No one’s happier than I am after hearing from Edwin Catmull that Pixar has recommitted itself to original films. To sum up, Catmull stated that Pixar’s current strategy is to release an original film every year, while releasing a sequel/prequel/etc. every other year. For example, Bob Peterson’s The Good Dinosaur, an original film, is coming out in 2014. In 2015, Pixar will release Pete Docter’s Inside Out and Andrew Stanton’s Finding Dory, an original film and a sequel, respectively.
However, while this new strategy places original films at the forefront of Pixar’s focus, they haven’t given up on sequels. This author isn’t opposed to Pixar sequels on principle. In fact, I thought Monsters University was great. I merely wish to consider, of all of Pixar’s properties, which ones will be getting sequels? More than that, which ones even deserve any sort of follow-up?
My rating system will be based on two factors: Artistic Merit and Logistics.
Artistic Merit should be self-explanatory: how much room did the original film leave for another story, and how much potential would this new story have?
Logistics requires a little more explanation. See, just because any particular Pixar film could accommodate a sequel, doesn’t mean it will be made. Finding Dory is coming out in 2015, which means the next Pixar sequel is releasing as early as 2017, by which time half of their films be over 10 years old. Any of their films could use a sequel, but if the original hasn’t lasted in public memory enough for the film to have financial potential, that sequel may not happen. Or, at least, not a direct sequel.
For example, Monsters University came out 12 years after its predecessor, and as such the film was a self-contained story for which Monsters, Inc. wasn’t required viewing. This self-contained nature wasn’t a bad thing (if you read my review you’ll know that I felt it worked in the movie’s favor), but not every Pixar sequel may work as an independent story (i.e. the Toy Story trilogy).
I think that covers everything – let’s get onto the meat of this article. I will analyze sequel potential and then grade each property on Artistic Merit and Logistics on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being worst and 5 being best.
Before Cars 2 came out, my theory was Pixar wanted a second shot at getting the story right after Cars’ lukewarm reception. After critics panned Cars 2, Pixar can’t claim their interest in Cars 3 would be anything other than financially-based. The negative reaction over the announcement alone of Cars 3 would likely affect buzz for all their other upcoming films as well, even the non-sequels.
If you read my “Is Story Still King?” article, you’ll know that Cars merchandise is enormously, ludicrously successful. Cars 3 would certainly add to Disney’s coffers, but critical opinion of the franchise has gotten so bad that I doubt Pixar will ever make Cars 3 even if they have a genuinely stellar idea for it. Instead, Disney has opted for a compromise with Planes. It’s literally Cars with planes, but it’s being produced by DisneyToon Studios, not Pixar. It’s a clear message that Pixar’s done with Cars, at least directly, without Disney having to let go of the merchandising potential. You can decide for yourself if this is a compromise or cheating, but in any case, don’t expect any more Cars movies. Trains – or Boats, maybe – but not Cars.
Artistic Merit: 1
Verdict: Very Unlikely
Well we got Monsters University, so I’ll examine the likelihood of a third film. University proved this franchise can take a 12 year gap between installments and still be very successful, so a third film wouldn’t have to worry about cultural relevance. The monster world is a lot of fun and I bet it still has some some unexplored corners, but they’d have to be corners Mike and Sully would travel to. Given that both University and Inc. featured Mike and Sully at the forefront, a third film wouldn’t break this pattern, and as Mike and Sully didn’t meet until University, a third film would have to be a sequel taking place after Inc. I don’t conceive of much that could take place here. The series currently goes from education to career, but I don’t see Pixar feeling the need for a third part unless they think Monsters Retirement Home has a nice ring to it.
Plus, the series as it currently stands is quite egalitarian; Mike is the protagonist in University, and while Inc. follows Sully. A third film would have to pick just one to take the protagonist’s chair again, tipping the scales too far in one direction. Since the cornerstone of the series has been Mike and Sully’s friendship, it’s better that they’re left having been given equal focus.
I do think there’s some untapped potential in the Monsters setting, but it would be best explored in some Toy Story Toons-style shorts rather than a third movie.
Artistic Merit: 2
Pretty much moot, since we know Finding Dory is coming out in 2015, and I can’t analyze the likelihood of a third film without having seen the second.
Artistic Merit: ???
A Bug’s Life
Interesting case. This is Pixar’s only non-Toy Story film from the nineties and it easily receives the least merchandising nowadays, despite having been financially and critically successful. The story concerned individuality and realizing your own worth and power, along with being a fun riff on Seven Samurai. A sequel could concern how to responsibly use power once it’s been obtained, while riffing on a different Kurosawa movie. Animation technology’s also come a long way, and set pieces could feature literally tens of thousands of ants on screen at once. I think there’s a lot of potential here, but the sheer amount of time that’s past means A Bug’s Life 2 wouldn’t be released until around 20 years after the original. God, I’m old.
I see potential, but the story may have to be pretty standalone to overcome the time that’s past – and even then it may be too late.
Artistic Merit: 4
While Brad Bird helmed this film as well, he took over after the previous director was on the receiving end of a no-confidence vote. As such, Ratatouille wasn’t Bird’s baby like The Incredibles is, so I don’t think a sequel would require him to return. The film was a hit across the board, but it was one of the least toyetic Pixar films (though it did inspire a short-lived brand of wine, of all things), so there could be less incentive on the financial side of things.
As for story, I don’t see many stones left unturned. Aside from all the talking rats, Ratatouille’s French setting was relatively similar to our own, so there isn’t much world-building left to do. Most of Remy and Linguini’s backstory was already elaborated upon, so a prequel doesn’t seem likely. Moreover, Remy and Linguini’s friendship wasn’t highly integral to the movie so I don’t think Pixar will think Linguini warrants his own movie. Perhaps Remy could deal with a blow to his talent, or a challenger in the form of another animal chef of some sort. A sequel appears to be a bit of a stretch, but not necessarily unworkable.
Artistic Merit: 2
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.