A Bitter Lesson About Big Breaks: The Rise and Fall of an Animation Studio

Hollywood is filled with people clambering to get noticed in a sea of noise. When that hard work has paid off and an aspiring filmmaker catches the eye of a studio or producer, this appears to be a big break. However, the good folks at AnimatedViews.com remind us that a big break in this town doesn’t always mean that your career is made.

AnimatedViews offers a detailed and intimate story behind the rise and fall of Disney’s Circle 7 Animation Studios, a company launched in 2005 to generate sequels to the wildly popular Pixar properties. More specifically, they profile Circle 7 writers Bob Hilgenberg and Rob Muir, who first broke into entertainment as part of Second City and The Groundlings.

Hilgenberg and Muir’s early television work included writing bumpers for USA’s Up All Night host Rhonda Sheer and penning a script for the forgotten The Munsters Today. Other notable projects included Disney’s 2011 mega-flop Mars Needs Moms (though their script was trashed by director Robert Zemeckis, so we can’t blame them for the final project).

However, it was at Circle 7 that Hilgenberg and Muir appeared to get their big break. They were offered several writing gigs, including developing scripts for Toy Story 3 and a sequel to Monsters, Inc. They were even in negotiations to develop a script for the conceptual Toy Story 4 before the third movie was reworked by Pixar with Lee Unkrich at the helm and Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt writing the script.

Nothing ever plays out as you expect it would. Shortly after Disney flat-out purchased Pixar in 2006, Circle 7 was shut down and the employees were absorbed into Walt Disney Animation Studios (which went on to produce films like Meet the Robinsons, Bolt and Tangled). Hilgenberg and Muir found some success in launching the direct-to-video Tinker Bell franchise, but their scripts for the Pixar sequels were abandoned.

The writing team is still working today, developing a Molly Shannon vehicle as well as a live-action adaptation of Bill Keane’s beloved comic strip The Family Circus, but sadly that big break everyone dreams of (which led them to develop scripts for some of the highest grossing animated films of all time) turned out to be not very big at all.

For an interesting read into the tumultuous world of animated films, check out the full story on Hilgenberg and Muir from AnimatedViews.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

Read More from Kevin Carr
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!