Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Letting It Sink In

Well, the dust has settled… Time for some fleshed out thoughts on all this sequel business and Pixar, along with some other announcements concerning Disney's other properties and whatnot…

The Incredibles is quite possibly the most exciting Pixar film for me. It blew me away like no other Pixar film, probably due to the fact that Brad Bird's superhero epic was tonally and stylistically different from the films of John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton. I went to see it five times in theaters between November 2004 and March 2005, and got the DVD before it even hit stores. (My local video store had it weeks before it came out.) With its intoxicating Michael Giacchino score, its very clever 50s/early 60s space age art direction, themes and perfectly conceived action, The Incredibles is a winner in every way. People often call it their favorite Pixar film, I don't do favorites, but it blew me away the most. Second place would have to be WALL-E, I remember leaving the theater a bit stunned after that one concluded.

Given its amount of action and thrills, its final seconds and the fact that Brad Bird created a compelling universe out of this picture, I can see why people clamored for a sequel. I never particularly wanted an Incredibles sequel, but if Brad Bird was behind it, I'd welcome it. The universe that was laid out in the film always interested me, from the past supers to the technology. There's so much to explore in this universe, so the fact that an Incredibles 2 is happening really makes me happy. The only problem is, The Incredibles is so brilliant, it's pretty hard to live up to. A slightly below par Incredibles would leave a lot of people displeased, I'd be a bit disappointed too, but again… The first film is way too good.

People doubt that Pixar could live up to it. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 apparently don't exist anymore, so people already have their doubts. It's okay to have doubts, but that really has to do with how awesome the original film is, not Pixar's abilities. Pixar "can" make a sequel that's equal to the original, so that's out of the question. I'm a bit worried myself, but I like to stay positive. Brad Bird and the folks at Pixar will make something truly special with an Incredibles sequel, and for some people, a simply great sequel won't suffice. It'll be something of a letdown for me, too.

Outside of the Toy Story films, I felt Pixar made a fine prequel with Monsters University. Yes, I am a little bit bummed that it doesn't have the original's inventiveness or sharpness, but I'm happy with it for what it is. There wasn't much they could do with a prequel, since we know the outcome and things that were established in Monsters, Inc. (kids not being toxic, laughter being more powerful than scream)… I think this rings true with all prequels, but with what they had, they still pulled off a damn fine film. Mike's story arc was excellent, and the ending didn't give him a pat on the back. Other than that, you had delightful new characters and some really fun, inventive spins on things. The individual scare games were very fun, the humor is good and overall it's just a solid good picture. It's not spectacular, but being a prequel, it was hard for it to be spectacular in the first place.

A sequel to The Incredibles on the other hand, has so much potential. Much more potential than a prequel about how two friends met and disliked each other at first, in college no less. Monsters University didn't give the good folks at Pixar a lot to work with, but yet they still made something great out of it in my eyes. If they could do that with so little, think of what they can do with something so big!

This will be Toy Story 2 all over again. Pixar went all out with the sequel, taking the toy heroes to locations far from a little neighborhood: The busy streets of a tri-county city, a toy emporium, a tall apartment complex and an airport! The new characters were great, as they were very well-developed and instantly appealing, while also adding to the main characters themselves. Woody's backstory and where he came from is also a great bonus, along with Jessie's, which gives the film its heart. The film's emotional content is much more potent than the first film's, and a big question is given to Woody by one of the new faces: Go back and experience Andy grow up? Or be loved forever behind glass? The Prospector is a very good villain! In my eyes, Sid from the first film was no villain, he was just a very dangerous obstacle that Woody and Buzz had to escape. The Prospector was the series' first true baddie, but he had his reasons and when he turned out to be evil at the end, it just made things all the more thrilling.

On top of that, the script doesn't miss a beat with the jokes and the side characters are still a riot the second time around. We get a lot of great scenes with them in the Toy Barn and the elevator, it's just really brilliant stuff.

Aside from Cars 2, we have yet to see Pixar truly tackle a sequel like this. Monsters University, again, was a prequel. Cars 2 was green lit for monetary reasons, so they just sort of did whatever with that. But then comes Finding Dory, their first - in my eyes - legitimate sequel since Toy Story 2. Who knows how they will continue Marlin, Nemo and Dory's adventures. Who knows what humor and heart they'll cook up for this new story. All we know right now is that Dory ends up in California, meeting her family and finding herself. There's already a lot of potential there: New location, new friends, new adventure…

Folks, this could be the next Toy Story 2 for Pixar, since Cars 2 and Monsters University weren't and probably weren't ever going to be. Also, Andrew Stanton is directing it. Cars 2 wasn't handled by John Lasseter until the last months of production (he had to save the sinking ship), Monsters University wasn't directed by Pete Docter, but first-time director Dan Scanlon instead. So… Stanton's back, the story sounds bigger and nothing like the first film (again, no searching for Nemo again), and there's a lot that we don't know.

