Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bypassing a Possible Sequel Problem


Sequels, sequels, sequels... Where does it end?

This is something of a continuation of the Pixar speculation article I posted at the beginning of the month after it was officially revealed that Toy Story 4 is happening... Pixar has two more sequels in development that are expected to be released after the new Woody & Buzz film hits theaters in June 2017: The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3. Does it end after that, though?

Pixar is owned by a mega-empire corporation. Of course Disney's higher ups are going to want the cash flow, and I am willing to bet that a film like Toy Story 4's existence is likely a result of Mouse House cattle-prodding...

Let's look at Pixar's sequel line-up. There are three Toy Story sequels, a Monsters, Inc. prequel, a Finding Nemo sequel, an Incredibles sequel, and two Cars sequels...

I believe that peoples' worries about Pixar sequels is all rooted in the fact that Pixar crafts standalone stories. Ones with beginnings, middles, and ends. No cliffhangers that imply a sequel is definitely coming. Toy Story's final gag is not a set-up for Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. wisely just shows Sulley happy when an a slightly older-sounding Boo says "Kitty", Finding Nemo has a fun little gag at the end. Films like Cars and Brave have silly post-credit scenes that just have a joke, nothing more. It's not like Marvel and many of their post-credits scenes, and even then they do a couple comedic ones since they do both mid-credits and post-credits scenes.


To many people out there, The Incredibles' ending arguably sets up a sequel, but to me that ending is nothing more than a fun poke at serials that ended on cliffhangers. The titular team are a superhero team, so have the film end where a monster-of-the-week menace shows up and boom! That's your ending! Not like Pixar's people and Brad Bird thought, "Hey, we'll have this be a set-up! A cliffhanger! We gotta get audiences excited about The Incredibles 2! Coming in... Let's see... 2008?" But no Incredibles 2 occurred in the following years. The sequel was officially announced this year, and the film turned 10 years old this month... Let that sink in for a minute...

On another note, in 2005, a video game "sequel" was made: The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer...

The Incredibles was meant to be a standalone story, not a launchpad for a series of sequels unlike a lot of other big films out there. That doesn't mean a sequel "can't" be made to The Incredibles, but if it doesn't get made, it's not much of a loss because the story wasn't really meant to continue.

All of Pixar's originals are standalone stories. None of them have endings that explicitly set up sequels. At best you'll get a gag like Finding Nemo's final shot, or again, The Incredibles' last few seconds. The latest original, Brave, is no different. No sequel hook at the end!

This, I feel, is a reason why some people get upset over the idea of Pixar making sequels. These feelings aren't without merit, it's hard to make a great sequel to an already-great standalone story that probably didn't need a sequel. When I see people say the recent Pixar sequels are "unnecessary", well... So was Toy Story 2! But unnecessary or not, if it's a great film in the end, why the fuss?

Anyways, my main point is this... Disney gets a lot of mileage out of Pixar. Too much mileage. Each films of theirs since 2007 has crossed $500 million at the worldwide box office, the kind of numbers the higher ups love to see! Toy Story 3 grossed $1 billion, and back in 2010, that was still a special, rare number for any film. Only two recent Disney Animation films crossed that mark, Wreck-It Ralph did come close though, and Big Hero 6 might cross it.

We're in an age now where sequels are the go-to option, not similar movies. Did Walt Disney make a sequel to Snow White? Yes and no. He made Cinderella, a film based on a fairy tale about a princess that concludes with the abused heroine getting out of her bad situation and marrying a handsome prince, living happily ever after. That's the same basic gist of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, except Cinderella is a much different story with different elements so it's not a rehash of what worked in Walt's 1937 film. Oh... And Walt sorta-kinda made a third Snow White, it was called Sleeping Beauty.

Aside from the fairy tales, Walt gave us Lady and the Tramp and then nearly six years later the studio unleashed One Hundred and One Dalmatians. He didn't make a sequel about Lady, Tramp, their puppies, and further adventures... He simply made another movie about canines. The early 1950s films Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan tread the fantasy grounds that Pinocchio covered in 1940, but with stories that weren't retreads of Pinocchio's. And so on and so forth...

As Steve Hulett notes, "Did Fox-News Corp. walk away from Ice Age? Did Pixar walk away from Toy Story? Did DreamWorks Animation abandon Shrek? Sure, Walt Disney never followed up with a sequel to Snow White, but 1937, that was a different freaking universe. Studios weren't geared toward sequels. They were geared to "Let's make another Clark Gable/James Cagney/Tyrone Power movie very much like the last Clark Gable/James Cagney/Tyrone Power movie."

