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Every Canceled Pixar Movie, Explained

Every Canceled Pixar Movie, Explained


  • Pixar’s canceled films showcase the studio’s willingness to take risks and tackle unique, challenging storylines in their animated movies.
  • Despite the critical and commercial success of films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc., not all Pixar projects make it to the big screen due to various reasons.
  • The canceled movies like The Graveyard Book and The Shadow King offer intriguing glimpses into what could have been, leaving fans guessing and speculating.

Pixar is one of the industry’s most recognized and respected animation studios, winning several Academy Awards and generating billions of dollars at the box office. Its first film was released in 1995 and, though it’s currently less than three decades old, has managed to create a strong brand identity. People know when they go into Pixar films that the passion of the creatives behind the screen will be infused into every minute.

That’s not to say Pixar hasn’t had hiccups ever. Not all of their properties could reach the meteoric success like that of Toy Story or Up. Some of them never even got out of the ideation or development phase. For one reason or another, several Pixar films were canceled. Whether it be an original idea or a sequel to a beloved series, these stories are out there for Pixar lovers to speculate about. Keep reading to discover the “why” behind these canceled Pixar movies.

The Graveyard Book

Title card illustration of The Graveyard Book
Dave McKean

The story of The Graveyard Book started in print form when British author Neil Gaiman published the book in 2008. The young adult novel centers on a boy called Nobody Owens, also referred to as Bod. His family was murdered, and now he’s raised by the ghosts and beings in the graveyard he also lives in. Not exactly a typical upbringing. Although he regularly interacts with these supernatural beings, it’s in a man named Jack (the one who killed his family) that the true danger lies.

Gaiman’s book was a massive success, both critically and commercially. It won the Hugo Award, Carnegie Medal, and Newbury Medal, and has sold more than one million copies. Fans across the world fell in love with Gaiman’s lyrical, chilling prose. It was no wonder that filmmakers wanted a chance to bring it to the big screen. Disney hired Henry Selick to direct the work (via Deadline). Selick also directed Gaiman’s other book-to-screen adaptation, Coraline.

It should’ve been in good hands. Gaiman told Collider that Selick left the project to work on another film and after that, it was left in limbo. Directors and scripts continued to cycle in and out, landing The Graveyard Book in the dreaded landscape of development hell.

Monsters Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise

Mike, Sully, and Boo running through a hallway in Monster's Inc.

If fans were to guess which successful film has a canceled sequel, Monsters Inc. probably wouldn’t be the first to come to mind. In 2013, twelve years after the first film was released, we got a sequel. Or, rather, a prequel. In Monsters University, viewers follow Mike and Sully when they first get to know each other as college rivals. Is this a massive continuity error, since Mike references knowing Sully since the fourth grade in film one? Absolutely, but let’s not talk about that.

What many don’t know is that there was a film planned following the events of the original. In Monsters Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise, the two monsters set out for the human world to reunite with Boo, only to discover that she has moved. Perhaps stemming from the hilarious scene when they’re banished to the Himalayas, Mike and Sully are now trapped in the human world and have to find their way back.

This sounds like a great premise and since both films made well over $500 million, it should’ve steamed ahead. However, conflicts between Disney and Pixar left this idea on the storyboard. In 2006, Disney purchased Pixar and shuffled who owned the rights to the sequel. Thus, it never came to be and, as of 2024, there are no plans for further films in this monster-infested universe.


Black and white photo of buildings smoking during the 1906 San Francisco fire and earthquake
National Archives

When the world hears “Pixar movie,” they envision heartfelt, emotional, smartly-written animated films. One keyword to focus on: animated. Yet for 1906, Pixar was willing to branch out into the world of live-action movies. 1906 was originally a novel by American writer James Dalessandro. It was published in 2004 and centers on a devastating fire and earthquake that struck the city of San Francisco. A reporter named Annalisa works to document the tensions between citizens, politicians, law enforcement, and other reporters during this tumultuous time.

Pixar doesn’t shy away from tough, heavy topics. The 2023 sleeper hit Elemental touched on topics such as immigration, racism, and assimilation. Up tore out all of our hearts with its tender portrayal of grief and love. Yet even with that, 1906 still has a markedly different tone than other Pixar films. Dalessandro worked on the script, so perhaps the passion he clearly had for the idea would have made up for this bleaker, more serious tone.

The world will never know. Filmmaker Brad Bird was attached to the project, but the story’s scope appeared too massive to condense into a film. All hope may not be lost for fans of the original work. As recently as 2018, Bird has stated the story may be best suited for television (via Slash Film). So while some home remains of seeing this history play out, it’s unlikely Pixar will be a part of it.


