Pixar Sequels Are No Longer Exciting

Slate's Culture Blog
April 2 2013 3:19 PM

Pixar Sequels Are No Longer Exciting

finding dor_1

In a surprise announcement, Disney-Pixar revealed today that Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, will “dive into theaters” in 2015. Almost a decade has passed since the original film, about a father clownfish’s quest to find his son lost in the ocean, was released. “I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time,” says Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory, in the press release. “I’m not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating Toy Story 16. But the time they took was worth it.”

Thankfully (or hopefully?) we won’t be seeing a Toy Story 16 any time soon. Part of the appeal of Pixar for some time was the company’s impressive run of original movies that delighted both adults and children. For years, the beloved Toy Story 2 was the lone exception to the “original” canon. When we got a glimpse recently of Pixar’s plans for the next five years, there were several exciting and new story worlds on the horizon; Finding Dory was nowhere to be found. It was an encouraging look into the future.

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But today’s announcement shouldn’t be surprising, considering the company’s productions over the last few years: Since 2010, Pixar has released only one original film, Brave, along with three based on previous properties: Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Monsters University (the Monsters, Inc. prequel coming to theaters this summer). Disney, which owns Pixar—as well as Marvel and now, Lucasfilm—prides itself on creating “enduring characters” that can be spun off into multiple movies, theme park attractions, and merchandising. Disney and Pixar have frequently clashed over the matter of sequels in the past.

That battle is clearly over, though, and Disney won. Not that every sequel is bad: The Toy Story franchise holds up well (I’d argue that Toy Story 2 is the best of the trilogy), and I’m excited for Monsters University, which looks like it’ll be a delightful romp. But sequels are no longer the exception at Pixar; they’re the rule. And it’s hard to feel similarly optimistic about Finding Dory, which, in contrast to the clever back-at-college approach of Monsters University, apperas to have a very standard sequel set-up. It will take place a year after the original film, and will reunite Dory “with her loved ones,” so she can learn “a few things about the meaning of family.”

There was a time when Pixar appeared equally focused on storytelling and box office success. Lately, it seems the scales have tipped in favor of the latter.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture blogger for Brow Beat. Follow her on Twitter.