Despite strong box office (and merchandising) sales, Pixar Studios' past few releases fell short of hitting the cross-generational appeal of earlier films like Wall-E, Up, and The Incredibles. As a result, fans are hoping that the studio's upcoming release, Inside Out, will recapture the magic - and provide a film that can entertain viewers of all ages.
To that end, Disney/Pixar's Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, took some time to reveal what their other projects will have to offer in the years to come. During a two-hour presentation at Cannes Film Festival, Lasseter talked about Finding Nemo's sequel, Finding Dory, The Good Dinosaur, the hugely anticipated Toy Story 4, Moana, and Zootopia. Lasseter also stated that the company "bounced back" thanks to the enormously successful Frozen and the Oscar-winning Big Hero 6.
According to Variety, the presentation included clips for several of the animated features and new storyline details were revealed. Unfortunately, no major information was released about Toy Story 4, but the COO did talk just a bit about the fourth addition to the popular franchise. Lasseter described the project as "not as much a continuation of the past films, but a brand new chapter in the 'Toy Story' world" - which vibes with previous reports that the sequel will "focus even more on toys." There's no official word on the story yet, but comment seems to imply it'll feature a new cast of characters who exist in Buzz Lightyear and Woody's universe.
The Good Dinosaur, which is scheduled to hit theaters this Thanksgiving, was described as a cross between Tarzan and Lilo & Stitch. After an Apatosaurus named Arlo loses his father and then finds himself far away from home, he meets and becomes friends with Spot, a "human cave-boy." Lasseter stated the movie is a "boy and a dog story, but the roles are reversed." In this tale, the dinosaur walks upright and speaks English, but Spot moves around on all fours and grunts to communicate. The Pixar/Disney executive says this movie will be "breathtaking" and a unique twist on the dinosaur world. Images of Tyrannosaurs Rex, a feathered Velociraptor, and a Pterodactly were shared and a clip was shown - featuring Arlo and Spot chasing fireflies in a forest. According to Variety's report, the footage looked impressive and realistic.
As for Finding Dory, it was revealed the story takes place only six months after Finding Nemo's ending. As expected, the story will revolve around Dory and Nemo going on a new adventure: this time, they're searching for Dory's parents (who will be voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). During the duo's journey, they'll encounter shipping containers which fell off boats, a giant squid, a kelp forest off of California's coast, as well as befriend an octopus and a whale-shark. The adventure sounds fun enough, but it'll be important for this film to have the same kind of heart and charm that Finding Nemo offered - which will be no easy task.
Disney's Moana will feature the company's first Polynesian princess and, just like so many classic Disney movies, it'll be a musical. According to the report, the opening song brought back memories of The Lion King's 'The Circle of Life.' The story takes place two-thousand years ago and Moana is sixteen-years-old. When her grandmother passes away, she embraces a desire to explore nearby islands and escapes by sneaking onto a boat. Her sidekicks are a pig and a rooster and, when she finds herself stranded on an island, she encounters Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), a mythical hero with living tattoos who owns a "magical sea hook." Lasseter pointed out that diversity has become an important priority for Disney/Pixar - and so the creative team visited the South Pacific to do research for the movie.
The other Disney animated movie, Zootopia, brings moviegoers to a city that's devoid of humans and is instead populated by talking animals. Species are put into different classes - each of which has to deal with stereotypes - but the story focuses on Judy Hopps, a rabbit cop who's forced into the not-so-thrilling life of writing tickets just because she happens to be the first bunny police officer. She's joined by Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox who attempts to help the rabbit solve a case. To put the tone and concept into perspective, the presentation included a sloth working at the DMV - because when someone thinks of the DMV, "fast service" obviously isn't exactly what comes to mind.
While these upcoming features clearly riff on prior Disney stories, they appear to tackle some important as well as enduring themes and, if nothing else, Pixar's track record speaks for itself. As a result, it's easy to approach these films with a hint of optimism, especially since Inside Out is looking like it'll be a fun (and possibly moving) tale for moviegoers of any age. Now, we just have to wait and see whether The Good Dinosaur has what it takes to replace The Land Before Time as the go-to dinosaur movie for young viewers.
The Good Dinosaur opens November 25; Finding Dory hits theaters June 17, 2016; Toy Story 4 is scheduled for June 16, 2017; Zootopia's slated for March 4,2016; and Moana arrives November 23, 2016.