[Update: Disney/Pixar have announced the screenwriters for Toy Story 4. ]
It wasn't long after Toy Story 3 earned critical raves, grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, and took home two Academy Awards at the 2011 Oscar ceremony that rumors about Toy Story 4 being in the works began to circulate. Well, today at long last, we can confirm that there is truth behind the whispers and what was previously unsubstantiated claims.
Walt Disney Company chairman Bob Iger announced, during an earnings call today, that Disney/Pixar are pressing ahead with Toy Story 4, which shall be directed by John Lasseter, who is the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
Lasseter, of course, is the Oscar-winning animation filmmaker who called the shots on the first two Toy Story movie installments; he also served as a co-director on A Bug's Life and the first two Cars movies, and is a key member of Pixar Animation Studios' "brain trust."
Iger issued a statement on Lasseter's involvement:
"John created Toy Story and directed the first two films, and it's great to have him back directing one of our most valuable properties."
Toy Story 4 is now officially set to reach theaters on June 16th, 2017. That places it to arrive one week after DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon 3 opens in theaters and two weeks before Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me 3 arrives - making June 2017 an unusually busy month for family-friendly animated features.
The fourth Toy Story movie joins Finding Dory on the list of upcoming Pixar film sequels that have a definite release target. Such followups as The Incredibles 2 (with Brad Bird back writing the script) and Cars 3 are also in the works, but it's not clear yet what the time frame is for those projects. Pixar also has a pair of original animated features - Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur - due to arrive in theaters in 2015.
Pixar president Ed Catmull announced last year that the plan moving forward is for the studio to release around three movies every two years, while averaging one original feature per year. That way, the animation studio can continue to offer franchise installments (sequels and/or prequels) that filmgoers are interested in seeing, but also keep on challenging its staff to imagine different sandboxes to play in.
Speaking of "challenges," Lasseter has acknowledged that Toy Story 4 represents just that, in his official statement on the news:
“We love these characters so much; they are like family to us. We don’t want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what’s gone before. ‘Toy Story 3’ ended Woody and Buzz’s story with Andy so perfectly that for a long time, we never even talked about doing another ‘Toy Story’ movie..."
Lasseter went to state that the idea for Toy Story 4 - cooked up by himself, along with Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL·E), Peter Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) - he "could not stop thinking about it. It was so exciting to me, I knew we had to make this movie—and I wanted to direct it myself.” [UPDATE: The screenplay for Toy Story 4 will be written by actors-turned scribes Will McCormack and Rashida Jones, who previously co-wrote the romantic dramedy Celeste and Jesse Forever together.]
The Toy Story franchise has not at all been dormant since Toy Story 3 arrive on the scene back in 2010; rather, the property's continued to live on in well-received theatrical shorts and short TV films, with the next special (titled Toy Story That Time Forgot) set to premiere on ABC next month. Core Toy Story movie cast members - Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, etc. - have continued to voice their animated counterparts for the episodic shorts and TV specials. They should likewise be back for Toy Story 4.
Toy Story 4 is described in Disney/Pixar's official press release as a movie that "opens a new chapter in the lives of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the 'Toy Story' gang." Details beyond that remain under wraps, though presumably the film will continue to explore the relationship between the toys and Bonnie, who became their owner at the end of the third Toy Story film installment.
Last of all, let it be said: not all Pixar films are created equal. However, they generally have a lot of heart, effort, and creativity poured into them (even the Cars movies have their steadfast defenders). Assuming that remains the case with Toy Story 4, then the film should be able to stand up against the fantastic trilogy conclusion that is Toy Story 3.
Toy Story 4 opens in theaters on June 16th, 2017.