One of the strengths of computer animation studio Pixar’s output has always been its unique concepts. Whether it is the secret life of toys, what monsters are really doing lurking under your bed or what really goes on inside a young girl’s mind, the creators at Pixar are always bring new and never-seen-before ideas to the screen. Except when they are making sequels.
Sure, sequels are a standard part of the Hollywood business model these days, and even Pixar has succumbed to the allure of easy profits by giving people more of the same. Although in Pixar’s case, more of the same is still pretty high quality storytelling. But every time the studio announces a Toy Story 4 or Incredibles 2, as much as I am interested in seeing those films, a little bit of me is disappointed in that those sequels are taking resources away from a project that could be the next new Toy Story or Incredibles.
So the news that outside of a few previously announced sequel projects already in the works, the studio will be focusing on new, original stories makes me happy.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Pixar president Jim Morris stated “Everything after [sequels to] Toy Story and The Incredibles is an original right now.”
To get a better idea of how this will play out over the next several years, let’s take a look at Pixar’s release calendar. Currently they have the sequel Finding Dory in theaters. The next up is another sequel, Cars 3, on June 16, 2017. That will be followed by the original Coco from Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich on November 22, 2017. John Lasseter returns to the Toy Story franchise which he launched for the aforementioned Toy Story 4 due in theaters on June 15, 2018 with Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2 coming on June 21, 2019. Beyond that, the studio has already staked out two dates in 2020 – March 13th and June 19th – where Morris confirms original films will debut.
Beyond their currently announced schedule, Morris does state that the studio has at least two other projects in development that are also original stories. So at the very least, the next sequel out of Pixar wouldn’t even been seen until 2022 at the earliest, unless there was some major changes to their release slate.
Morris claims that the studio hadn’t really been producing as many sequels as it seems, telling EW that the business plan has always remained the same, just that some release dates got shuffled.
Our plan had been to make an original every year and a sequel every other year, if the idea came forth to do it. If we add the next films after the current ones, it actually comes out to exactly that: seven sequels in a spate of 21 originals, from the time we were acquired by Disney [in 2006]. So it’s penciled out to be the same portfolio, just not in the order we thought they would be.
Except not really.
Including their announced projects all the way through 2019, Pixar has only created 21 feature films altogether. Even counting the two untitled films scheduled for 2020 and the two previously mentioned original projects still in development, you still only get 25 total features, and that includes the number of sequels that they have produced.
But let’s take that benchmark of 2006, the year Disney outright bought Pixar, as the benchmark Morris wants it to be. Prior to that, Pixar had released exactly one sequel – Toy Story 2 – out of a total of six films. But if you take a look at Pixar’s output from 2006 up until 2019, you see that they have released or will release 8 original films – Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Brave, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur and Coco. Also that space of time we have seen or will see – Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Monsters University, Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2. Eight originals and six sequels. True, the studio’s overall ratio has been two new films to a sequel over its entire history, but that is only true once you factor in the glut of sequels that followed the studio’s acquisition by Disney.
In the end, this is Hollywood, so I don’t expect that Pixar has entirely abandoned sequels entirely. Morris himself states, “Most studios jump on doing a sequel as soon as they have a successful film, but our business model is a filmmaker model, and we don’t make a sequel unless the director of the original film has an idea that they like and are willing to go forward on.”
I even recognize that temptation to stay in the pre-defined world that has already been created to tell more stories. But when virtually every world is a unique vision like the ones Pixar’s team creates time and again, I want to exploring what else may be out there.