Now if Finding Dory has the potential that Cars 2 and Monsters University didn't have, think of how much potential The Incredibles 2 has. Just think about it for a second… Pixar, Brad Bird and all of the folks at the studio are well aware of this. They can't coast, they can't make something that may disappoint. With Cars 2 and Monsters University, there was a kind of sense where they could make something that wasn't the greatest thing since sliced bread and move on from that. Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2? No, not at all. These are big deals, big events for Pixar.

So what could they do with an Incredibles 2? Who will be the new baddie? What will the plot be? What will Mr. Incredible and his family go through? Will it involve Metroville? Or a new city? Maybe it won't take place in a big city, maybe it'll take place on an island that's much like Nomanisan. Maybe we'll see a super cool location that's unlike anything we've seen in a Pixar film, something like a futuristic island or a futuristic city.

The film takes place in a universe where the space age of the early 60s prevailed and is part of the modern world, if that's how you want to interpret it. It's one of those films that can take place at any time, everything is very early 60s-esque in design and feel but at the same time you have more modern things like the VCR in the principal's office scene or the really cool technology that's seen all throughout the island. Maybe this will take place around 10 years later, Dash and Violet are grown up, and Metroville is now some really cool futuristic city with off-the-wall architecture. Just imagine that!

Will we see a post-supers world where everything is improved and futuristic? That would be interesting, because who knows what kind of developments the world will make with supers ruling again. Again, there is just so much to explore. All I can hope for right now is one thing… This sequel totally goes all out. It's bigger and it expands the universe… But of course, we need an excellent script to match all that. I think Bird & co. can totally do it.

On a side note: Maybe the villain will be Xerek.

Who is Xerek?

Xerek was originally going to be the villain in the first film, but Syndrome - back then a first act baddie that Bob and Helen Parr briefly encounter and immediately defeat - eventually became the film's antagonist. Perhaps Xerek may end up being the sequel's villain. Why not? Pixar tends to use discarded ideas for sequels. Just look at the Toy Story films! The daycare setting of the third one evolved out of the earliest version of the first film, when it was supposed to be about Tinny from their 1988 short Tin Toy befriending a ventriloquist dummy. Lotso was from another early incarnation of the first film where Tinny lives in a massive toy store, he lead a gang of faulty bargain bin toys. Woody was supposed to have a nightmare about being thrown away in Toy Story, it was later used for Toy Story 2, and it totally made sense in that film given the fact that his arm ripped.

Maybe, maybe not. Whoever the villain is, I hope it's an awesome one. They shouldn't really use the Underminer, because a video game beat them to the punch nearly a decade ago. Also, it's possible that the Underminer was nothing more than an everyday baddie, I can just imagine this sequel opening with the Incredibles defeating some random villain that pops up and wreaks havoc upon Metroville. Then this bad guy is never seen again, moving on to the main plot. (Apparently that's actually how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will open, but I digress.) Perhaps the opening sequence, if this takes place years later, will be a montage of the family saving the city and new supers rising.

Oh yeah, new supers. Gotta have those!

Just imagine what kind of superheroes they'll come up with! The Golden Age ones that were deceased before the events of the first film (not counting the opening scenes, of course) were pretty creative, even though we saw very little of them. You know, Dynaguy, Stratogale, Thunderhead, Gazerbeam, Phylange, et. al. Think of what new ones will be created. Man, that would call for so much action.

What will the villain use? Syndrome used Omnidroids, which were super cool (pun shamelessly intended), so how can they match that? Or top that?

Again, so so so so much to look forward to it.

Now, another big question is… When will it come out?

Pixar's slate is kind of muddled at the moment. Inside Out and Finding Dory are definitely hitting in summer 2015 and summer 2016 respectively, The Good Dinosaur is arguably up in the air since they don't have a new director behind the project. If they get one now, it might be too late to turn it around and get it out by Thanksgiving 2015. As I noted earlier, it's not going the way of Newt, it's just being "restarted".

