After a slew of sequels, the studio will dive deep into originals again.
It’s perfectly understandable to wonder why there are no rats, robots, or anthropomorphized emotions on Pixar’s upcoming slate of sequels, which kicked off with Finding Dory and continues through 2019 with Cars 3, Toy Story 4, and The Incredibles 2.
In a recent chat with Entertainment Weekly, Pixar president Jim Morris spoke about the studio’s development process, why certain sequels made the cut, and why you won’t be seeing anything less than original at Pixar for quite some time.
“Most studios jump on doing a sequel as soon as they have a successful film, but our business model is a filmmaker model, and we don’t make a sequel unless the director of the original film has an idea that they like and are willing to go forward on,” Morris explains. “A sequel in some regards is even harder [than the original] because you’ve got this defined world which, on the one hand, is a leg up, and on the other hand has expectations that you can’t disappoint on.”
Essentially, Pixar’s reliance on a director-driven model means the studio has to be choosy about which director they can assign to a picture, thereby putting that filmmaker out of commission for as long as it takes to complete the film (anywhere between three and five years). Since the studio won’t hand the reins of a director’s brainchild to another body (with rare exception), some of the Pixar sequels you’re hoping for just can’t happen until other films happen first — sequel or not.
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Morris says, “Everything after Toy Story and The Incredibles is an original right now.” Following The Incredibles 2 in 2019, Pixar’s next two films — currently listed on Disney’s release schedule for March and June of 2020, respectively — are both originals, independent of one another but both of which take place in “unusual but believable worlds that take us in even other directions than we’ve pursued in the past.” Following those two, Morris says, are two more original films in early development that aren’t dated on the studio’s schedule yet but are “highly likely.” No other sequels are planned at the moment, Morris says.
That means you’ll have to wait another decade, at least, for any follow-ups to old favorites like Ratatouille and WALL-E or another visit inside last summer’s smash hit, Inside Out, which generated quite a bit of online buzz from fans eager to see a sequel about protagonist Riley’s teenage years. (Yes, we’re aware there are an equal number of fans who want nothing to do with sequels at all.) But the absence of those titles is not for lack of the studio’s desire…it’s simply a matter of human resources.
“Pete Docter [who directed Inside Out] has an original idea for his next film. Brad Bird, being the director of Ratatouille, is working on The Incredibles and we haven’t really spoken about [a sequel to] that. And WALL-E is close to my heart since I produced it,” says Morris, who shepherded the 2008 film with director Andrew Stanton. “It would be good to back and visit that world and let everybody know that the humans actually survived again after getting back to their burnt-out planet. But that was really a love story that had its beginning, middle, and end, so we’re not really planning any further stories in those worlds at this point.”
The upcoming run of sequels (with the exception of Lee Unkrich’s 2017 film Coco, an original about Mexico’s Dia de Muertos) isn’t a cash-grab move by Pixar but more an accidental byproduct of scheduling. “Our plan had been to make an original every year and a sequel every other year, if the idea came forth to do it,” says Morris. “If we add the next films after the current ones, it actually comes out to exactly that: seven sequels in a spate of 21 originals, from the time we were acquired by Disney [in 2006]. So it’s penciled out to be the same portfolio, just not in the order we thought they would be. And a lot of that has to do with when Andrew had a sequel idea, and Brad had a sequel idea…sometimes that’s just how it happens.”
Morris maintains that “anything’s possible” when it comes to Pixar’s story selection, and it’s true — 13 years passed between Nemo and Dory; 15 years will pass between both Incredibles. So, sequel-hungry fans, stay optimistic: who’s to say Up won’t come back down in another 20?