Toy Story 4 director and Pixar alum Josh Cooley has his next film in place, and he’s stepping away from animation and into live-action. Cooley has signed a deal to make a film titled Malamander for Sony Pictures.
The project is based on the 2019 novel by British writer and illustrator Thomas Taylor. Per THR, the story is set in Eerie-on-Sea, “a seaside town filled with oddball characters and mysteries as murky as its winter fog”. The novel follows a young boy named Herbert Lemon, who teams up with a young girl named Violet Parma to look for the parents she lost as a child.
Funnily enough this sounds like the perfect synopsis for an animated film, but perhaps Cooley feels like a new challenge after leaving Pixar, where he’d worked for the last 17 years.
He began at the studio as a storyboard artist on movies like Up, Ratatouille and The Incredibles, before writing and directing some animated shorts, and then going on to secure an Oscar nomination for co-writing Inside Out. He ultimately won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for Toy Story 4. Some have described him as Pixar’s secret weapon, so him leaving is a loss for the studio.
Cooley said in a statement: “Creating films and telling stories at Pixar for 17 years has been a dream. The quality of our storytelling was a direct correlation to the quality of the people at Pixar who shaped those stories together, and they will always be my family. And while it was a hard decision to leave, I am so excited to jump into and create new worlds with new collaborators and partners.
There are so many stories that I want to tell, and I hope to bring some of that Pixar magic with me wherever I go”.
Cooley is actually attached to direct a non-Pixar animated film in the form of an untitled Transformers prequel, but that’s in the earliest stages of development. Malamander will probably come first.
He won’t be the first Pixar alumni to direct live-action – Brad Bird has gone onto helm films such as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, while Andrew Stanton directed Disney flop John Carter – but both of those filmmakers eventually returned to Pixar to direct another animated film. Will Cooley do the same? It doesn’t seem likely, but it may also depend on the success of his non-Pixar career.