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Pixar's film that never was: "Monkey"

One of the interesting side stories, for me, while researching The Pixar Touch was that of Pixar’s first attempt at creating an animated feature film—ten years before Toy Story.

The film was called Monkey. It was to be a retelling of a classic, beloved tale of Chinese and Japanese legend. The monkey character is a trickster and magician who has adventures while accompanying a priest on a trek from China to India.

The film project started in 1985 while Pixar was still the computer graphics group of Lucasfilm. It continued for a while after the group was spun off to Steve Jobs as a separate company in February 1986. The Japanese publisher Shogakukan was to finance it. The film never got as far as storyboards, but there were lengthy, detailed story meetings. 

The reasons that Pixar didn’t make the film are slightly complicated—I go into a little bit more detail in the book—but in essence, they come down to the fact that its production would have been exorbitantly expensive and Pixar was focused on its computer hardware business.

John Lasseter created appealing drawings of the main character. Here are two of them. (Click to enlarge.)