There are two untitled 2017 Pixar films, and I'm thinking The Good Dinosaur and Lee Unkrich's still-untitled Day of the Dead film will be those. Ed Catmull stated that Pixar will release an original film every calendar year, and a sequel "every other year". To me, this means every 2-3 years. So with that, The Incredibles 2 would arrive in 2018 at the earliest. Pixar has one date locked that year: June 15th. That's actually a pretty good spot, it's 3 years away the release of Bird's Tomorrowland. I honestly can't see Pixar releasing it any later than that.

I'd keep a look out for that, to be honest. The Incredibles 2 may just arrive in 2018!

Now onto… *dun, dun, dunnnnnnn* Cars 3.

As I've noted before, its existence does not bother me. Not at all.

I have ranted about this before, but I will say it again, I love the first Cars. I don't see it as a highly inferior film, I don't see it as 10x less than the older Pixar greats. For me, Cars is a fine personal piece by Mr. Lasseter, a nice but familiar story about a big shot learning to appreciate the little, simple things in life. It wasn't told in a cliche/we've-seen-that-before manner, I found the characters likable and colorful, the town setting to be very inviting, the car-ifications of real world things to be pretty neat and overall it's classic Pixar in my eyes: Great characters, lots of humor and heart, lots of visual wows and a wholly satisfying third act.

For many, Cars is something of an anti-Pixar Pixar film for a good chunk of people. It's not as inventive as Monsters, Inc. or The Incredibles, nor is it as epic as that superhero spectacle or Finding Nemo. It's very modest, and that's why I like it. It's quieter, it's definitely not what you'd expect after three ambitious powerhouse films like the ones that preceded it. For many, it was just cliche, trite, unoriginal, boring, etc. This was made even worse by the fact that it became a merchandising monster. So now it was both a "boring/unoriginal" Pixar film and a popular, moneymaking one. Also, many people question and dissect the universe where it takes place. "Nothing makes sense!" you'll always hear.

Cars 2 just made it even worse, because that film, unlike the 11 Pixar films that preceded, had some big problems. From the start, it was unabashedly a cash grab. Pixar pretty much had to make the film, and John Lasseter jumped at the opportunity of working with his personal project again. (Hence Planes and its sequels.) Yes, there's perhaps a lot of reasons to hate this franchise.

I don't, it's because I love the first film and the characters in it. I did not love Cars 2, but I didn't hate it either. I've said it before, it's just a lightweight wafer of a film. It's a silly, fun summer blockbuster that Pixar perhaps shouldn't have made. There are questionable decisions made, and given the hell it went through to get the big screen, I'm surprised it wasn't truly awful. (Many say it is a godawful film, but I disagree.) I think if Cars 2 didn't go through all that trouble, it would've actually been a good if not great film.

The troubles it went through makes for another story. Moving on to Cars 3

From what I hear, it's been in the works since last year. They should have more time to develop and produce this one, and with that, we may just get a pretty good movie in the end. Those who like the first film fine seem to have soured on the franchise after the second one came out. If so, remember that the third one could correct the second one's mistakes. Cars 3, according to the Sheriff's voice himself Michael Wallis, will not be a big spy story nor will it take place internationally… It'll go back the road, it'll be about Route 99.

Maybe this will be what Cars 2 should have been. But what plot could they possibly come up with? One of the things I liked about Cars 2 (like all Pixar sequels) was that it wasn't a complete rehash of the first film. The first film was a story about a guy changing his ways when discovering something he had been missing his whole life, the second was all about action and spies and international racing. Now the third returns to the highway, so it makes me wonder… What will they come up with? For me, there isn't too much they can do here… But maybe I'm being close-minded, and that Pixar's wizards will come up with something pretty cool.

What Pixar should've done was, and this applies to the second film as well, introduce new characters and leave behind McQueen and co. The first film's story concluded wonderfully, so explore! Introduce a brand new batch of faces, new locations, stuff that has nothing to do with Radiator Springs. Imagine if Cars 2 was just about Finn McMissile and C.H.R.O.M.E., no Man Who Knew Too Much business with Mater, just Finn and Holley working for this super-cool spy organization in the cars world. Maybe they have to stop an evil villain from sabotaging the World Grand Prix, and then in one scene, we see that Lighting is one of the racers as a nice nod to the first film. There was a lot they could do, and if they left behind Radiator Springs, we wouldn't have had to worry about how they would handle Doc Hudson. Having him be deceased in the second one was one element that really bothered me. After Paul Newman died, they should've just left Radiator Springs behind or they should've used that deleted subplot where Doc was a father figure to Lighting and Mater, and his absence affects the two on their trip.

