George Miller, Peter Jackson, And Diane Keaton Were Early Contenders To Direct Meet The Robinsons [Exclusive]

"Meet the Robinsons" was a fun kids' film about a boy who ends up traveling through time and meeting a strange family from the future. Released after Disney's renaissance era and before its revival era, this movie has largely been forgotten in the 15 years since. That's a shame because it's actually pretty good and the story itself holds up, even if the animation doesn't.

Considering how interested the movie itself is in the idea of changing the past, it's tempting to look back at the movie and wonder what could've happened if things had gone a little differently. As covered in /Film's oral history of the movie, "Meet the Robinsons" was in production hell for a long time, always "on the verge of entering production" but never quite doing so. Although the first draft was written in 1989, the movie didn't come out in until 2007. During this period, a couple of big-name directors were courted to take on the project, and if any one of them had said yes, it's anyone's guess as to how the film would've turned out. 

"I wanted George Miller or Steven Spielberg," explained William Joyce, the author and executive producer of the film. "I was aiming high. Miller hadn't done 'Babe' yet, I don't believe. But god, 'Thunder Dome' was so awesome and I was like, 'This guy, he's a great stylist.'" 

Unfortunately, Miller wasn't interested. And although Spielberg isn't strictly against making children-oriented animated films, he was never on board for this one either. Joyce moved on to trying to win over Francis Ford Coppola, the director behind the "Godfather" movies, but he also wasn't interested. Then they moved on to trying to court another surprising director, Peter Jackson. 

Another round of rejection

Yes, Peter Jackson, the guy behind the massively ambitious "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and 2005's "King Kong" was considered for "Meet the Robinsons." You'd think a project like this would be a little too small-scale for Jackson, but this was back around 1995, so it wasn't that crazy of an ask at the time. Another director they considered going for was Diane Keaton, which is particularly surprising because most people don't think of her as a director. 

Most famous for her roles in the "Godfather" films, "Reds" or "Annie Hall," Keaton's first high-profile director gig was for the music video of Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth." She had mostly directed smaller TV specials until 1991 when she got to work on an episode of "Twin Peaks." Admittedly, this was a late season 2 episode, when the show's ratings had long since fallen from their season 1 height, but it was still a good step up for her. By the time she was being considered to direct "Meet the Robinsons," she was directing the PG film "Unstrung Heroes." Her movie was "exquisite," William Joyce explained, but "it just didn't succeed, and that kind of dashed that idea."

With Keaton no longer being treated as an option, the movie stayed in limbo for a while. When production finally did begin in 2004, Steven J. Anderson was chosen as the director. Anderson did a fine job, as expected from the guy who'd made "Emperor's New Groove," but one can't help but wonder what this movie would've been like if Miller, Spielberg, Coppola, Jackson, or Keaton had been the one in charge.