Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fish Facts: Andrew Stanton Talks 'Finding Dory', Sequel Debate

With Finding Dory's trailer coming out tomorrow, director Andrew Stanton was interviewed by Yahoo! As usual with talk on Pixar's sequels, some interesting words came out... 

Yahoo! began their piece with a PR-friendly quote from Stanton on Pixar sequels... "Disney doesn't request those things".

That's definitely not the narrative, but it's not the other narrative either. Finding Dory is being made because Disney almost made a Finding Nemo sequel without Pixar, with a script locked and everything. That was over a decade ago, when it seemed like Pixar was going to break off from Disney - fed up with the treatment they were getting from the Eisner forces - and move on to another distributor. However, Disney had the rights to the films made between Toy Story and Cars. With Pixar gone, Disney could make sequels to those specific films if they wanted to... And they were going to.

It was really nothing more than nasty blackmailing, a way to get Pixar to renegotiate. Luckily, in fall 2005, at the height of the tension, Michael Eisner stepped down as CEO of Disney. Bob Iger took his place and immediately sought to undo all the damage. When Pixar was acquired for $7.4 billion in early 2006, those attempted sequels were immediately thrown out the door.

Now a narrative I've been hearing is an interesting one. It could be bunk, but I've believed it for years, I think it lines up... Disney got very far with their Pixar-less sequels to Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. Scripts were written, even. Disney set up a CG studio called Circle 7 to make them. Now, notice how - outside of Cars 2 - the first trio of post-2006 Pixar sequels were Toy Story 3, Monsters University, and Finding Dory? According to various reports I've read over the years, Pixar always wanted to make Toy Story 3. 2002 is perhaps the very year they started thinking about a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, but Toy Story 2 was the source of many problems between Disney and Pixar. All the hubbub over whether it, a sequel, "counted" as part of the original three-film contract or not.

It was probably not a wise decision to go and make another sequel, plus three originals were deep in development/production. Another company like DreamWorks didn't have this kind of hang-up, they jumped right into Shrek 2 the minute Shrek became a box office sensation. Madagascar 2 was greenlit right after the first did so well. Pixar, had they not had this drama going on with Disney back then, probably would've banged out a sequel to something last decade. But they couldn't, and thus there was this assumption that the studio was too good for sequels...

In fact, when Toy Story 3 re-entered development as a Pixar-made movie, it originally was set for a 2009 release. Then an original that had been in development for quite some time before the acquisition, Up, surged ahead. Pixar delayed a highly anticipated sequel because one of their offbeat originals was picking up steam...

Toy Story 3 was a critical and commercial darling. Cars 2's production history is very murky, and the movie was announced in 2008... Monsters University was already in active development at the time, which tells me that a Cars sequel had nothing to do with those Circle 7 scripts. Not to mention all the Circle 7 issues went down before Cars was even finished. It was definitely Disney cattle-prodding, plus John Lasseter loves his pet project, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a sequel. You'll also notice that the sequel seems to have been done by a sort-of "B-team" at Pixar, and not the heavies like Unkrich, Stanton, Docter, et al. They barely spoke of it when it was coming out.

Monsters University followed three years later, and I heard that some of the Pixar story crew actually liked ideas that were in Circle 7's "Lost in Scaradise" treatment, but couldn't use those ideas for legal reasons. Finding Dory will arrive in June, and Monsters U will be three years old by then. Now where Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2 fall in this whole equation, I don't know. I doubt it has anything to do with Circle 7. As far as I know, no scripts or treatments were written for those films. I know they considered an A Bug's Life sequel, but that didn't get far. So Pixar pretty much has to overwrite those attempted Pixar-less sequels for legal reasons.

Is that whole explanation bunk? Maybe, maybe not. I've heard it multiple times over the years, and I honestly think it lines up. Not simple explanations like "Pixar really truly wants to make sequels", or "Disney's forcing them to make sequels."

Anyways, I bring this up because I'm conflicted on the whole Pixar sequels thing. I haven't disliked a single sequel that they've made. Yes, I have issues with Cars 2, but I can chalk those up to the hectic production problems that occurred during its four-year race from conception to release. I think saying that Pixar truly wants to make sequels purely for creative reasons is a bit naive, but I think that saying they make sequels solely (100%) for money is too cynical. Especially after the good job they did on Toy Story 3 and, yes, Monsters University.

