According to longtime producer Mark Nielsen, Pixar isn't working on any sequels beyond Toy Story 4 right now. Over the last twenty-four years, the studio has released twenty fully computer-animated features, in addition to numerous theatrical shorts and animated Toy Story TV specials. And with a few exceptions, all of their films have been critical and commercial successes alike, earning more than $13 billion at the global box office. That number is only expected to rise substantially this June, when the fourth and supposedly final Toy Story adventure hits theaters.
At the same time, Pixar has been (fairly) accused of prioritizing franchise building over original storytelling in recent years. Yes, the studio has never stopped producing fresh material, and some of its most recent original films (Inside Out, Coco) rank among its most celebrated artistic achievements ever. Nevertheless, the ratio of Pixar's sequels or prequels to their original projects have noticeably shifted over the last decade especially. Well, according to Nielsen, that's finally going to change.
Speaking to THR ahead of Toy Story 4's release, Nielsen said there's "a lot of optimism" about Pixar's future, now that director Peter Docter (Up, Inside Out) has taken over as chief creative officer. According to Nielsen, Docter is "really looking out for the new voices and really loading up the development pool", saying there aren't any sequels in the pipeline after Toy Story 4 at the moment. That includes all the unannounced movies the studio's developing to follow 2020's fantasy adventure, Onward.
In fairness, Pixar was already planning to take a break from sequels and prequels as far back as 2016, even before original Toy Story 4 director John Lasseter stepped down as CCO - in the aftermath of the sexual misconduct allegations made against him and his own self-admitted "missteps" - and was replaced by Docter. Still, it's good to hear Docter has stuck to that plan since he took over, and is actively taking steps to expand Pixar's talent pool. Of course, the studio will continue to promote its veteran employees and offer them bigger challenges as they work their way up the chain of command. In fact, according to THR, story artist-turned director Domee Shi is currently working on an original feature, following her efforts on Pixar's Oscar-winning short Bao.
Naturally, Pixar won't be abandoning its older franchises in the future, either. It's been confirmed the studio is planning to make Toy Story shorts for Disney+ over the next year, in addition to their efforts on the Monsters, Inc. sequel series that's been announced for the upcoming streaming service. Even so, it's encouraging to know they won't be doubling-down on the movie sequels and prequels from here. The studio has continued to earn good reviews for non-original offerings like Finding Dory and Incredibles 2 in recent years, but most people seem to agree these films are far from Pixar's best work. And with Docter heading up a new era for the studio, now seems as good a time as any for them to change course in that respect and get back to their roots as a go-to source for innovative storytelling.
- Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019