Pixar’s Selective Sequel Problem
Pixar. No studio has been as influential over the last 15 years and no studio has had as many consistent hits as the one from Emeryville. They’ve even been notable for an aversion to sequels that makes their competitor DreamWorks look positively addicted. However, we’ve already seen three Pixar sequels and are about to see one more this summer. Almost every one Toy Story 2 has brought calls for Pixar to stop. Claims that they bring down the studio’s much vaunted integrity have gone unheeded as the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory was announced earlier this year.
Pixar’s Selective Sequel Problem
So just what is Pixar’s selective sequel problem? Well, The Pixar Times recently highlighted it with a tweet:
The flames of this haven’t exactly been dampened as of late with director Brad Bird continually proclaiming his openness to a sequel provided he finds a story that fits.
So why does Pixar face such a dilemma with its sequels? It basically comes down to the fans.
Why Fans Are Two-Faced When It Comes To Sequels
Fans are a studio’s best friend but also their greatest enemy. The former is because they fork over money but the latter is because they are often blinded to the need to create content that attracts viewers outside of the fanbase.
This conflict manifests itself particularly in sequels and movie series. The simple reason is that fans form their own expectations and can be left disappointed should a sequel or latest film in a series fail to live up to their expectations.
The problem is compounded by the need to be profitable, which necessitates making films that attract the largest audiences possible; a situation that can put studios in conflict with fans, who will gladly proclaim their love for an original film, but gleefully scorn and deride a sequel that has, essentially, been made specially for them.
Pixar’s Special Case
In Pixar’s case, many of their films are self-contained stories that, being never intended as the jumping off point for subsequent films, wrap all plot points up by the time the credits role. Any sequel put out by the studio has relied upon creating a wholly new plotline distinct from the old one.
This has (in addition to the studio’s declared practice of not making sequels) meant that fans, having witnessed the descent of the Walt Disney Animation Studios into a sort of viscious circle of sequels confined in direct-to-video hell, are quite vocal in their concern that Pixar be lead down a similar road. Toy Story 2 was saved from this by Lasseter et al and was long considered the anomaly in the Pixar cannon.
Consequently, whenever the studio has announced a sequel (be it for Toy Story, Cars or Monsters Inc), it has been greeted with a curious mixture of elation and dismay.
So the question is, why are fans dismayed at the announcement of, say, Finding Dory (with its oh-so-imaginative title) but are seemingly clamouring for an Incredibles 2?
The Curse of the Superhero
The fault can be laid at the feet of the very genre that the Incredibles is based on; the superhero.
Superhero comics have been around for almost 80 years with many titles lasting decades. Pretty much every (good) superhero film has been only the first in a series or part of a trilogy. The idea that someone would make one and only one 120 minute film within the genre is, well, alien!
The blame can’t be levelled at fans however, superhero tales lend themselves extremely well to recurring stories and their ability to last for so long without becoming insanely repetitive is a testament to their strength as characters.
With all that in mind, it’s natural for fans to see a sequel to Pixar’s (thus far) lone superhero film while lamenting sequels of other stories.
Should there be a sequel? Ah, a tough question to answer. This blogger sees The Incredibles as a family film first and a superhero film second. Creating another film based on the family unit and the strife within it would be a very tall order. Basing it on the superhero part risks lowering its stature so that its defining qualities are erased in the quest to equal or better other superhero films.
To make an Incredibles 2 or not, what’s your call?