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