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New Disney and Pixar Movies; Original Stories or More of the Same?

A collage of three animated scenes: On the left, a space ranger in a spacesuit; in the middle, a large red panda towering over a surprised girl in a bathroom; on the right, two sea monsters disguised as humans with seagulls on their heads peering out of the water.
All Images Credit Disney/Pixar

To say that Disney and Pixar have been struggling at the box office lately would be an understatement. It seems that, no matter how hard the studio giants try, nothing seems to work. Despite the near-constant complaints of sequels and remakes, those seem to be the only films audiences want to see.

Original stories like Strange World (2022), Turning Red (2022), and Elemental (2023) all flopped at the box office, but live-action remakes like The Little Mermaid (2023) were a hit.

Pixar has always been known for its wonderful original stories, but with the box office flops, the studio has to ask itself, “Should we pull a Disney and focus more on prequels and sequels?”

elemental on disney plus September 13th ember lumen leah lewis element city streaming original feature film Pixar animation studios box office pixar movie

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Related: Pixar “On Life Support” After String of Failures

Pixar President Jim Morris said that the company’s current plan is to rely on movies that audiences have grown to love, like Finding Nemo (2003). In an interview with Bloomberg, Morris spoke about how sequels will help the company turn things around.

Morris’ strategy to turn things around involves balancing original movie ideas with sequels and spinoffs, the better to remind audiences what they once loved about Pixar. Every hit of yesteryear is being considered for a reboot, with Finding Nemo and The Incredibles regarded as particularly strong candidates for new titles. Morris aims to make three movies every two years—historically it’s been closer to one a year—with every other title a sequel or spinoff and the rest standalone concepts or potential seeds for new franchises. 

The same plan has been in motion at Disney as well. Disney CEO Bob Iger has been delaying multiple films on the company’s slate as the company puts renewed focus on quality control. The Mouse House has pushed back its controversial live-action remake, Snow White, by one year and its live-action remake of Moana (2016).

A young girl with curly hair and a determined expression holds a wooden paddle while standing on a raft. She wears a red and white outfit with a shell necklace. Behind her, lush green cliffs rise from a tropical ocean, hinting at the adventure awaiting in Moana 2. A large, creature-like form is visible in the background.

Credit: Disney

Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, Pete Docter, said that new Pixar movies will also focus more on “commonality of experience” to appeal to a wider audience. That means we can expect fewer movies like Turning Red and more movies like Toy Story (1995).

After Lightyear lost millions of dollars in 2022 and Elemental had Pixar’s worst-ever opening-weekend performance the following year, “there was a real and intense period of self-scrutiny and feeling like we messed up in some way,” Docter says. Executives hosted postmortems to determine how to revitalize the studio, he recalls. They arrived at mentoring Pixar’s upcoming directors to focus less on autobiographical tales—Luca had been inspired by its director’s childhood in Italy; Turning Red, by its director’s relationship with her mother; and Elemental (which did gain some momentum overseas and online), by its director’s immigrant family. Pixar would instead develop concepts with clear mass appeal, many of which—in the case of sequels and spinoffs—had already been proven.

pixar-luca

Credit: Pixar

Related: Disney and Pixar Make Huge Change to “Too Heavy” ‘Inside Out 2’

Disney and Pixar will face their first big test of the year in just a couple of weeks. On June 14, Inside Out 2 will be released in theaters nationwide. The highly anticipated sequel will see the return of the emotions that live in Riley’s mind — Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Liza Lapira), and Fear (Tony Hale).

The film will also introduce some new emotions that will cause absolute chaos — Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), and Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos).

Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, Anxiety, and Embarrassment Inside Out 2

Credit: Disney/Pixar

Inside Out 2 is expected to perform well at the box office, giving Pixar the confirmation it needs to continue to focus on characters audiences already know. It will also test how the studio can run after major layoffs left those who work at the animation studio fearing for their job safety. Nearly 14% of employees were laid off as Bob Iger looked to cut spending.

Do you think Pixar should focus less on original stories and more on sequels? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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