Friday, 28 June 2013

Ed Catmull Promises Fewer Pixar Sequels, "An Original Film a Year"

Pixar have been getting quite the reputation as sequel-mongers as of late; the bad rep comes from the fact that for 14 years they produced only one sequel, but have released a subsequent three follow-ups in the last 3 years. And of course Cars 2 didn't help matters (I very much liked the film, but it is unquestionably not as stellar as the studio's classics like WALL-E or Toy Story - a sign to many that quality was slipping over in Emeryville). While Brave has been the lone original film sandwiched between a sequel and a prequel in recent years, Pixar president Ed Catmull promises - as if their almost entirely original upcoming slate wasn't indication enough - that the studio is reining back on sequels again, but that they are still part of the plan going forward.

Speaking to BuzzFeed, the co-founder spoke about the importance of originality to Pixar, saying "for artistic reasons … it’s really important that we do an original film a year." Sequels are an inevitability though, it seems, with Catmull rationalising them by saying "Every once in a while, we get a film where we want or people want to see something continuing in that world — which is the rationale behind the sequel. They want those characters, which means we were successful with them. But if you keep doing that, then you aren’t doing original films."

Pixar's only currently announced sequel is Andrew Stanton's Finding Dory,
due 2015.

Rumours were abound a few months back when Bob Iger, in a press conference, said "sequels", plural, in regard to Pixar's post-Monsters University slate, which was taken as gospel that the studio is working on more follow-ups. Toy Story 4 has been heavily rumoured since the third film hit cinemas in 2010 (although I really hope it doesn't come to that), while The Incredibles 2 has been clamoured for since 2004 - with recent quotes from Brad Bird indicating it may still be on the agenda. A third Monsters film is a possibility (especially given the big numbers Monsters U is getting), as is another Cars film; a Finding Nemo sequel, Finding Dory, is scheduled for November 2015.

The studio seem to have some sort of pre-agreed sequel-schedule though, which is a little less reassuring, as Catmull said that, as well as the original film a year, that the plan is: "every other year have a sequel to something. That's the rough idea." Meaning we should expect another Pixar sequel in 2017.

Dan Scanlon directs Monsters University.

Catmull, who's also the president of Walt Disney Animation, spoke about the importance of grooming a new generation of Pixarians to pass the torch onto - something particularly relevant at the moment, with Dan Scanlon making his feature directorial debut with Monsters University:

When Walt [Disney] died, he didn’t pass the baton to anybody else, and so they went downhill after that. So John and I take very seriously the fact that we need to get people up to the level where they can tell original films.”

This new methodology will start to take effect in the coming years: Pixar will release an original film, The Good Dinosaur, on 30th May next year; in 2015, the studio will release two films for the first time ever, with Pete Docter's Inside Out on 19th June and Finding Dory on 25th November. We learned about the studio's release date plans from there onwards at the end of last month.

It's reassuring to know, though, that Pixar are planning to stay true to their roots of originality, yet also kind of comforting to know that we'll be seeing more of the characters we know and love in the future. Let's just hope the quality can be maintained.


  1. So sequel/prequel = unoriginality huh? I'm far from putting Pixar on a pedestal, but it really bothers me when people automatically assume the lack of originality when it comes to their sequels. In fact, Pixar should be commended for trying to break the same motif from the first entry in their sequels. Sometimes it doesn't work (spy theme in Cars 2 definitely did not fit), while some other times it works wonder (prison break motif in TS3, college theme in Monsters U, exploring deeper meanings of existentialism in TS2/TS3, etc.), but they really do try, instead of dipping back to the same old well.

    To put that in perspective, do take look at ALL other animated sequels out there and give me one good example of a sequel that was not intended for financial reasons (aka cash grabs) AND explore/attempt a new theme or a new direction.

  2. William Jardine28 June 2013 at 19:58

    Oh definitely. Pixar sequels are amongst the most original, daring sequels about. Obviously there are financial benefits and I'm not in the dark as to the fact that Pixar's got to think monetarily the same as anyone else does, but I've got the faith to anticipate whatever they're doing.

  3. But at the same time, in those first 14 years, they only had so many films to choose from to create a sequel from. Now they have a wide array of fantastic worlds and rich characters that can bring life to a sequel. It's one thing if they were on Toy Story 6 and nothing else, but picking and choosing a sequel while also bringing out great original work - Brave may have been viewed as a disappointment, but it's almost always classified as a disappointment *because* it came from Pixar, which has a higher standard of quality.

  4. William Jardine30 June 2013 at 14:37

    Ah, good point! Brave had directorial troubles, I get that, but I still think it was a damn fine film - for Pixar, for anyone. I maintain that if it had came out after Up or Toy Story 3, rather than Cars 2, critics would have been a lot kinder towards it than they were. But they're looking for weaknesses now, they want to have something to complain about. Sad but true.