So in Cars 3, they could leave McQueen and the gang behind and just focus on the Route 99 characters. Maybe… Just save McQueen and Mater for shorts like the upcoming ones and the Cars Toons. But everyone knows McQueen and Mater, so there's no reason for Pixar to ditch them. Disney wouldn't want that!

Anyways, Cars 3 doesn't bother me. It could be good, bad, mediocre, whatever. I know why it has to be made. Cars is essentially the Ice Age of Pixar. Ice Age's sequels do crazy-good business overseas, the last two each took in over $800 million worldwide while their domestic grosses dwindled. It's why Ice Age 5 is coming in 2016, it's why we'll probably see more films. It makes Blue Sky and Fox lots and lots of money, so more are made to support projects like Epic, Peanuts, Left Tern, Mutts, etc. On the other hand, Cars is a merchandising monster regardless of how much the films make. Cars merchandise topped $10 billion last year, and Planes has only been out for a few months. That film grossed an okay $90 million in the states, but the toy sales? Through the roof! You can bet your bippy they'll make more, because Disney likes the sound of cha-ching! (Ka-chow? Ka-ching?)

Pixar has to do it, really. People who know nothing about the business assume, "Wha? Has Pixar run out of ideas?!" No, this is an obligation, whether we like it or not. As my friend put it earlier today, it's unfortunately a necessary evil for these studios. I'm not condoning this, I'm accepting it.

It's not the end of the world. Pixar is hard at work on five original productions, and Catmull said we will get an original every year (sans 2016, when Finding Dory hits theaters) and the sequels will come every other year. Catmull confirmed that Pixar's folks are seriously rethinking some things and he has owned up to any recent mistakes. That's reality, Pixar was bound to make mistakes, and I'm not going into broken mp3 mode again.

Since some don't know, I'll give the short version on why we've gotten all these sequels… (Here we go again.)

#1. Toy Story 3, Monsters University and Finding Dory are "overwrites" of the three films Circle 7 tried to make back in 2004. What's Circle 7 again? An animation studio that was launched by Disney in 2004 to create sequels to Pixar films without Pixar's involvement, because back then, Pixar was likely going to split from Disney after the contract was up. (Cars would've been the final Pixar film to be released by Disney.) Disney owned the rights to all the films they made, thus they could make sequels if they wished. Circle 7 went ahead with Toy Story 3, Monsters, Inc. 2 and Finding Nemo 2. They were copyrighted, treatments were prepared. But then Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Bob Iger negotiated with the Emeryville house. Now because of these legal/copyright issues involving these unmade sequels, Pixar had to make their own Toy Story 3, Monsters, Inc. 2 and Finding Nemo 2.

Toy Story 3 came first because Pixar had ideas for a third film back in 2002, they just couldn't make it at the time given all the troubles they were having with Eisner. Monsters University entered development in 2007, a year after the acquisition. Finding Dory? Who knows how long that film has been in development… (A domain name was registered back in 2009.) Next year, we'll probably get a good idea, and we'll probably get a taste of what Circle 7's version was like.

So those three sequels had to be made, plus Disney probably whipped out a cattle prod and said, "Make 'em soon, Pixar." Especially with Finding Dory, given Andrew Stanton's John Carter of Mars, which Disney marketing effectively left for dead.

#2. Cars 2 was essentially forced on them, ditto Cars 3. A total "money talks" situation here.

#3. The Incredibles 2 is a sequel Brad Bird wants to make, and I'm sure Disney probably wants him to do it soon, too. No Circle 7 version ever got green lit, and Bird had talked about sequel ideas for a while.

After this, I think the sequel train will come to a screeching halt. You've got 3 sequels that had to be made, 2 that were pushed on Pixar by the higher ups and one that the director/the studio wants to make. If we see any sequels after The Incredibles 2, it'll be ones that Pixar wants to make. If anything, if Pixar does make a sequel after that film comes out, it'll probably be a sequel to an upcoming original and not one of their pre-2010 films.

Also, to those who are upset about Cars 3… Just avoid it. It's not going to infect Pixar like a virus and destroy them. Pixar will continue to make original films and great films, Cars 3 is not going to change that. It's not going to make Pixar an inferior studio, it'll just be an inferior movie that they happened to put out. Wait, we don't even know if Cars 3 will be inferior or not! We have no idea. If you hate the Cars franchise, you'll probably hate it. If you're okay with the franchise, you never know, Cars 3 might be decent.

