Pixar’s Selective Sequel Problem

Is this not the most badass poster you've seen for this film?
Is this not the most badass poster you’ve seen for this film?

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:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/ThePixarTimes/status/335181933984219138″]

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?

5 thoughts on “Pixar’s Selective Sequel Problem”

  1. John Paul Cassidy

    If Brad Bird wants to make a sequel, fine. But I really don’t think THE INCREDIBLES needs a sequel. The story is great the way it is, with memorable characters that I’m sure fans can’t get enough of. The story itself is a great statement. It has always been the ultimate anti-WATCHMEN (one of the few superhero stories that was always intended to be a stand-alone story). In WATCHMEN, superheroes have fallen from grace and come crashing down by the end. In THE INCREDIBLES, a dysfunctional superhero family finds redemption not only as superheroes (which have fallen from grace in the past), but as a loving family.

    Unless Brad finds a great story, I think a sequel might kill it. I fear that it would just be a run-of-the-mill bigger-badder-meaner-darker-grittier cynical sequel, with constant in-your-face references to the first film. There’s a reason this movie is my favorite superhero movie (along with THE SUPER INFRAMAN and THE AVENGERS): It not only gets superheroes more than Hollywood does, but also tells a great story that makes its own statement, making it stands alone as a classic.

    Mind you, off the record, I’m also a big superhero fan. I think the best superhero model comes from Japan (which has countless superhero TV shows; today, there’s a handful of franchises with a new series each year – Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, etc.). Europe (especially Italy) has some cool stuff, too! As for US heroes, the Hulk and Spider-Man are my favorites, in terms of narrow-definition (costumes, alter-egos, etc), but my favorite broad-definition superheroes (sans costumes/alter-egos) have to be Popeye and the Swedish Pippi Longstocking (the latter only had three books to her name). 🙂

      1. Well, seeing as they’ve already explored the angst surrounding the use of their powers, the most likely scenario is to skip a decade or so into the future.

        At that point you’ll basically have a Pixarian Fantastic Four though.

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