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Toy Story 3

Promotional image of Toy Story 3 featuring Woody, Buzz, and the other toys

This canceled Pixar film is a bit confusing because Toy Story 3 did happen, but there’s a version that didn’t. In the movie we all know, little Andy is now seventeen years old and preparing to head off to college. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the other toys are donated to a daycare. Now, they need to escape this new, chaotic environment and get back to Andy before it’s too late.

A now-defunct animation studio called Circle Seven Animation is at the heart of the canceled versions. Numerous plot ideas were developed that have nothing to do with a college-bound Andy. One where Andy’s room is getting a makeover, and he spends that time with his grandma. There was another where Buzz Lightyear action figures were recalled. Even a murder mystery. However, things between Pixar and Circle Seven became contentious.

Circle Seven was created to take Pixar characters and franchises and turn them into sequels. However, the exact involvement of those working at Pixar wasn’t clear. How much collaboration would happen? Was Disney (who created Circle Seven) being greedy? Once Bob Iger took over, it went fully back to Pixar and whatever ideas were ruminating in the past were scrapped.

The Shadow King

Title card for The Shadow King

Henry Selick makes a return to this list, this time with the dissolution of the stop-motion film The Shadow King, also known as The Shademaker. The movie would’ve followed a young orphan boy who has abnormally long fingers. He must hide this peculiarity away from the world. He meets a shadow girl who teaches him to transform his hand shadows into life-like creatures and weapons. These creations will come in handy as he tries to defeat a monster hoping to cause havoc.

Stop-motion animation has a love-hate relationship with audiences. Yet Selick has proven he can create ones that resonate. Both Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas employ this animation technique and were massive hits. Yet even with these projects in his portfolio, Selick didn’t have the full support of the Pixar team, namely then-CEO John Lasseter.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Selick recounted the exhausting cycle The Shadow King went through before it was officially green-lit. According to him, they had to keep the budget low but “John Lasseter couldn’t help himself. He tried to Disney-fy it until the budget went through the roof.” Years have elapsed since Pixar officially canceled the film, but Selick isn’t giving up on the idea. He bought back the rights in 2022 and still wants to get this movie made.


Still of Newt flashing a mischievous look

Newt was a film announced in the late 2000s. The plot focused on two blue-footed newts named Newt and Brooke. They are the only remaining male and female of their kind. The fate of their species relies on them successfully mating. Too bad they don’t like each other. A classic set-up for an enemies-to-lovers romance, though this time in tiny lizard bodies.

Fans of Pixar have likely heard about this lost film. Images of potential scenes have been floating around online for years, leaving many to ponder what if and what happened. Well, Rio happened. The 2011 film is about a macaw who needs to mate with another macaw and the two bump heads.

The general premise of both are undeniably quite similar. Many creatives believe there’s no such thing as an original idea, just an original execution. Even so, Newt was set to release in 2012. The Rio filmmakers just got their first. But, it wasn’t time wasted. In the development of this project, those on the Pixar team got nuggets of inspiration for another story: Inside Out.



How Pixar Created a Cinematic Universe Out of Easter Eggs

Pixar, the studio that created the art of 3D animated movies, has a habit of putting in a little something extra that ties it all together.

Finding Nemo 2

Marlon, Nemo, and Dory in promotional image for Finding Dory

Finding Nemo exceeded all expectations when it debuted in 2003. This touching story about a dad-son clownfish duo is one of Pixar’s greatest works. When Finding Dory was set to release in 2016, audiences were cautiously optimistic. Would the studio tap into the same magic from the first film? Or would it be an obvious cash grab? Well, nearly $2 billion later, the franchise has settled that inquiry.

As much as fans loved the sequel Finding Dory, they may be unaware of another story that almost took its place. When Disney was still trying to push Circle Seven Animation into the spotlight, they came up with an idea for a sequel that’d focus on Nemo and Marlin, according to a script excerpt released on the Raindance Film Festival website. Remember that emotional opening scene where Marlin lost his wife and children, save for Nemo? Well, in the Circle Seven version, one of them survived, Nemo’s twin brother Remy. Marlin is also captured and must be saved.

In the two movies the public has, we’ve seen Nemo lost and Dory lost. It seems fitting that grumpy Marlin gets his turn. But with the fall of Circle Seven came the fall of Finding Nemo 2. Though there have been mixed reactions about the twin element, people are hungry for more stories with these characters.

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