The lush, verdant look of the Scottish highlands that serve as the backdrop for Pixar Animation Studio's forthcoming release, "Brave," was powered by new technology.
But it also came with a heftier price tag than Pixar's 2010 box office smash, "Toy Story 3," Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, said Wednesday at the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference.
"'Toy Story 3' was actually the lowest cost among several Pixar films, but 'Brave' is higher,'" Catmull said without divulging the picture's production budget. "The primary reason is we adopted a new technology. There was a tax for adopting a new technology."
Pixar, which revolutionized computer animation, continues to push technological boundaries so it can continue to stretch creatively and achieve greater diversity in the look of its films. The new software, known as Presto, marks the first such overhaul since the animation studio's first theatrical release, "Toy Story" in 1995.
"If you look at 'Brave," it has a lush, rich look to it, a very different look," Catmull said. "Much of the technology is to allow for new kinds of imagery to come into the screen and stimulate the creative process."
Catmull identified achieving visual diversity on screen -- and managing costs -- as the two major challenges facing animation companies.
"Our expectations internally are high, but the business is going through changes," Catmull said, referring to difficult film industry economics. "Animation fortunately has succeeded best (amid) these changes because of the nature of its broad viewing. But the reality is, there’s this continuing pressure there."
Catmull talked about transformation of a different sort at Walt Disney Animation, which had struggled for a decade before he and Pixar creative guru John Lasseter assumed oversight of the studio after it acquired Pixar in 2006.
The turnaround, which Disney achieved with the 2010 animated film "Tangled," came when the studio took ownership of their creative process, Catmull said.
"We don’t say Pixar does one kind of film and Disney does another, but they do have different cultures," Catmull said. "So we set it up so that if one [studio] gets in trouble, then the other studio can’t help them.
"In the end, when Disney made 'Tangled,' they made it. Nobody bailed them out. It was their film."