It was announced on Tuesday, March 18 that they have begun working on sequels to The Incredibles and Cars. Cars has already had one sequel and is a money cow for the studio. But that isn’t the case for The Incredibles, heralded as one of the studio’s best efforts during their hay days. While Pixar has been shifting from more original content to sequels in the last few years, has this become what makes this studio tick or are there still great, original minds at work there? And most importantly, is this the influence of Disney seeping into what used to be a great and powerful innovative cinematic forum?
Since the success of Toy Story 3, Pixar’s only sequel work to that date, the studio has since cranked out two more sequel films (Cars 2 and Monsters University). From 1995 (when Toy Story came out) to 2010 (when Toy Story 3 came out), they had only done two sequels with each of them being a Toy Story one. Since then they have dove back into the world of Cars, which also gave the studio some it’s lowest reviews yet, and the world of Monsters Inc., which didn’t receive the negative feedback but was not nominated for an Oscar (just like Cars 2).
I don’t blame them for going back to Cars. The franchise makes more money than any of the other films, both in box office returns and merchandising. But unlike Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, the sequels didn’t need to happen in order to generate money. When those sequels came out, Pixar was separate from Disney and needed income brought in to help stay afloat. Ironically, their original films still brought in that cash but in their eyes, they had to make Toy Story 2 or Toy Story 3 in order for projects like Ratatouille or Wall-E to be given life.
But now they have financial stability. They linked to Disney, which if you can believe it isn’t strapped for cash, and have developed themselves as the trend setters for the animation industry. Why is now not the time to be diving into those projects that take more risks? Why are there only two original projects on the horizon for the company yet sequels to Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles is already set in stone?
Animation is dominated by sequels nowadays. Despicable Me 2 this year, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Rio 2 this year, and Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2015. But it comes down to this. If you look at who is making those movies, some are from Dreamworks who has established that it will make a lot of sequels already and then two younger companies looking to build off of hits.
But this is Pixar and they were supposed to be different. I say this because if you look at their resume before 2010, it was phenomenal. Even with two sequels (which are great films on their own), the quality of work that they sent out was amazing. They carried a fine line between humor and fun for kids and heart and emotionality that made these films special to people, like their new boss Disney.
Disney went through a similar patch of greatness as they cranked out original content for most of their early. But starting in the 1990s when they had smash hits like Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, they decided to keep the magic going and give audiences direct-to-video sequels to all their hit movies. Still happening today (see Secret of the Wings), the non-theatrical sequel has turned classic Disney movies into bloated, overdone money cows that takes away from the magic that lured us in originally.
This could be the case for Disney’s latest that should make classic status, Frozen. It made $1 billion in the box office, has become a sensation both with the film and with the soundtrack, and left the Academy Awards with two trophies (including Best Animated Feature). There is most definitely sequel plans on the way and I kind of hate to see that. While I loved the world of Arendelle and discovering these characters, I think that the film works best as just one film and that making more movies for the sake of popularity sucks. Not to say the sequel would be bad, but it just seems unnecessary for a world that we have already discovered enough.
This is something I fear for Pixar. I’m afraid that like Disney before the last few years, they will lose that magic and originality that made going to a Pixar film special and while we will be diving back into those worlds that we loved already will be fun, it just want be as satisfying. It is hard to re-create the magic of discovering a world and while the people of Pixar are talented, they haven’t shown yet that they can do that with the same magic that they did the first time.