Pixar has confirmed that once Toy Story 4 is released, they only plan to develop original movies for the foreseeable future - which is fantastic news for fans, the studio and the industry as a whole. One of the most frequent criticisms aimed at the modern Hollywood production machine is an over-reliance on sequels, reboots and revivals and a relative lack of fresh material in theaters. From a studio's perspective, this is certainly an understandable business model; why risk millions on a potential flop if you already own a franchise with a ready-made fan base that is guaranteed to buy tickets?
One studio that has always championed the production of original material, and even on occasion demonstrated a resistance to pumping out sequels, is Pixar. Famed for their meticulously detailed approach to movie-making, the Pixar team have a startling success rate on the big screen and have birthed a number of major franchises including Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. Due to a number of factors such as fan demand, rare flop The Good Dinosaur and the studio being purchased by Disney in 2006, however, Pixar's roster has seen an increasing number of sequels in recent years and this has led some to accuse the studio of abandoning their founding mentality.
Last month, Toy Story 4 producer Mark Nielsen confirmed that after the movie hits theaters on June 21st, Pixar will be turning their attention fully towards original material. Next in the pipeline is Onward starring the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as two elves on the hunt for magic. Following that, there are four projects penciled into Pixar's calendar between 2020 and 2022, ensuring at least three years worth of original material from the studio.
This is extremely welcome. A release slate full of sequels may look good to movie executives, but for fans the pattern isn't quite as rewarding. While there is undoubtedly a certain level of excitement that comes with revisiting your favorite movie universes time after time, sequels often arrive with diminishing returns, although a few anomalous franchises have bucked the trend, including Pixar's own Toy Story. The more convincing argument against the current deluge of franchise films is that every major movie series began with a single, original movie but if Hollywood doesn't invest in fresh material, how can new franchises be created? How can Pixar create the next Toy Story-esque success if their main focus is concocting the continuing adventures of Woody and Buzz?
This plan will likely also help ensure Pixar's future as a world-renowned animation studio. Evidently, Pixar is better at the sequel game than most studios and the company has been open about the fact that Toy Story movies take so long because they don't believe in putting out movies - sequels or otherwise - unless there's a story worth telling. Indeed, Pixar could have churned out a Toy Story movie every two years and raked in the cash. But even with that careful, considered approach, they aren't immune to the law of diminishing returns. Monsters University, The Incredibles 2 and Finding Dory all made more money at the box office than their predecessors, but all three arrived to a less fanfare and less enthusiastic (though still positive) reviews.
A run of Pixar originals is sure to benefit the movie industry as a whole. A quick glance at 2019's summer blockbusters will demonstrate a startling lack of originality as, in addition to Toy Story, Hollywood revisits Spider-Man, Men In Black, The Fast and the Furious, X-Men, Aladdin and The Lion King. Many of those movies have and will continue to generate plenty of money (not Dark Phoenix though, apparently) but in a business based on creativity and artistic merit, this is by no means an indication that the film industry is in rude health. Pixar's upcoming series of original ventures will go some way to correcting this, and if the plan backfires and the studio loses money over the next three years, fans will have a decade's worth of Toy Story films to look forward to from 2023 onward.
- Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019
- Onward (2020) release date: Mar 06, 2020