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Pixar is Helping with Jon Favreau’s ‘Magic Kingdom’

Jon Favreau reveals Pixar's involvement with his theme park fantasy, his ideas for the story and why you'll just have to wait to see it.

 

After we got the scoop on his original John Carter plans, we spoke with director Jon Favreau again at the NBC Television Critics Association cocktail party. Favreau directed the pilot for their new series “Revolution,” but we steered the conversation towards his Magic Kingdom film for Disney. Favreau was happy to explain why we may have to wait a while for this one, and that will be a good thing.

“I went back to back to back with three movies in a row, Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens, all of them with release dates announced as I walked in,” Favreau said. “As I cracked the script for the first time we already knew the date and the poster, in some cases the cast. On this one, Magic Kingdom is a big film. It’s a very special piece of intellectual property with all the characters from the park and the legacy of Walt Disney.”

The film will be based on Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom theme park, but Favreau says the storytelling development of the film is inspired by Pixar. Pixar develops their stories for years before investing in animation production, because they can afford the time to craft the story, and sometimes go back to the drawing board midway through.

“What we’ve been doing is writing a script, going up to Pixar, meeting with the brain trust, coming back down, bringing on artists, story editors and putting it together as though it were an animated film so that by the time we actually film it, we’ll have a rock solid story,” Favreau continued. “I don’t want to rush anything. I want this thing to be perfect. I want it to be one shot one kill, like a sniper. I want to make sure this movie’s right in the crosshairs that we can really knock it out of the park so to speak.”

To be clear, Magic Kingdom is not a Pixar film. However, John Lasseter has introduced the Disney production to the Pixar staff and let the synergy flow.

“As far as I know it’s a Disney production but they’ve been very good about Pixar,” Favreau said. “[I've known] Lasseter for many years now. It’s our first time collaborating together but he’s opened up all the resources of Pixar. I’ve been up there a few times now and stayed up at the ranch. It’s just been a dream come true. Taking a tour of Pixar is special enough but to sit in a room and pitch to those people and hear their ideas, it’s very, very exciting. I want to learn as much as I can from them and hopefully have their success in storytelling that they do as well by learning from their process. I really want to hold this film to a very high standard so I’m not rushing it but it’s coming along very well.”

The story as it exists so far is this: “It’s going to be a family in the park. It’s an alternate reality version of the park that they get launched into. So much of it is just how it weaves together as a tapestry and what the visuals look like in creating this rich world. It’s informed by everything that I remember and know about the park from going there since I was a small child.”

Classic and current Disneyland attractions are all under consideration as elements in the film. One Disney Geek even suggested Club 33. “Club 33 is something that we’ve been discussing. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the vulture in Club 33 as a character. There’s a lot of ideas swirling around now. I don’t know which ones are going to make it in but it’s definitely informed primarily by Walt’s vision of the park, even before and immediately after it opened. A lot of it for people our age there’ll be a nostalgic element to it. People who know Disneyland are going to see that we did our homework, but then it’s ultimately an adventure that’s going to be for the family and for the kids too. I had a lot of fun playing to that type of crowd with Elf and Zathura. This seems to be mixing elements from all the films I’ve done, from Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, Zathura, Elf all rolled into one project that really is calling upon everything I’ve learned up to this point.”

But you’ll have to wait to see this, because that’s how Pixar does it. “Fortunately there’s no rush on it. I’ve been working on it as a writer now and we’re looking forward to beginning that long lead prep as you would on an animated film. Then you work your way to where you know what the whole movie is going to be before you ever roll camera. You actually watch it as the Pixar people do and actually watch it on a screen and evaluate it before you ever roll camera.”