Early in it's development, Toy Story 2 was not being directed by John Lasseter. He was supervising, as he does on every Pixar production, but Ash Brannon was the lead on the film. Then a rough cut of the animatic was completed, and shown, and it was decided that Lasseter should take control.
Stories about this are biased in the telling - with some asserting that Lasseter's involvement came when the film started to show it's potential and was stepped up a gear from Straight-to-Video to Full-Theatrical-Release status. Others take a more negative focus and question Brannon's abilities. He certainly never did get to direct a film of his own at Pixar, moving on and trying to launch projects elsewhere, with one now finally deep in production as I previously reported.
In the final evaluation, it all worked out very well as Toy Story 2 is not only the crowning glory of Pixar's incredible body of work (so far), it is, quite simply, the most astonishing thing I have ever seen on the big screen. A massively detailed work, rich in sophisticated, subtle implications, ever element of it's design supports it's amazing weave of subtext, character, plot and thoroughly explored ideas. Sorry, Ash, but they were better off without you.
Now another Pixar director has been removed from his film. Jan Pinkava, director of the gong-laden Pixar short Geri's Game, was some years into development on Ratatouille. The film, still scheduled for release in the Summer of 2007, tells tales of it's eponymous character, a rat that lives in a Parisian restaurant, allegedly with a supporting cast of mice. Rumours rose up in recent weeks that the production was troubled, that the working version wasn't coming together, and that Pinkava, though remaining on board as director, was to be helped out/shepherded along, through consultations with Brad Bird.
Seemingly, that plan wasn't making everybody happy either as it has now been announced that Brad Bird is taking over full directorial control of the film.
Good news? You bet. If it tells us one thing, it's that The Film itself, the very quality of the work, is the number one priority at Pixar. Ratatouille would not have been - and will not be - released in a compromised form. It's now getting back on track with a very accomplished director in charge and I'm sure that the release date next Summer will be met happily, if not necessarily easily.
Bird had been developing a sequel to The Incredibles, which now, of course, will face considerable delays. It's anybody's guess what the state of play with Ray Gunn, Bird's long touted "noirish sci-fi thriller" might be.