Beginning with the original Toy Story, Pixar has created many of the most popular animated films of the last 25 years. Considering the studio's third film was Toy Story 2, it was clear from the beginning that Pixar was more than willing to build franchises out of their successful properties, but in recent years the number of sequels has increased significantly. However, it seems that may be all about to change.
Over the last four years, Pixar has released five movies and four of them have been sequels. Beginning with 2016's Finding Dory, we've seen Cars 3, Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4, which is set to open next month. Only Lee Unkrich's Day of the Dead inspired Coco broke up the parade of sequels.
We know that the next movie coming following Toy Story 4 is an original project, the suburban fantasy movie Onward, but after that it's all a mystery. However, Toy Story 4 producer Mark Nielsen recently told THR that going forward, everything on the way is an original concept.
Nielsen credits Pete Docter, the new head of Pixar Animation Studios following the departure of John Lasseter, for the fact that so many original concepts are on the way. Apparently Docter has been loading up the development side of Pixar since he took over, and he's been doing it with a lot of new people. Those new people obviously have their own ideas, and so they're not falling back on previous Pixar success.
This is almost certainly good news for Pixar as well as for fans of the studio. Pixar has been home to some of the most unique and original ideas in movie making, nevermind animation. Between the release of Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 Pixar had an incredible run of originality and quality that included Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up. That's one hell of a decade.
We've seen far more sequels over the last few years, and there's little argument that many of them have been good, but it would be hard to argue that any of them are better than the original entry in the series.
With the exception of Onward, which is set to release in less than a year in March of 2020, we have no idea what Pixar currently has in the pipleline. We do, however, know that there are at least four films that have reached a point that Disney plans to release them. Disney's most recent release calendar lists four "Untitled Pixar" movies between 2020 and 2022.
The first is only set to release three months after Onward, which means that it has to be almost as far along in development. 2021 will see a single Pixar release for the summer. Then, 2022 returns to the same schedule as next year, with two movies being released in close proximity, with one in March and another in the mid-June, window that Pixar has been holding onto for years.
For a studio that's largely been focused on no more than one movie a year, seeing five movies come out in three years is a lot. However, if that's what's on the schedule then it almost certainly means that Pixar has the projects in the pipeline to support it and the studio is confident that won't change. When Mark Nielsen says that all the movies after Toy Story 4 are original concepts, he must be talking, at the very least, about the five films that are currently scheduled for release. He could also be aware of projects beyond that depending on how confident Pixar is regarding which projects will move forward.
While so much of blockbuster film making, of which Pixar should always be considered a part, especially among the various Disney studios, is all about franchises and sequels, it's great to see Pixar taking the time to focus on original concepts. It's where the studio has always shined brightest.
Beyond that, you need original ideas if you're ever going to create the next big franchise. You have to have a great idea that people love first before you can start making sequels to it and all franchises get tired after awhile, so you need to refresh the pool of possibilities with entirely new ideas from time to time.
If something like Onward, or one of the other upcoming projects, becomes so well loved that Pixar considers a sequel, that's fine, but it only happens if you have the successful original idea to start with.
Of course, the downside of this news is that, if you were hoping for a sequel to your favorite existing Pixar movie, it apparently won't be coming in the short term if no sequels are on the schedule. If you've always wanted a Ratatouille 2 (and who hasn't?), you'll have to keep waiting.
Although, just because no sequels are being produced for the big screen, it doesn't mean that the existing Pixar franchises are being ignored. Monsters Inc. is getting its own animated series on Disney+ and the possibility for other projects to be produced specifically for the platform is certainly there. We know we'll be getting a short film about Bo Peep that will explain her pre-Toy Story 4 situation also on Disney+, so even after Toy Story 4 hits screens, we're still not done with that franchise, even if we never see a Toy Story 5.
We'll also receive a series of shorts on Disney+ featuring new Toy Story 4 character Forky.
With the addition of DIsney+ to the standard theatrical release schedule the opportunities for Pixar have never been greater. This should give the studio the ability to continue to create more movies and shows with the characters that we already love while also creating new stories for us to discover.
With Toy Story 4 coming out next month, we'll soon be setting our sights on all this brand new material. With two Pixar movies coming out over the next 13 moths, we'll probably be learning a lot more about both of them very soon. We'll likely get a trailer for Onward alongside Toy Story 4 and maybe we'll at least learn what the second film of 2020 will actually be called.
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