Sequelophobia

In July of last year, the news about Finding Nemo 2 was leaked, and this is the post I put up in response:

As soon as it was announced that Andrew Stanton would be directing a “Finding Nemo 2”, a storm of protests erupted around the internet. While I am not quite as excited about sequels as I am about new product, I am in no position to judge, and I’m not in agreement with those who rant on the topic. I can understand how it is for Pixar. When you have hundreds of people depending on the company for their income, not to mention stockholders, it’s a very intense pressure to produce money makers. They have built up a stable of beloved characters, and audiences will come back to see them. That’s money just waiting to be made. The whining of the fanboys is a squeak in the distance. They will go to the movie anyway.

As far as upcoming films from Pixar, I am only aware of Monster University, an unnamed dinosaur film, and Finding Nemo 2. (Newt was canned, from what I hear.) Then counting the last 4 movies, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Brave and Up, that puts them at 4 sequels and 3 originals. Yes, that seems like too many. If the Cars 2 sequel hadn’t been so bad, I would be more confident. And it is rather soon to announce Stanton’s new project so quickly after the disappointment of John Carter. Was Finding Nemo 2 already in development? Or is this a rush job to get him back to work quickly? I think Pixar has set the bar so high for themselves, it’s extremely difficult for them to take risks on fresh talent and ideas. From what I’ve heard, they are having a crisis in developing new directors.

Andrew Stanton directed my two favorite Pixar films, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. For me, Finding Nemo was an instant classic, and I will go to the 3D release this summer. But the characters were so tailored to the story, imagining them in something else is hard to do. Their adventure was so powerful, and took them so far out of their “safety zone” trying to match it will feel like expecting the same miracle twice. It just loses credibility. In contrast, consider “The Incredibles”. Superheroes are expected to follow up one crazy challenge with another. Nobody is complaining about Batman sequels. Of any Pixar property, we should have an Incredibles 2.

Another reason I’m not too bothered by sequels is this. I obviously like comedy, and comedy is far friendlier to extended development than drama. Most comedians have a character they are known for, and that is what draws the audience. Even though Jack Black plays a new character in every movie, it really is just Jack Black in a new situation. Comedians can develop with each experience. And audiences are more receptive to characters they know already.

Then there is what I would call a “cult” of originality. Creating something totally original is damn near impossible. Virtually every artistic creation is a development of something that came before. And those that are radically different have a hell of a time being accepted. Most Pixar lovers would not care for something radically different. The complainers want new, but not different.

It is extremely rare for me to quote the Bible, but here you go…

Ecclesiastes 1:9
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

The “Art” isn’t in creating something new, but in creating a fresh experience of the same things people already like.

2 thoughts on “Sequelophobia”

  1. Love the blog and agree with most of your well-thought out views about animation and comedy. However, I question either your math or your grammar in your assertion that Pixar stands at four sequels to three originals.
    I originally thought “counting the last four” meant the last four Pixar releases, but on re-reading, I think you are referring to the “last four (mentioned.)”
    That’s a little like saying “If (insert your favorite baseball player’s name here) strikes out in his next three at bats, his average will drop to .215.” The math is accurate, but it hasn’t happened yet.
    By my count (of films that have actually been released) Pixar has made 10 originals and only three sequels.
    And, I agree with the rest of your post. I don’t think people were up in arms when “The General” was released, decrying it as “just The Navigator on a Train.”
    Keep up the excellent analysis and commentary.

    • And thank you for your well written comment.

      I think what most people are concerned with is the trend at Pixar. If I were buying a stock, I would look at a company’s record, and what their future looks like. But I would give much more weight to the performance of the last 5 years than the previous 15. Large companies also need to give potential investors hope for growth, so they discuss their plans. Movie studios announce what their upcoming projects are. It’s more like a coach who releases the roster in advance. If certain players are omitted you can make some assumptions about the team and ruminate on performance based on the information. If a manager starts drafting many excellent players who happen to be old, sports reporters will comment on that.

      The last four released movies from Pixar were Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Brave. I went back to include “Up, a non sequel, in the list. Wikipedia lists some additional future plans for new films that I didn’t mention, but as you say, they haven’t happened yet. Like “Newt” they might disappear too.

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