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No matter how good the eventual film is, people are going to categorize the notion of Andrew Stanton returning to Pixar to direct a sequel to "Finding Nemo" as a retreat of sorts on the heels of the commercial drubbing of "John Carter."
It's a tough move for Stanton no matter what he does. I have no doubt at all that the reports are correct in saying that Stanton brought Disney a pitch that they loved. I think of about 870 million reasons Disney would be pre-disposed to loving any story idea they heard for a "Finding Nemo 2." But beyond that, Stanton is indeed one of Pixar's strongest story guys, and if he's got something he's excited by, then I'm absolutely willing to see it.
For Pixar, though, sequels are creating an image issue, and it's interesting to see the immediate reaction to today's news. Pixar was, for a long time, considered almost without peer in terms of turning out one original movie after another. When they did make sequels to their flagship title, "Toy Story," they seemed to take quite a while to develop, and they were absolutely worth the return to characters. In fact, part of the mythology that has arisen around Pixar involves them scrapping an entire "Toy Story 2" because it wasn't up to the standards they set for themselves as a company.
The truth is that Disney is one of the most shrewdly market-driven companies in existence right now, and Pixar is perhaps the most important ongoing brand they have under the broader "Walt Disney" name. And while I like Pixar's work and I think they are smart storytellers, I think people have perhaps placed them on a pedestal where they have no choice but to second guess every creative choice the company makes now, even as they demand that the company make not just a good fillm, but a great film, every single time.
The report today talks about how "Finding Nemo 2" is a way fro Stanton to earn another shot at a live-action film, and I'm having trouble believing there was a conversation where they made things that directly contigent upon one another. "Well, we're willing to work with you again, but we're going to hold your brain hostage for three years first and force you to make a film you don't want to make at all."
This fall, Disney's already got plans to release a 3D version of "Finding Nemo" to theaters, and it sounds like early days for the sequel. A Pixar film can take as long as four or five years to go from concept to release, so I wouldn't count on this being in theaters any time soon. But knowing that Stanton is back at the helm gives me hope that whatever the sequel turns out to be, it will be a genuine return to the characters and the wit and the heart that made the original such a hit.
And, yes, I'm aware that this article's comments will largely be made up of people demanding "The Incredibles 2," but that only points out the weird hypocrisy that exists in the attitude people have towards sequels. "All sequels are crass and gross and stupid… except the ones I want to see." At this point, Stanton's earned a wait-and-see from me, and I'm perfectly willing to wait before I rush to judgement .
"Finding Nemo 3D" arrives in theaters September 14, 2012.