Luck Footage Reaction: Skydance Animation's First Movie Borrows From The Pixar Playbook [Annecy 2022]

This year sees the release of "Luck," the debut film from Skydance Animation in collaboration with Apple TV+ that has had a less-than-lucky production history. In 2019, Skydance was quick to hire alleged sexual harasser and disgraced former head of Pixar, John Lasseter, to run the studio — replacing "Kung Fu Panda" producer Bill Damaschke. Shortly after, Emma Thompson resigned from doing a voice in "Luck" after refusing to work with Lasseter, and then in 2020 director Alessandro Carloni ("Kung Fu Panda 3") and screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger were all quietly replaced with Peggy Holmes and Kiel Murray, a director and writer who had working relationships with Lasseter at Disney/Pixar.

Ahead of its release on Apple TV+ on August 5, /Film attended a work-in-progress panel at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival where new footage was shown, promising a fun debut film for Skydance Animation that feels a lot like a Pixar movie — for better or worse.

The first thing to know about the footage shown is that "Luck" is quite funny. You'd be surprised by the mileage they get out of "this character is so unlucky everything that could possibly go wrong does." One scene they showed follows the main character, Sam, as she goes about her routine on her way to work one morning. Since Sam is, according to the film, the unluckiest person on Earth, everything goes wrong with her day: she cannot find a single matching pair of socks, her bathroom door gets stuck, her toaster doesn't work, and when it finally does, her toast with jam goes flying off the kitchen counter and lands jam-first into the wall, then proceeds to fall off multiple times while sticking all over the wall before finally hitting the floor.

A world of random luck

According to director Peggy Holmes, they wanted the film to reflect genuine bad luck, purely random accidents that cannot be blamed on anyone but the cosmos, and avoid making the main character appear clumsy. This leads to hilarious and painfully relatable moments, like one sequence when Sam is handed the keys to an apartment, but a passing dog gets its leash tangled on her legs, which causes the keys to fly away, thankfully avoiding a manhole, but landing near another manhole where a passing bike is able to knock the keys in. Director of animation, Yuriko Senoo, described the film as being heavily inspired by classic deadpan comedy, and the character of Sam as being inspired by Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnett. The footage reflects this, with great comedic timing for the scenes where Sam is just struck by the worst possible luck. 

Though some emphasis was placed on the film also having an emotional core about Sam finding her forever family after having such bad luck (she was placed in foster care and never adopted), the footage of the more character-driven moments we were shown didn't land as well as the comedic bits. Granted, less than 20 minutes of footage was shown, so there's plenty of room for heartbreak, but so far this feels more like a slapstick comedy than the pull-at-your-heartstrings emotional damage from recent Pixar films.

An elaborate world with unfortunate reminders

The footage showcased the world of the film, including the magical land Sam visits that is quite literally split between a utopian good luck world and a disastrous bad luck side (divided straight in the middle, like two sides of a literal coin). Visually, "Luck" looks genuinely impressive. Clearly, a lot of work went into the production design of both locations to make them feel distinct yet similar, with plenty of contraptions and moving parts to create living, breathing cities you can imagine existing somewhere out there.

One of the clips shown had Sam and the black cat Bob try to navigate the world of good luck using an elevator. Except it is no simple elevator, but a series of shifting cogwheels, floating platforms, and other seemingly random transportation methods that simply work perfectly. No one looks down to where they are going, no one pays any attention to the roads and moving platforms — they simply walk and everything goes well ... except for Sam, who misses every single cue. On the bad luck side, however, things are way more chaotic. If the good luck side is sunny, bright, and sparkly new, the bad luck side is covered in scaffolding, with all buildings, roads and platforms under construction or repair since nothing ever works right. Yet its citizens are used to random things gone wrong and found ways to work around them.

An intriguing premise

The world of "Luck" feels lived-in and elaborate, reminding me of how "Monsters, Inc." presented a vast world with its own rules, look, and characters — which again, is a double edge sword given Lasseter's involvement. We'll never know what the original, pre-Lasseter version of "Luck" would have looked like, but a day after seeing the new "Minions" movie following the same formula it's used for the past 12 years, seeing a new studio use the winning Pixar formula for a unique story is at least intriguing. Plus, Simon Pegg as a Scottish good luck black cat is hilarious enough to keep me more than interested in seeing the final film.

"Luck" premieres August 5, 2022 on Apple TV+.