Pixar’s been in a bit of a slump as of late. Not a huge one. But of their last three features, two have been sequels that’ve fallen short of the Pixar standard. Don’t get me wrong; I like Monsters University. But it’s just OK. And when you’re known for Wall-E, Up, and the Toy Story trilogy, merely-OK sequels kind of stand out like a sore thumb. And Cars 2? Let’s not go there.
But worry not, animation fans. Pixar has announced that in the coming years they’re going to cut back on sequels in favor of increasing their output of original films to one a year.
Did anyone else just hear a choir of angels?
Said Pixar Animation Studios President Ed Catmull:
“For artistic reasons… it’s really important that we do an original film a year. 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.”
According to Catmull the strategy is to release “one and a half” films a year, with one original film every year, “then every other year have a sequel or something. That’s the rough idea… [Pixar chief] John [Lasseter] and I take very seriously the fact that we need to get [our] people up to the level where they can tell original films.”
One of those people is Bob Peterson, who co-directed Up and is taking command of his first film with The Good Dinosaur, which takes place in a world where dinos never went extinct. In fact, of the four upcoming films Pixar has announced, only one, Finding Dory, is a sequel.
In my mind, this news couldn’t be better. It allows for sequels if people want them and if there’s a creative reason to make them—like with Toy Story 2 and 3—while eschewing more autopilot fare like Cars 2. And if an original film per year seems like a bit much, keep in mind the fact that Pixar films take years to make, and as such production on multiple films already overlaps. If it didn’t, we’d only get one film every four-five years. One original film a year is doable; it just means they’ll have to throw more resources into production. The fact that they’re willing to do that, where they could just crank out Cars 2, 3, and 4… well, it speaks very highly of them.