Thursday, November 6, 2014

Conflicted...


I'm very conflicted over today's news...

Very rarely do I ever get conflicted when it comes to animation news. I'll welcome new concepts from studios that don't have a hot track record behind them, nor do I reject other films. When an animated film is announced, I'll most likely say "Cool" or "Could be good". I don't flinch when companies like Blue Sky or Sony announce sequels. Once in a while I flip over something I think sounds dumb or unnecessary, but I try to keep a good attitude. I try to be positive...

However, today's major animation news has left me extremely conflicted... This is very rare for me..

And in case you haven't heard, yes... Pixar is working on a fourth Toy Story film...

That's right. Toy Story 4 is officially happening..

First off, no, Pixar is not dead.

Second, I have little excitement for it. But I'm not dreading it at the same time. Why?

I am not a time-traveller, I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know if the resulting movie is good, awesome, 15-out-of-10 perfect, or utter trash. Neither do any of you.

But, I'm incredibly skeptical for one big reason... Toy Story 3, as many agree, ended the series perfectly. It made for a well-rounded, wonderful, excellent animated trilogy. Good trilogies like that are rare, especially in animation. A slightly less-than-stellar fourth installment could possibly taint the wonderfulness of the trilogy. We don't want any slight tainting of the Toy Story series...

I was totally fine with Pixar making shorts and TV specials. I thought the three Toy Story Toons shorts were fun little treats, and I absolutely loved Toy Story of Terror! I highly anticipate the next special, Toy Story That Time Forgot. This, to me, was the perfect way to continue the series and please the bean counters at Disney without having to make a fourth film that'll obviously tear up the box office and make billions in toy sales.


Okay... What are the details?

So far, we know a few things. It's going to be released on June 16, 2017. Mystery solved there, now what has happened to Lee Unkrich's 'Day of the Dead' project? Is it the 11/22/2017 release? Probably not, considering that Dia De Los Muertos occurs from October 31 to November 2... That one is still up in the air as far as I'm concerned...

Second, John Lasseter is going to direct it. Since Lasseter is a very busy man nowadays, he can't really direct anymore. Cars 2 was an exception because that film's original director was having major difficulties with the project, so he took over at the last minute (and by last minute, I mean less than a year before the movie came out) to fix it, though many think his attempts at "salvaging" the film didn't work any wonders. So he sorta-kinda directed it, more like "finished" it. As far as I'm concerned, it's really Brad Lewis' movie with some eleventh-hour Lasseter tweaks. Much like Brave, really Brenda Chapman's movie but with some Mark Andrews additions and tweaks. It's easy to be skeptical in this area since he hasn't really "legitimately" directed any film since the acquisition, and it's a bit worrisome because... Will he be able to helm such a big risk while also tending to his other duties?

Then there's this old saw about Lasseter being Pixar's worst director, regardless of the fact that he directed both Toy Story and Toy Story 2. A Bug's Life is somehow "weak" (I don't think anyone was saying this back in 1998, but I digress), and Cars? Well you know what the majority of the Internet thinks of that film...

Today, Lasseter himself said...

"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. But when Andrew, Pete, Lee, and I came up with this new idea, I just 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."


Is he passionate about this new idea? Or is this just sugarcoated PR talk?

According to The Los Angeles Times, Toy Story 4 will be... A love story. That's right, a love story...

They said that over the last two years, Lasseter and Andrew Stanton penned a treatment for this fourth installment. They have also brought in two outsiders, the writing team behind Celeste and Jesse Forever: Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. I've never seen the film, but it's said to be pretty good. Not excellent or anything like that, but good.

"They have such a great sense of character and originality. And I wanted to get a strong female voice in the writing of this," says Lasseter.

