By the time that Toy Story 3 made its way into theaters in 2010, Pixar had produced 11 feature films and only one franchise had seen any sequels (Toy Story 2 and the aforementioned third film). Including Toy Story 3, and up to Toy Story 4, out of the 11 last feature films that Pixar has made, six of them have been sequels1. It sounds like, though, that Pixar is on its way to a string of original films.
The Hollywood Reporter published an article yesterday that focuses on the large number of individuals that are being given story credits for Toy Story 4 (it is reportedly a group of eight writers). Buried at the end of the article, there is a quote from the film’s producer, Mark Nielsen. He is speaking about the future of Pixar and the direction that the studio is headed in under the direction of newly appointed Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter:
Producer Mark Nielsen says that there’s “a lot of optimism about the future of the studio” since Docter, the Oscar-winning director of Up and Inside Out, was named Pixar’s chief creative. “He’s really looking out for the new voices and really loading up the development pool,” Nielsen says, adding, “It’s all original films after this one right now.”
We already knew that Pixar’s next film after Toy Story 4 is an original film, Onward, which is being directed by Dan Scanlon for release in 2020. There is no confirmation about the studio’s slate of films after that, though. From the span of 2020 to 2022, Disney has scheduled five Pixar films for release:
- Onward (3/6/20)
- Untitled Pixar Animation (6/19/20)
- Untitled Pixar Animation (6/18/21)
- Untitled Pixar (3/18/22)
- Untitled Pixar (6/17/22)
If Nielsen’s statement is not being taken out of context, that may mean that most, if not all, of these upcoming films could be original stories (and not sequels).
Before we share in the excitement of Pixar releasing more original films, there is an important point to note here, about the criticism that Pixar has received over the last decade and its increase in produced sequels – although I understand the frustration in seeing the famed animation studio return to its well of iconic characters for more stories, I believe it has been blown out of proportion. The Toy Story films have all been incredible, Monsters University was great, and Finding Dory, Cars 3, and Incredibles 2 were all solid films. Yes, all of those mini-reviews represent my opinion. Considering the track record of sequels in the film industry today, the quality of Pixar sequels has mostly been impressive.
However, I also understand the desire to see Pixar return to telling more original stories, with occasional sequels released here and there. Pixar’s sequels may be good, but it feels oh-so-good when we see a brand new world realized onscreen. I would argue that Inside Out and Coco are two of Pixar’s greatest films ever and both made me bawl because of their beautiful stories and characters. It is hard to sometimes remember that both of those films were released within the last four years. So, all of the sensational headlines about Pixar’s creativity gone missing are greatly exaggerated. I also want to acknowledge that seeing the studio potentially creating more new characters and original stories makes this an exciting time.
Still, I am more thrilled by the idea that these films could be delivered by “new voices,” as Nielsen says – that is an initiative that I fully support! For example, Domee Shi, director of Bao, has been noted to be working on an upcoming film. I am excited to see what else is in store.
Keep in mind that nothing is confirmed by either Disney or Pixar at this time. Other than Onward, we don’t know anything about these films just yet – we should be hearing more soon.
- Monsters University was technically a prequel. ↩