Hello everybody and welcome back to Animated Anarchy, where Animation Domination doesn’t just apply to Fox’s now abandoned Sunday Broadcasting block.
We all love Pixar. Even people who say they hate the studio will admit to liking one of their masterpieces like The Incredibles or Ratatouille. Last decade was the studio’s golden era beating out competitors of Disney and Dreamworks nearly every single year. But as the later studios have been climbing back into our hearts with their own franchises, the once ever-creative Pixar has fallen into a slump. And there is no better way to twist the public’s trust by trying to wring out some dollars from what many people consider to be the greatest film trilogy ever.
The reaction to Toy Story 4’s announcement wasn’t: “Oh, I can’t wait to see Woody and Buzz in the others get in more adventures!” It was more akin to: “Why the hell is Pixar doing this?! You had the perfect ending, you don’t need to ruin the franchise!”
John Lasseter, Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, has been quoted saying that: “We only make sequels when we have a story that’s as good as or better than the original.” And for Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, you can directly see how that mantra is true. Both movies were a natural evolution from the source, changing the themes of toy ownership from playing with toys, to collecting, to outgrowing them. I’d even say that Toy Story 3 is the best out of all of them for completing the story in such an emotional, incredible way. At the same time, no one counts out the quality of originals which will still stand as classics for all ages. This decision to make an additional movie reeks of executive meddling and it makes the recent Toy Story shorts come off as ways to test the waters than heartfelt spin-offs.
Pixar has stated that Toy Story 4 is going to center around a “female-empowering love story” with a screenplay tackled by comedian Rashida Jones. There’s potential to the idea of focusing on a love story with Jessie the Cowgirl and Buzz Lightyear, but I don’t see it as a full movie. Not to mention the other potential love interest, Bo Peep, was completely cut from the 3rd movie. The idea of capitalizing on this fulfilling and wonderfully crafted story is pure arrogance.
It reminds me of how J.J. Abrams wanted his rebooted Star Trek sequel to be a remake of Wrath of Khan. Sure, you can retread any story you want…but do you actually think you can do a better job than what many geeks consider to be one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time?
Critics and similar geeks have been curious about Pixar’s quality since the company’s acquisition by Disney in 2006, but it’s never had to be scrutinized until this decade. Disney has also pressed Pixar to create the sequel Finding Dory for a 2016 release, which did not have the fervor of Toy Story 4’s announcement, but still led to some questioning. At this point, it’s hard to tell what Pixar values more between quality or profit as their last three films have shown.
Cars 2 is the black mark of Pixar’s spotless track record. The first film was a genuine hit with kids, even though it was treading a familiar story line. Cars 2 from the beginning of production to the film’s release received nothing more than deserved criticism. They decided to completely focus around the obnoxious Mater (voiced by Larry-That-Cable-Guy-Whose-Still-Around) but also hashed up a familiar tale about spies and espionage that is surprisingly common in children’s animation. It isn’t funny, it doesn’t do anything clever, and it has story-beats you can see from miles away. Even though the franchise is Lasseter’s baby, this film is the billboard “shameless sequel.”
Brave wasn’t a very good follow-up to people’s wavering faith in the studio. Although it has many fans for the breathtaking animation and concentrating on a mother-daughter relationship, I genuinely did not enjoy the movie. The story was shockingly cliché and lacked Pixar’s standard for having an immersive world or realistic characters. Even if you are a fan of the movie, the production issues were quite noticeable as the themes about tradition and bonding get immediately solved when the plot shifts. Little girls might consider Merida a positive role model, but she is easily one of the weakest Disney Princesses for her motives and attitude.
Monsters University is probably the most successful recent project made by Pixar so far. Even though I personally hated the ending that many people respect the movie for, it did show you can make an entertaining story out of prequel. However, the film doesn’t really hold up to Lasseter’s statement about making a sequel because a good, original idea came to the studio. If you boil it down, the movie is mostly a knockoff of Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds.
It’s an unnecessary prequel, but many still found it to be a pleasant experience and it has one genuinely fantastic scene in the climax with the Pixar magic we all know and love. Still, no one puts Monsters University with any of the studio’s classics or critical heavyweights like Up or WALL-E. I don’t believe it even holds a candle to the original.
We’re at a point where Pixar’s most staunch defenders are starting to question the studio’s once insurmountable quality. Toy Story 4‘s announcement has simply caused more skepticism. The biggest fear is that this new sequel will be another Cars 2, and it’ll confirm all of our worries of what the company has become. Thankfully, not all hope is lost.
We do have two Pixar movies on the horizon that are brand spanking-new properties. One of which is The Good Dinosaur, a film that has been in production since 2009. Sadly it has already changed directors from Bob Peterson (The director of Up) to Peter Sohn (The director of the short “Partly Cloudy”). Although the film has an expected release date for next year’s Thanksgiving, there hasn’t been any marketing or advertising for the film. That’s pretty worrisome considering the team that’s making the movie.
The other film as many of already know is Inside Out, scheduled for June 19th, 2015. In the middle of all these mediocre quality, Inside Out is a plant that sprouted from a boot full of dirt. It has impeccable casting and brings anthropomorphism to emotions in a cute, unique way. You can take this concept in a number of great directions. Plus, the trailer really shows the amount of potential there.
That’s the key word there: potential. I thought Brave had a lot of potential, but it was absolutely wasted. I can see where this is going, but I’m trying to wrap my mind around making emotions like Disgust and Fear into really likeable characters. There are a lot of different dimensions you can go in with the varied emotions, but I fear that Pixar might go too broadly in order to not offend anyone or break away from the premise. After all, this video is only a teaser and spent most of the time being a retrospective of the studio.
What’s once made me immediately excited for every animated film has now left me unsure with where Pixar is going. Toy Story 4 could be phenomenal if I set my expectations low. In fact, many people want to connect this fourth movie to the Andy’s Mom theory from Toy Story 2. Frankly, it’s bizarre they didn’t tap The Incredibles for sequel, as the film ends openly and it’s the most commonly demanded sequel by fans. Inside Out is Pixar’s best chance to earn back the good graces they have lost. A lot can be done within three years, but as geeks, we must prepare ourselves for the worst.
Thanks again for reading Animated Anarchy. Although this article is all about Pixar films, you may see a full write-up of any one of these movies coming soon or see their names appear in another blog. Tell me your thoughts on Pixar’s current status or upcoming projects!