This could also explain why Finding Dory's script is being handled by Victoria Strouse, another outsider whose work includes TV shows. Like Strouse, Jones and McCormack haven't really worked in animation before. Walt Disney Animation Studios is doing the same thing under Lasseter. Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, Wreck-It Ralph's screenwriters, haven't worked on an animated feature before. Their pre-Disney work consisted of shorts and TV movies. But lo and behold, Wreck-It Ralph was fantastic and Lee went on to write and direct Frozen with Chris Buck. Lee is now part of the big leagues at Disney Animation, and is now set to pen an adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, which might be a Walt Disney Studios-produced live-action film.

Also remember that Michael Arndt penned Toy Story 3's screenplay, and he hadn't worked on an animated film before that. Again, Pixar and their hiring of outsiders to write screenplays. I think it's been working out for both them and Disney Animation. It's very possible that the Celeste and Jesse Forever writers may, may surprise us...

So... A love story? Who is in love? Woody? An adult Bonnie? Andy at college, perhaps? Who knows, Pixar is secretive when it comes to plot details and I'm sure we'll hear nothing about it until maybe next year. I'm willing to bet it's Woody, but who will be the love interest? Surely not one of Bonnie's toys, no. She gets a new toy? Maybe one of Bonnie's mother's toys? Actually, there is some potential there? How? Well, we all know that Woody lost Bo Peep, so maybe he's still upset at the fact that he'll never see her again, or maybe Bo ends up at Bonnie's! Who knows, maybe her and her mom go through a yard sale and she's there! Okay, getting ahead of myself here... Moving on...


I will say though, I'm a little perked up by the fact that they are going this route for the fourth film. The Internet dogs on Pixar for sequels, but there's one thing Pixar's sequels do absolutely right, and that includes poison... I mean, um, Cars 2...

Their sequels never rehash the stories and plots from the originals. They keep some similar ideas, and they stay true to the spirit of the originals...

Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 have a similar end-goal, and that's getting back to Andy's house in time, but the plots and stories in each are different.

Toy Story 2 isn't the same movie as Toy Story, and Toy Story 3 isn't the same movie as its predecessors. Toy Story had a rather worried Woody get himself into a real mess, and has to work with a deluded Buzz Lightyear to escape a toy-destroying kid's house and back to Andy's before Andy's family moves. Was Toy Story 2 the same thing? Nope, it was about Woody being stolen by a greedy toy collector and finding out about his origins, while Buzz and the gang embark on a big quest to find him. The themes are different and the story is different, regardless of the fact that the main goal is: "We have to get back to Andy's before something [coming home from cowboy camp] happens!"

Toy Story 3 takes place years later, the toys realize that Andy has grown up. No more fear of Andy growing up and what will possibly happen, no, he is grown up. A series of mishaps happen and they find themselves at a daycare that's run like a prison by a bitter toy that very well could've been Woody. Again, different story. It's a prison escape movie, but with toys.

Monsters, Inc. tells the story of a crisis going on in a world populated by monsters. They need children's screams to power their world, but kids are become less afraid of monsters in their closet. Monsters are also terrified of humans and believe they are toxic, a little girl gets into the monster world, our two leads have to figure out how to get her back while a diabolical plan is brewing. Monsters University, the film's prequel, is about how the two leads met and didn't like each other but ultimately became friends during a plot to get back into a scaring program they got kicked out of.

Finding Nemo is about a worrywart father clownfish teaming up with a childish regal tang that suffers from short-term memory less to find his son. Finding Dory looks to be a story about said regal tang discovering her family and finding... Herself.

Cars is about a cocky racecar who winds up in an old town on his way to a major race, and learns how to appreciate the little things in life and also learns how to be a little less arrogant. Cars 2 is anything but that. Cars 2 is about a goofy bumpkin being mistaken for a spy and getting wrapped up in this massive conspiracy that may destroy his best friend.

For the record, I don't think Pixar has made an awful film at all. I like Cars 2, but I do think the film has major problems, but I don't consider it to be an F-grade film. I know that's a minority opinion, but at this point I don't give two damns. I really loved Monsters University, it resonated with me. As a film, I think it's very good. It's not as inventive or as exciting as the first film, but I think it's more than a worthy companion piece. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3... I don't need to say more.

