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Is Pixar Suffering from Sequelitis? sequel to Finding Nemo

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Is Pixar Suffering from Sequelitis? sequel to Finding Nemo

Finding-Dory

Sequel to finding Nemo – Finding-Dory

A couple of weeks ago, Disney and Pixar officially announced that a sequel to Finding Nemo will be released in November 2015. This will be their fourth follow-up in the span of six years, which begs the question why an animation studio so renowned for their original stories and characters is returning to the well so much lately. Despite the popularity of these films, there was not exactly a lot of pent-up demand for a Cars sequel or a prequel set in Mike and Sulley’s university years. Toy Story 3 was a fantastic and emotional trilogy capper, but does that mean the rest of their catalogue should get sequels?

The first obvious note about Finding Dory is that it is not being made, because director Andrew Stanton was gunning to return under the sea. In actuality, he had likely planned to spend the rest of the decade working on a trilogy based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books. When the first film in this planned series failed at the box-office and lead to a massive loss for The Walt Disney Company, Stanton was in a tight spot. When most filmmakers deliver such a colossal money-loser, no studio will touch them and they are not given another film to direct. Just ask Elaine May, who made the notorious (and in my opinion, undeservingly panned) bomb Ishtar, and has not been allowed to direct a project since.

It is likely that Stanton will not be allowed behind the camera of a live-action film for a long time and to make it up to them, Disney has forced him to make a sequel to his mega-successful animated feature Finding Nemo. Had John Carter been a success, it is likely that Finding Dory would not have been made, since he would have the pick of any project as soon as the trilogy was completed. The fact that a Finding Nemo sequel has been announced a year after Carter’s release and only two years before its eventual trip to cinemas is further proof that this was a quick decision. Andrew Stanton is a very talented director and hopefully, the forced nature of Finding Dory does not find its way on the screen.

There was a time in Hollywood when sequels were considered not as foolproof for success, as most made considerably less than their predecessors, including extremely popular films like Star Wars, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones. Studios were even aware of this, thus most sequels had a much smaller budget than the first film. Starting in the late 1990s with the likes of Toy Story 2 and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, sequels began grossing more than the first films and the film industry became filled with sequels, prequels and other continuations. Pixar’s competitors made as many sequels as original properties, but the hopping lamp tended to steer clear from this. Until now, that is, where almost any one of their hits gets immediate sequel talk. To Pixar’s credit, they do not make a sequel without the original director in some way involved. Despite constant fan pressure for The Incredibles 2, Brad Bird has frequently stated he has not thought of a story for it. However, do people want a sequel to The Incredibles, because they feel there are more adventures to be told or because we are conditioned to think that every superhero movie requires a sequel?

Most Pixar films, much like their Disney counterparts, have endings that do not lend themselves to sequels, anyway. Wall-E practically tells us what the future holds its characters, making a sequel pointless and the main conflict of saving the humans and getting the lead robots together has been resolved. The beauty of a lot of Pixar films is how the characters move from point A to point B, as they are never the same at the end of the story as they are at the beginning. John Lasseter even noticed this with Cars, as Lightning McQueen is no longer the self-centered racer he was at the start and thus, there is no need to develop the character further in the sequel. Hence the shift to making Mater the lead, though one of the biggest flaws in Cars 2 is that the tow truck does not learn anything and retains exactly the same personality at the end of the feature. With Finding Dory, Stanton seems to realise this as the focus will likely be on the absent-minded fish and the title could be merely metaphorical.

Thankfully, Pixar does have plenty of original projects in development. Following Monsters University, their next release is Bob Peterson’s The Good Dinosaur, revolving around an alternate reality in which the dinosaurs were not wiped out. Pete Docter’s Inside Out will be a trip into the brain of a little girl and Lee Unkrich is putting together a feature film about Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Meanwhile, Teddy Newton and Mark Andrews are also in early development of original properties. Pixar helped lead to the computer-animation revolution and also a move away from fairy tale adaptations and musicals in the animated medium.

To see them working on so many sequels makes one wonder why they cannot further push the medium to help it, rather than mostly capitalising on past successes. While unlikely, a more adult Pixar feature in scope and size would be quite magnificent and help move animation away from the “just for children” stigmata still held in North American society. An interesting experiment could be to make a fully hand-drawn animated film to showcase that their films are successful, because they are a trusted brand not because they are created on computers. My main hope is that Pixar remains a trailblazer for animation and they don’t enter a lull period of uninspired works and continuations. On the other hand, the DisneyToon-created Planes, set for release in the summer, might not help matters in diluting the power of the Pixar name.

By: Stefan Ellison

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