Pixar strikes a compromise between original concepts and sequels
I've certainly voiced my share of regret with regard to Pixar sequels. I'm honestly not against them in principal (some might argue the "Toy Story" films got better with each subsequent installment), but I do understand frustration from those who'd like to see the animation studio steer away from the brand expansion market and back to original concepts.
That said, it's odd to me that "Monsters University" seems to be such a last straw for so many. I couldn't stand "Cars 2," and yes, I'm pretty perturbed at the notion of my favorite Pixar film receiving the sequel treatment while a film that seems to be aching for it -- "The Incredibles" -- remains singular. But I was charmed by the new "Monsters," which landed to one of the biggest openings in the studio's history last weekend. It's not the poster child here, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, it seems Pixar has heard the moaning and taken it to heart. In an interview with Pixar president Ed Catmull, Buzzfeed reveals that the studio is planning to scale back on sequels and aim for one original film each year.
"For artistic reasons…it’s really important that we do an original film a year," Catmull told the site. "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.
"We’re going to have an original film every year, then every other year have a sequel to something. That’s the rough idea."
It's interesting because I recently finished Nicole LaPorte's "The Men Who Would Be King," an absolute must-read tome about the rise and fall of DreamWorks, and there is plenty of talk about Pixar in those pages, about Jeffrey Katzenberg attempting to poach talent from the studio and about former Disney CEO Michael Eisner's place in it all. Apparently Eisner was a bit annoyed early on about the lack of sequels that were coming out of Pixar in the early days, when Disney merely had a distribution deal with the animation house. Eventually Pixar sold to Disney outright and, of course, things changed.
Now they look to be changing again. Well, a compromise seems to have been struck. Albeit a "rough idea."
Pixar's next film will be "The Good Dinosaur," which landes in theaters next May. Later this year, Walt Disney Animation will spin the world of "Cars" off into "Planes," which will be an attempt to forge a new franchise from a former one. We'll see how that one plays.
Here is my list of the 10 best Pixar films from last year, published on the occasion of "Brave." I think I might tweak it now to have "Monsters University" bump "Brave" off the list and maybe flip-flop "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2."