So out of the four sequels Pixar has made, I only consider one of them to be "below good". Cars 2's problems all make sense if you do research; you'll see that it was a very troubled production and it should've been given a lot more time to stew in the proverbial crock pot. Pixar shouldn't "microwave" a movie, and I think Cars 2 is their only microwaved movie.

So I really admired 3 out of 4 of Pixar's sequels. I have little doubts concerning both Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2. Cars 3, I can take it or leave it. I'm only skeptical of Dory and Incredibles 2 because, again, a great sequel is not easy to pull off. I trust Pixar completely, but again, it's always possible that the sequel may not be great. But Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 are not out yet, and won't be for a long while, so we don't know if they'll be excellent quality sequels that really live up to their predecessors.

I'll repeat it again, I thought Monsters University was fine and was worthy of the original. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were awesome. Cars 2? Very troubled production, but still okay. Most of the Internet disliked Cars to begin with, so no use talking about that, and I really have no idea why they ended up not liking Monsters U. I think they were prepared to hate it from the minute Cars 2 came out.

But Toy Story 4...

I am EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL.

I trust Pixar.

I am happy they have a good writing team behind it. Lasseter is directing too, rather than someone other than him or Lee Unkrich. (Though to be fair, Dan Scanlon pulled off Monsters University quite well.)

I think they definitely can pull it off. I think they can make a great fourth installment that sits nicely alongside the trilogy...

So why am I so conflicted?

It all has to do with the fact that Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 are excellent movies. Truly fine works of animated cinema, and cinema in general. Toy Story 4 simply has a lot... No, scratch that... A REAL LOT to live up to!

That's why I'm very worried. I don't want this to be less-than-stellar, I don't really even want it to be Monsters U-level good, even though I loved that film. I want this film to really shine and sparkle, like its predecessors. A film that's creative, fun, heartfelt, and really goes an extra mile or two. Something truly special and awesome. If it isn't in the end, I won't say "Fuck you, Pixar! How could you?" Writing a fourth Toy Story, when the three films before it were A+ works, is not an easy task for anyone. EVEN THE CREATORS OF SAID TRILOGY!

If Lasseter & co. truly like this new idea of theirs and really want to make a sequel despite the risks, I say "go for it"... But we don't really know if that's the intention. Sure, it's got two good writers attached, but it's easy to think, "Nah, Bob Iger just has a gun to Lasseter's head." That very well may be (well, not literally of course), but you never know... Maybe Lasseter & co. do have an excellent idea that should be projected on the silver screen 3 1/2 years from now. We... Don't... Know...

In the meantime, I will not get excited but I will not get bummed. I have no idea what's going to come of all this. I think, my fellow readers and fans, that you should do the same. Refrain from being pessimistic, but also don't your hopes up too high. I'm not encouraging Pixar to make this film, and there's nothing I can do. I can't put up 10 posts saying "Pixar please! Don't make it! DON'T!" That won't do anything. It's happening, this is reality, so take my advice... Wait and see.

4 comments:

  1. you lightened me up a bit with your optimism and positivity, but it still doesnt help.
    im VERY conflicted. on one hand, all but one Pixar is sequel are my fav films. on the other hand, TS3 ended it so perfectly it just loses its magic if we see them again onscreen.

    and also, Wrinkle in Time had been confirmed as a live action movie in Hollywood Reporter, so it wont be animated. meaning they will let Jennifer Lee do her magic in the live action division.

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  2. "meaning they will let Jennifer Lee do her magic in the live action division."

    I wonder what Andrew Stanton would think of that.

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  3. I agree. No one should rush to judgement, and I trust that Pixar will try their best to make audiences love this. Toy Story is their baby, let them do what they want with it!!!

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  4. Inside Out - 2015
    The Good Dinosaur - 2015
    Finding Dory - 2016
    Toy Story 4 - 2017
    Untitled Lee U. film - 2017
    Cars 3 - 2018
    Untitled film - 2019
    The Incredibles 2 - 2019

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