In today's franchise-driven Hollywood economy, it seems like a movie isn't a true success unless it spawns a trilogy. Despite having their own fair share of sequel films, Pixar's efforts have nearly always felt earned. It helps that they commit to regularly turning out original content on a regular basis. Despite the fact that a sequel to Finding Nemo was always going to be a guaranteed money maker, thirteen years passed before Finding Dory would find its way to theaters.
Lately it's seemed like Pixar has been making up for lost time. With Finding Dory in theaters now, the next three years are incredibly sequel-centric, with Cars 3, Toy Story 4, and The Incredibles 2. In fact, the only original film we'll be getting from Pixar between now and 2020 is next year's Coco - a film about the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos. But this doesn't mean that Pixar has given up on original content.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Pixar's president Jim Morris confirmed that "Everything after Toy Story and The Incredibles is an original right now." Though, with so many potential franchises to continue, this naturally begs explanation:
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 then gave a roll call of Pixar's talent pool:
Pete Docter (Up, 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... 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.
Despite having the benefit of an established world, Morris noted that sequels can even be tougher than an original due to "expectations that you can’t disappoint on." So why are we getting so many of them lately? "Our plan had been to make an original every year and a sequel every other year." Morris said that the current glut of sequels was circumstance rather than a corporate-ordered cash grab. It just so happened that the directors all had sequel ideas at the same time.
After The Incredibles 2 in 2019, we'll see two new originals in March and June of 2020, which take place in "unusual but believable worlds that take us in even other directions than we’ve pursued in the past." After these are another two original films that have yet to receive release dates.
There's clearly a demand for sequels to beloved franchises, and Pixar makes some of the most beloved in cinematic history. But placing quality first has paid off for them by keeping their brand fresh. Fifteen years is a painfully long time to see what's next for The Incredibles. But assuming the time was taken to do it right, and that we have some fantastic original content in the meantime, the wait will have been well worth it.
Finding Dory is now playing in U.S. theaters; Cars 3 opens June 16, 2017; Coco on November 22, 2017; Toy Story 4 on June 15, 2018, and The Incredibles 2 on June 21, 2019, and the untitled originals on March 13, 2020 and June 19, 2020.