Nowadays, similar pictures isn't an option, even though it really should be... If anything, if something like Moana makes $1 billion at the box office, Disney should just be happy about that and use its success to trumpet future movies so... *gasp* People go and see those movies and help them make a bajillion dollars too!

But no... We're now hearing non-stop rumors concerning a Frozen sequel, and regardless of what one makes of what Idina Menzel had to say the other day, a sequel to Frozen could happen given Bob Iger's love of franchises and money. You know, like any leader of a massive corporation. Get the money wherever it can come from, a crapload is never enough!


As for Disney Animation's current crop of films, none of them really "need" sequels per se. That to me boils down to personal opinion, as I think something like Big Hero 6 should get a sequel. That film, to me, was an origin story and there's more they can do with this team of heroes. The fact that Wreck-It Ralph might be getting a sequel excites me, because there's so much they can do with the film's setting and logic. Video game characters doing their own thing when humans aren't around? Let's see it happen outside the arcade! Home games! Mobile games! The whole shebang!

But you can also argue that Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 are fine as standalone stories. Making a sequel is all up to the creatives and the people behind these films, I think. The same goes for something like Frozen. I'd rather have the people who made the film want a sequel, rather than the executives forcing them to do one. For instance, look at Guillermo del Toro. He's all gung-ho about making more Pacific Rim movies, even before the first one came out! Pacific Rim just barely doubled its budget at the box office, too! Marvel does sequels because they have a huge storyline that they want to continue, and so on and so forth...

Frozen made over $1 billion worldwide, is the fifth highest grossing movie of all time, and has made serious bank on merchandise. You think Iger & co. are going to pass that up, regardless of what the filmmakers want? Sure, Iger's Disney is hands off, but they can still wrestle the studios into making sequels. Marvel and Lucasfilm are built on sequels, Disney Animation and Pixar aren't... But corporate Disney can muscle things into existence. You really think a bunch of creatives said one day, "Hey, I know! Let's make live-action remakes of Disney's animated classics!"?

Yes, maybe John Lasseter and his Pixar posse genuinely love the idea they have for Toy Story 4. Maybe everyone at the studio is totally open to revisiting certain characters and their worlds/stories. But I have no doubt that Disney has a major say in all of that. Was it the chicken or the egg? Did Lasseter get an idea and then Disney was like "Yay! You're making a fourth one!" or was it "Lasseter, come up with an idea for the fourth film because we want one!" with Lasseter saying, "Okay, but just give us some time to get a good idea."

You would think that Disney would be happy with Marvel and Star Wars money, and would just lay off of Disney Animation and Pixar, letting them do their thing. Nope, doesn't work that way...

Does the sequel wave at Pixar come to an end after The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3 finally come out? Right now, those are the only two sequels that don't have concrete release dates. Toy Story 4 is pegged for summer 2017, and two dates that the studio secured back in 2013 remain vacant at the moment: 11/22/2017 and 6/15/2018. If anything, I can see Pixar having both The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3 ready for 2019, one in the summer and one in the autumn. I can't see them releasing four sequels in a row: Finding Dory in summer 2016, Toy Story 4 in summer 2017, and the last two taking up the fall 2017 and summer 2018 slots...

Now personally, I want Pixar to stop right after that. No, I'm not saying they shouldn't make a third Incredibles after the second one comes out. I'm saying that they should leave the other films in their library alone. You know, films like Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Brave... I wouldn't mind if they crank out Cars films just to keep Disney happy, but...

Big Disney is probably going to be demanding more sequels, so how can Pixar bypass the problem if Disney clamors for more sequels from them?

Pixar will have to do the impossible and make... A film that is not a standalone story. A film that may have a solid beginning, middle, and end... But a film that'll also set up many things that should be covered in a sequel or sequels. Essentially their own Star Wars, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings-esque films.

That would actually be something, because a lot of people want Pixar to try new things, and they haven't done that before. Make a big, overarching story that isn't going to be covered in one film. That way, the sequels are justified and will be set in stone from the start - in case the film is very successful.

Here's the thing, though. Bob Iger is set to hang up the CEO cape in 2018, originally he was going to resign in less than two years from now. I'm guessing he's staying so he can be on board for most of the upcoming Marvel and Star Wars films. After he leaves, will his successor continue the whole "sequel push" thing? Or will things be run differently? Who knows...

But if Pixar is expected to keep making sequels by the end of this decade, I feel that planning a massive story is the way to go.

1 comment:

  1. I think Toy Story 4 was Pixar's idea for one reason: With John Lasseter directing, he won't be able to spend as much time at Disney. Why would Disney want that? But at the same time, Disney is also clearly very excited because it's a successful franchise.

    ReplyDelete