I mean, wanting to revisit characters and worlds you've created isn't a horrible idea or a sign of creative bankruptcy. If it was, then The Empire Strikes Back shouldn't have happened. Pixar was forced to make Toy Story 2, Disney really wanted it (and this is mid-90s Disney we're talking about, different people, different time), and it was almost a direct-to-video cash grab. Not wanting poor quality product to be the end result, Pixar did everything they could to turn it around... and they did so with flying colors. Toy Story 3 justified its existence and then some, and if you liked Monsters U, that too. Even Walt "you can't top pigs with pigs" Disney considered making sequels to Snow White and Bambi, before opting not to make them.

I do believe that there is some push from Disney. Stanton himself said it, actually, a few years back when The Good Dinosaur was encountering the big road block that got it delayed. (On a side note: Finding Dory was originally slated to come out this past Thanksgiving, but because of what happened with Good Dinosaur, it had to move back. Yes, Pixar delayed a hugely anticipated sequel to accommodate an original film! Disney was okay with that, too!)

"There was polite inquiry from Disney [about a Finding Nemo sequel]. I was always ‘No sequels, no sequels.’ But I had to get on board from a VP standpoint. [Sequels] are part of the necessity of our staying afloat, but we don’t want to have to go there for those reasons. We want to go there creatively, so we said [to Disney], ‘Can you give us the timeline about when we release them? Because we’d like to release something we actually want to make, and we might not come up with it the year you want it.’"

PR-sugarcoating is attractive, I understand. My ultimate theory is that, outside of Circle 7 issues, Disney wants the sequels, Pixar essentially says "We'll make them when we make them." Like Mr. Incredible said to an impatient Dash during the trip back to Metroville, "We'll get there when we get there!"

More interestingly, Stanton said that he came up with the idea for Finding Dory in 2011. Disney registered domain names for a Finding Nemo sequel back in 2010. Of course, a domain name could be registered before any development begins on a sequel, as Mr. Hill notes, but it tells me that Disney knew one was going to happen. Again, remember the Circle 7 trio.

Anyways, Stanton dove onto the character Destiny and talked about how she went through many changes during development...

"Destiny is somebody from Dory’s past that she didn’t know about. She resides at a conservation park called the Marine Life Institute. There’s quite a cast of new characters and new species in this film. And Destiny is one of a few that we’ll come across who help Dory on her journey to figure out her past and find her parents.

Destiny had an interesting, circuitous route. We originally started with the idea of having there be an adoption story, and Dory having a sister that she was replaced by, and that was originally Destiny. And then the stories morphed and she turned out better to be a friend from Dory’s past that she just didn’t know about.

Destiny had existed in the film for a long time, but has had many different mutations. She’s voiced by Kaitlin Olson, who is an actress I’ve wanted to work with since I saw her — and especially since I heard her — in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There’s a term, “the camera loves them.“ There’s also people where the microphone loves them, and the animator in you comes out, and you say, “I’d love to animate to that voice.” She has one of those voices."

Typical for Pixar, and typical for most movies. Things change, things evolve. I've said many times before that I'm onboard this sequel, because I like the idea: Dory goes on a quest to find herself and her family. Pixar isn't rehashing what made the first movie so great, and I can say the same about their other sequels. Cars 2, whether it's a bad movie or not, is a spy movie and isn't a carbon copy of its predecessor. Monsters U is a college prequel about how Mike and Sulley became friends, not a mystery-comedy set inside an elaborate factory. The Toy Story sequels may have the same end-goal (we have to get back to Andy's before...), but thematically they're all very different. Toy Story 4 will be a love story. Cars 3 looks to go back to the road.

Stanton also reveals in the interview that Alexander Gould, who voiced Nemo in the first film, will cameo. He was roughly 8 when he voiced Nemo.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to this sequel? Where do you stand on why Pixar is making sequels? Sound off below!


  1. If circle 7 happened Pixar would only made original films, that would be awesome but toy story 3 or monsters U would been like those disney direct to DVD sequels but I Pixar doing only originals sounds amazing.
    Imagine that andrews staton, john lasseter and brad bird instead of now doing sequels they were doing original films, that would be awesome
    Btw in the interview he said that is doing twl projects.. Mhhh interesting

  2. That new image of finding dory is scary, not because the wale face is because I am afraid of the ocean and big wales