Of course, I'm pretty much done with the side of the Internet that cries "Pixar is dead!" or rips them apart for their recent trip-ups. Pixar, to me, will continue to be a great studio. Even if they make some not-so-good films, it's reality. They're human. I'm not going to explain again why I think giving up on them or turning against them is ridiculous. I prefer to be optimistic, and to hope for the best with each coming film of theirs. Call me a suck-up to the studio all you want…

It's funny because many of those people begged, BEGGED for The Incredibles 2. They got it, now they're still complaining! I'm not annoyed, I'm just amused at this rate. I just sit back and I laugh…

That being said, I am very excited about The Incredibles 2. There's so much potential in it, too much potential! Cars 3? It can be good, bad, ok… It doesn't phase me. I'd rather have another Cars movie than, say… Toy Story 4, or sequels to WALL-E and Up. Those films should remain untouched! I'd say be happy that the oh-so-terrible Cars is getting the sequel treatment and not those gems. You can just avoid those films, not like John Lasseter is holding you at gunpoint saying, "Go see Cars 3, OR ELSE!" Again, it's not going to impede Pixar from growing and taking on cool new challenges.

Then again, I'm talking about the Internet here. Some people will just never be happy, especially the ones who apparently like things that come from the "Happiest Place on Earth"…

Speaking of which, the shareholder conference revealed a few other things…

Don't hope for a hand-drawn animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios anytime soon. It's the same answer we've been getting for nearly a year. We'll have to rely on some small studio or upstart at this rate to reignite hand-drawn animation at the box office…

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is still not ready to hit the high seas… This, to me, translates to cancelation. The film was plucked out of its original July 2015 spot, and no movement seems to be happening at this rate. To be honest, I was rather interested in this installment because the directors of Kon-Tiki were going to be at the helm of the ship. But apparently it's becoming less likely, and I'd say Disney should just let this franchise sink. I know the last one brought in a huge amount overseas, but they really don't need to make another one. The first one was the only good one, anyways…

Of course, Disney won't focus on anything new. Fairy tale reboots are the name of the game for their live action division, whether we like it or not. They can't own up to the terrible marketing, mismanagement and overspending that killed ambitious, risky live action tentpoles like Prince of PersiaJohn Carter of Mars and The Lone Ranger. You know, I want the Disney that made films like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Chronicles of Narnia, the Disney that took risks with live action… Oh well, asking for too much.

Marvel is firing on all cylinders, and why is that? Their movies are good, and they're marketed correctly. That's why they're knocking it out of the park with each film or show they make. Now if only Disney-live action, or better yet their marketing department can see that. Marvel now suggests that they'll make up to 3-4 films every calendar year. To me, this means that we'll get 1-2 small scale films to go alongside the Phase 3 and Phase 4 films. Like in 2017, say we get Thor 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and then we get a lower budget, small-scale Black Panther film or The Punisher to go with them. I like this plan.

Star Wars: Episode VII plot details reveal that the film will take place 30 years after the original. Very fitting, and I get the sense that this one will really be in secrecy until a trailer pops up. I expect one to debut this coming autumn or something…

Other than that, not much from the meeting was notable. Disney is making some questionable decisions as of late, but I think the Marvel news and The Incredibles 2 announcement were good news. Cars 3 I'm just okay with, what I'm not happy with is what is going on with Disney's own live action division and I'm still a little upset about hand-drawn at Disney Animation. Just take another gamble, make a feature-length hand-drawn film and have Disney market it correctly! Tangled and Frozen would've done just as well if they were hand-drawn films, because they'd be the same movies, just animated differently.

Audiences don't dislike hand-drawn, they avoid movies that look lame from the trailer, TV spots and marketing. Simple.

C'mon Disney brass… C'mon…

Anyways, that was an exhausting day full of news. What's your take on all of it?


  1. Isn't next year's SpongeBob movie supposed to be hand-drawn?

    1. Yes, it will be hand-drawn. It's been a while since I've seen one done in 2D.

  2. I was overwhelmed by these news...
    And I pretty much agreed with everything u said. Everywhere all I see is 'Pixar lost creativity!' However, on the other hand, everyone kept forcing disney to make a Frozen 2. Some even criticized disney for not greenliting frozen 2. But then some said 'who am I kidding? Its disney! They'll make a Frozen 2 sooner or later, like tron2'. When on the other hand, another group of people criticized disney for keep rebooting and messing their fairy tale films without originality.

    I'm so frustrated with how the 'general audience' react with disney. Give them a break. Let them do what they do.

  3. Hand Drawn is now dead, because of Bob Iger! It's his fault that hand drawn was killed for his own greedy self.