Last week, Pixar, the most successful film production unit in terms of quality control and profitability in the world, announced that the beloved characters from the Toy Story universe were coming back in a fourth film, and that film will land in June 2017. More adventures with Buzz and Woody? That’s got to be a great thing, right? Well, not so fast. The always fractured logic of the internet was not pleased. For some strange reason, geeks seem to hate it when Pixar makes a sequel. "No," the geek world whines, "we don’t want sequels from Pixar! We want original story ideas from them! Well, unless that sequel is The Incredibles 2, then original ideas can all go screw! Chain Brad Bird to a radiator and threaten his family until he finishes The Incredibles 2! We want another Incredibles movie, but not another Nemo!" Another Toy Story? To quote one especially clever message board poster, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”
So, what’s the big deal? If these are such beloved characters and the three previous films all so revered, what could possibly be wrong with getting more Toy Story? Well, it seems the original Toy Story trilogy was so good and the series guided to such a perfect landing that people are rejecting another movie in a high quality series. Say again? The original was so great that more films aren’t really wanted? Again, there’s a fractured sense of logic I am not able to follow. You love the original films, they got better as the series went on, but you don’t want more Buzz and Woody? Because of how good the first three are? It’s like not going to a great restaurant for a fourth visit, because the first three meals were just too good.
The funny thing is there isn’t a studio in the business with a greater sense of quality control than Pixar. Anybody see The Good Dinosaur this summer? No? Of course you didn’t, because it didn’t come out in June as originally scheduled. The film wasn’t working, and so Pixar pulled it from the release schedule, assigned a different director to work on it, and rescheduled its release for a later time. Or an even better example, how many of us are big fans of Pixar’s film, Newt? Don’t remember Newt either? That’s because fairly far along in the creative process, the entire film was scrapped, because they felt like they just couldn’t crack the story. The concept was great, but the story just wasn’t there. The Pixar braintrust took their financial development lumps and moved on. Even the vaunted Marvel Studios moved full steam ahead when Ant Man was becoming an obviously troubled production just to make a release date. Who else but Pixar delays movies or outright cancels them if they aren’t up to snuff?
My point is if anybody should have the trust of film geeks at this point, it ought to be Pixar. Nobody is as committed to quality control as they are, and if John Lasseter and company have a story they want to tell with those characters, they aren’t simply telling it for the money. The film comes out in just over two and a half years, so that would indicate that they are already fairly far along in the creative process. (Lasseter himself said recently that it takes about five years to make one of these movies.) Has anybody been more successful balancing commercial and creative concerns than Pixar?
I’ve seen a lot of criticism leveled at Disney in all this, the words “cash grab” was brought up a lot. I’m sorry to be so cynical, but why do you think the first Toy Story was made? Yes, it’s a terrific piece of pop artistry, but you know Steve Jobs wanted a return on his investment. There’s nothing wrong with that. The financial success Pixar has allowed them to reinvest in the company. Despite their extreme fiscal success, I’m not sure the words “cash grab” apply less to anybody than Pixar.
Film geeks were bowled over last week by Marvel announcing titles and release dates for their next slate of nine films. Nine! Most of them are sequels, yet fans were beside themselves with joy. Nobody said, “Phase One landed so perfectly with the first Avengers that I don’t want them to make any more movies with those characters ever.”” Hell, Avengers 3 is going to be split over two movies, and geeks were actually excited by that prospect. Is there a more callous cash grab in the business at this point than splitting one movie into two? But, instead of being greeted with chorus of “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” the idea of a two-part Infinity War film was greeted with enthusiastic glee.
I get that the geek community is as wildly nostalgic as anybody that consumes pop culture, after all we’re the ones who leave out action figures in their original packaging to enhance their value. But, isn’t there a danger in keeping your memories sealed up and not going on new adventures? After all, wasn’t that the point of Toy Story 2?