’s really OK with it. He’s really OK with it.”

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ElonJet is (sort of) back on Twitter



The college student who ran the now-banned @ElonJet Twitter account that used public information to track Elon Musk’s private jet has resumed his activities on Twitter under a new username. As noted by Insider, Jack Sweeney, 20, has created a new account called @ElonJetNextDay — which now tracks Musk’s private jet with a 24-hour delay to circumvent Twitter policy restrictions.

Sweeney’s original ElonJet account was suspended from the platform last week following accusations from Musk that it violated Twitter rules by revealing his live location. Twitter updated its policy to forbid publishing a person’s real-time location on the same day it suspended ElonJet. Sweeney said in an interview with Insider that he will be “posting manually” for now while he works on the framework to fully automate the account.

Musk tweeted on December 15th that “Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.” Twitter also explicitly states that “sharing publicly available location information after a reasonable time has elapsed, so that the individual is no longer at risk for physical harm” is not a violation of platform rules. Elsewhere in the policy, it notes that its definition of “live” location data means someone’s real-time or same-day whereabouts.

Most commercial and private aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology (ADS-B) that transmits a unique code (tied to the airplane’s tail number) containing information such as altitude and GPS location. This information is publicly available and aircraft flying in the USA and Europe are required to broadcast it in order to prevent midair collisions.

In a statement back in November, Musk said he would not ban the original ElonJet account as part of his “commitment to free speech” despite claiming it was a “direct personal safety risk.” The automated ElonJet account posted publicly available information regarding the location of Musk’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, and had amassed over 540,000 followers before it was permanently banned on December 14th. Musk previously offered Sweeney $5,000 to have the account taken down.

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She Worked for Twitter. Then She Tweeted at Elon Musk.



Early in November, Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees received a terse email from a generic address: “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force.” The note was signed “Twitter.” On Nov. 3, some people at the company received emails indicating they would be laid off the next day.

That night, Ms. Solomon, her husband and a few colleagues headed to Dots Cafe Portland, a lounge on Clinton Street. Phones were on the table, face up, she said. As the work friends talked, they tapped away at their phones, taking part in chats on the Signal app with colleagues in London, Seattle and San Francisco. Messages like “I got hit” were flying across screens, Ms. Solomon recalled. “You were seeing your co-workers drop like flies,” she said.

By the next afternoon her team of about 10 engineers was reduced to four. Ms. Solomon and her husband had survived the round of layoffs. The next week, she recalled, she awaited further direction from Mr. Musk or the new executive team. Nothing came, she said, except for an email alerting employees that remote work would no longer be permitted, with few exceptions.

Many employees learned of Mr. Musk’s priorities by watching his Twitter feed, where he posted frequently about company business to his more than 100 million followers. On Nov. 5, he complained about the platform’s search function: “Search within Twitter reminds me of Infoseek in ’98! That will also get a lot better pronto,” he wrote. That same day, he tweeted: “Twitter will soon add ability to attach long-form text to tweets, ending absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

That was more than Ms. Solomon and many of her colleagues had heard internally. “Radio silence,” she said. She began to vent her frustration on Twitter.

One of her first tweets in this vein came on Nov. 6, shortly after Mr. Musk announced a new rule for Twitter users in a tweet: “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark,” he wrote. He had posted that message after many people on Twitter had changed their names to variations on Mr. Musk’s name, most of them mocking.

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The new iOS 16.2 Home app architecture upgrade has disappeared



Apple has removed the option to upgrade to the new HomeKit architecture on devices running iOS 16.2. The change follows multiple reports of issues and problems with the Home app after the upgrade was installed.

Apple spokesperson Emily Ewing confirmed the change in a statement provided to The Verge:

“We are aware of an issue that may impact the ability for users to share the Home within the Home app. A fix will be available soon. In the meantime, we’ve temporarily removed the option to upgrade to the new Home architecture. Users who have already upgraded will not be impacted.“

The new Home app architecture was one of the key features of iOS 16.2, with Apple claiming that the upgrade would be “more reliable and efficient.” MacRumors first discovered this week that the Home app in iOS 16.2 no longer offers the option to upgrade to the new architecture within the Home app settings. Several reporters at The Verge have also confirmed that the upgrade option is unavailable on their devices.

The new architecture was first introduced in the iOS 16.2 beta back in October as an optional upgrade before the iOS 16.2 public release on December 13th. Both the beta and public release required Apple devices logged into iCloud to be running the latest versions of iOS, macOS, and tvOS. The upgrade does not happen automatically when iOS 16.2 is installed on a phone, instead requiring a manual process through the Home app.

The update has caused issues with missing devices and adding multiple users for some

Reddit users who downloaded the optional upgrade prior to its removal have reported issues such as the app booting other members from a Home account and being unable to re-add them. Users on the MacRumors forum have reported being unable to invite users to share the Home, HomeKit‌ devices being stuck displaying an “updating” status, and some accessories vanishing from the Home app entirely. Users who have already upgraded are unable to revert to the previous version of the app.

Update, December 23rd, 2022, 2:15PM ET: Added confirmation and statement from Apple spokesperson. Added links to Apple’s updated support pages.

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