As with Ratatouille, Wall-E was a critical and financial success without being overly merchandisable. It also enjoys a reputation of being among Pixar’s most artistic films (it shares equal credit with The Dark Knight for the Academy Awards expanding the Best Picture Oscar’s maximum from 5 to 10 nominees). That reputation has kept it in the public consciousness, but the artistic merit of a sequel, even when genuine, is always a harder sell than its financial merit. As such, Pixar may wish to preserve Wall-E as an example of their commitment to making films, not franchises.
A prequel could detail humanity’s exodus from Earth, but Wall-E depicted enough of this that anything further would probably feel like a retread. Since Wall-E and Eve, and their mostly nonverbal communication, were the heart of the first film, a sequel would want to keep them in focus. However, the first film concerned Wall-E and Eve falling in love, and their style of nonverbal communication may be ill-suited to portray anything less simple then that. Additionally, Wall-E was enlivened by the overall theme of what it means to be human, and that theme is so widely scoped that there may not be anything for the sequel to concern that’s equally weighty. A spinoff could be possible, taking place on the renewed Earth, possibly with new robots, but I don’t see Wall-E 2 as being as conducive to a reduced scale as Monsters University was.
Despite or because of the original’s quality, I see Pixar leaving Wall-E alone.
Artistic Merit: 2
Up is in a similar boat. Very acclaimed, not very lucrative. However, its worldwide box office (Pixar’s third highest), its Best Picture nomination, and it being merely four years old ensures the film is stable in public memory. Pete Docter didn’t return for the last sequel to a movie he directed (Monsters University), so Up 2 could be passed off to someone with more free time, although given the original’s sizable worldwide success, they’d likely want someone with a success under his belt, such as Mark Andrews or Dan Scanlon.
A prequel is unlikely considering Up detailed most of Carl Fredrickson’s life, while a sequel is tricky because it could likely involve his death. Up has two more main characters in Russell and Dug, who could have their own adventure once Carl’s time has past. Perhaps Russell could even be an adult by this point, thereby showing that the spirit of adventure lives on. There’s also fair amount of talking dogs still around, so maybe they could face off against an army of talking cats… wait, no, that’s Cats and Dogs, and that was a horrible movie. That aside, as Russell often says, “Adventure is out there!” Maybe there’s another tale to tell.
I’d still wager Pixar will save Up just like they will Wall-E, but if one of the two is getting a sequel, Up is the horse I’d bet on.
Artistic Merit: 3
It’s not going to happen. I swear here and now, Toy Story 4 is not going to happen. Tom Hanks apparently claimed Pixar was “working on it” back in 2011, but there hasn’t been any news about it since. However, there has been further development of the Toy Story Toon shorts, which leads me to think the shorts were what Hanks was referring to. Tim Allen is under contract for Toy Story 4, but he has been since before Toy Story 3 came out; that’s evidence of contractual paranoia, not artistic intention. And speaking of artistic intention, Toy Story 4 would make no sense. Toy Story began with the wallpaper clouds on Andy’s wall, Toy Story 3 ended with the clouds as Andy drove away, and the trilogy is done. Is there massive financial potential in another movie? Yes. But any prequel or sequel would dilute one of their strongest works, and just because they’re capable of Cars 2 doesn’t mean they don’t know better here.
The Toy Story Toons shorts are a perfect compromise. They feature the gang in new little adventures in Bonnie’s house. The shorts are fluffy, funny, and paired with Disney/Pixar’s other wide releases like Cars 2, The Muppets, or Finding Nemo 3D. The next one is called Toy Story of Terror!, and will be aired on ABC around Halloween.
Artistic Merit: 0
Verdict: STOP ASKING
It’s going to happen. Everyone wants it to happen. The only question is when. The Incredibles was rare among Pixar’s films in that while most Pixar films are developed in-house and have many people work on them, The Incredibles started out as a script at Warner Bros. animation and is very much director Brad Bird’s baby. While Toy Story 3 and Monsters University smoothly exchanged directors and writers, The Incredibles 2 can’t happen until Brad Bird wants it to. He gets asked about it all the time, even as recently as this past May, and his answer every time boils down to “I’d love to when I get a good idea and have the time.”
However, that probably isn’t going to be any time soon. Bird is busy directing Tomorrowland, which releases December 2014, and Samuel L. Jackson recently said there are no current plans for The Incredibles 2 in the pipeline. Unless Brad Bird can turn out a Pixar-level animated movie in 3 years (impossible), the 2017 Pixar sequel is unlikely to be The Incredibles 2. However, the film was a massive and long-lived success, and the superhero genre naturally lends itself to multiple installments. As soon as Bird can say so, the Parr family will rise again.
The plot could concern Dash and Violet going off to college, or even as grown adults with their parents battling old age along with villains, and the struggle to keep their family together under the pressures of time. It has been 9 years since The Incredibles, however, so the plot may need to accommodate some standalone aspects to compensate for the uninitiated.
Artistic Merit: 5
Many felt underwhelmed by Brave but I don’t know too many who felt it was an outright bad movie. It suffered under a behind-the-scenes director switch which led to an uneven tone and a much smaller story than many expected, but it was still well-liked enough to do well at the box office and win Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Merida also joined the Disney Princess line up, and her associated merchandise delivered. If Brave 2 is the Pixar sequel in 2017, that’s only 5 years between installments, so no worries about public memory. A sequel would also add another female-centered film to Pixar’s roster, which is still lacking a wealth of female protagonists.
However, it’s unclear whether Brenda Chapman would return, given that she works for Dreamworks Animation now, and the rumors of bad blood between her and Pixar. Mark Andrews is also tied up in development of his own original film at Pixar, so he’s out, too. Another director could pick up the slack, but after ousting Chapman from Brave, which she also conceived, Pixar may not wish to develop a sequel to her work for fear of bad press; it would be very similar to what Disney threatened to do to Pixar back in the day with Circle 7 Animation.
That said, I see potential in Brave 2. Pixar still needs more female-centered films, and most of Brave’s criticisms weren’t about Merida herself. A sequel could age her up a bit, have her kick a larger amount of butt, present a new moral dilemma, and deliver a much more epic story. Brave’s magic elements were barely touched upon in the film, so a sequel could explore them more in-depth. Several completed sequences from Brave were also dropped when Chapman was replaced, so that content could see a resurgence in a sequel as well. Giving Merida a sequel would also further differentiate her as a Pixar Princess, as no Disney Princess has had a theatrical sequel. Overall, Brave 2 could be for Brave what Cars 2 should’ve been for Cars.
There’s a lot of red tape here, and Pixar would have to tread very carefully given the controversy surrounding the original. But, if Pixar can play their cards right, Brave 2 could be a very worthwhile endeavor.
Artistic Merit: 5
Verdict: Decent Chance
So that’s my wager: The Incredibles 2 is bound to happen sometime after 2017, but in the meantime, there’s several other properties Pixar may be expanding into franchises. And if the 2017 Pixar sequel is a sequel to A Bug’s Life, Up, or Brave, someone owes me a cookie.