Has Pixar hit a slump? Well, maybe not financially, as “Monsters University” was the second biggest opening in the studio’s history, hauling in $82 million last weekend. But at least in the perception of people, well, like us — Pixar has wavered from the path that made them who they are. The past four years have essentially seen the company, who once prided themselves on delivering original movies unlike what everyone else was doing, deliver two sequels (“Toy Story 3,” “Cars 2“), one prequel (“Monsters University“) and one original (“Brave“). More crucially, “Toy Story 3” aside, the films haven’t been met with the same widespread critical acclaim as their earlier efforts (though box office has pretty much stayed consistent) and folks have been wondering if they’re lost the secret sauce that made them one of the best in the game? Well, they aren’t doing down without a fight.
“For artistic reasons … it’s really important that we do an original film a year,” Pixar Animation Studios President Ed Catmull told BuzzFeed. And indeed, it seems the animation studio is taking stock of their approach and are gearing up for a whole new game plan. “We’re going to have an original film every year, then every other year have a sequel to something,” he said. “That’s the rough idea.”
And they do have quite a number of original films planned already, with “The Good Dinosaur” and “The Inside Out” coming in 2014 and 2015, and with the “Untitled Pixar film about Día de los Muertos” arriving in 2016. And in keeping with the sequel every-so-often approach, “Finding Dory” — the followup to “Finding Nemo” — will also join the 2016 slate. But don’t expect Pixar to drop sequels altogether as Catmull, in more diplomatic language, says that sometimes it’s just going to happen because the demand (or licensing opportunity, we’d wager) is there.
“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,” he says. Which is all fine and good, but one wonders why perhaps the most screamed about and desired sequel — one for “The Incredibles” — remains nowhere to be seen, while “Cars” managed a follow-up. Oh right, it’s because “Cars” prints Walter White-sized stacks of cash through merchandising…
But overall, it seems Catmull is determined to put great films first, and perhaps take some of the market share back that’s been grabbed by DreamWorks Animation and their increasingly well received run of movies. But what do you think? Can Pixar go back to indie creativity they once reveled in or will being forever chained to the Disney machine continually compromise their vision? Weigh in below.