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John Lasseter Says ‘Thank You, Korea,’ But Pixar Production to Remain In-House

SEOUL – Pixar boss John Lasseter said that he owes a debt of gratitude to South Korea, but that there are no plans to transfer animation production away from the U.S.

“All production is to remain in-house at this point in time,” said Lasseter, who is chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, at an event in Seoul that marked the first leg of an Asian tour.

“We’re focusing on hand-crafted work in the studios. We recruit people from everywhere around the world but everything happens in house,” he said.

For the Walt Disney Animation Studios slate Lasseter confirmed release dates of Jan 2015 for “Big Hero 6,” which premieres later this week as the opening film of the Tokyo International Film Festival; 2016 for “Zootopia”; and a slot thereafter for “Moana” which is currently in production.

Pixar’s “Inside Out” is to be released in 2015; while “The Good Dinosaur” and “Finding Dory” are both set for 2016.

Lasseter said that he had chosen Korea as his first destination, as he wanted to thank Korean audiences for the phenomenal success of “Frozen”. It is the second most successful movie released in the country this year, grossing $78.3 million from 10,296,000 tickets sold.

“What happened in Korea with ‘Frozen’ was really very special. ‘Frozen’ healed the Walt Disney Animation Studios and made it so strong,” Lasseter said.

Lasseter also made several references to the large number of Korean animators at the Walt Disney Studios who hail from Korea, adding he wanted his visit to the country to inspire future Korean artists. He added his Korean artists were very excited that he was visiting Korea as his first destination of the Asian tour.

Lasseter said that he welcomes competition from other studios as he believes it makes the whole industry healthy and keeps good animators employed in the industry. He stressed that his studios’ strength lies in being “filmmaker-driven and not executive-driven.” “The heart of the story” is what moves audiences, he explained.

On Disney’s fairy tales, Lasseter said his aim is to create fairy tales for today’s audiences.

“There’s not a woman I know, not my wife, nor my mother nor any of the women working at the studios who’s waiting for a man to come and save her,” he said, adding that Disney and Pixar are constantly on the look out for sources for stories especially non-European ones. 
Lasseter singled out the performance on “Big Hero 6,” of Daniel Henney, an American actor of Korean and Irish descent. After a substantial TV career and a number of film roles Henney is a well-known name in Korea. Local industry analysts expect his casting in “Big Hero 6” will play a key role on its Korean release.

After his Korean visit, Lasseter is to visit Japan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

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