An upcoming film in the studios has Disney CEO Bob Iger reaching out to the talent for help.
Disney’s getting back to its roots–or so fans would be led to believe. During The Walt Disney Company’s 2023 fiscal first-quarter earnings call with Wall Street’s finest in February of this year, during which better-than-expected returns were shared with investors and analysts, CEO Bob Iger had a few more surprises up his sleeve.
Disney in a Mess
He began by announcing a massive $5.5 billion cut in spending across the organization, part of which included a major restructuring of The Walt Disney Company’s various divisions. Though Disney’s quarterly results were impressive, Iger couldn’t keep his viewfinder set to only that three-month period at the end of the 2022 calendar year.
The boomerang CEO, who at the time had been back at his post for less than three months, stressed the importance of Disney’s ability to trim its spending drastically in numerous areas, and in addition to Disney’s restructuring, Iger also announced plans for 7,000 layoffs company-wide.
It was no secret that The Walt Disney Company had failed miserably at the box office throughout 2022. Disney’s three film offerings that year–two of which came from Pixar Animation Studios–simply didn’t resonate with many who saw them, and in addition to that, many usual moviegoers simply skipped Disney at the theater in 2022, citing Disney’s “woke ideology.”
Pixar’s Turning Red debuted in March on Disney+, followed by Pixar’s Lightyear in theaters in June, and in November, Disney’s Strange World made its theatrical debut. It was a record-breaking year for Disney at the box office, and not in a good way.
A Possible Silver Lining
But after the proverbial dust had settled from Bob Iger’s seemingly continual onslaught of bad news during the earnings call, a silver lining seemed to emerge as Iger announced three new films in production that could serve to right the ship of box office flops for the company–but in order to do so, Disney would have to call in the heroes–namely, Woody and Buzz, Anna and Elsa, and Judy Hopps.
Iger announced the return of three fan-favorite film franchises–Pixar’s Toy Story, Disney’s Frozen, and Disney’s Zootopia, each of which had performed well and resonated with fans over the years. Though Iger didn’t use the exact terminology, the announcement came with the clear hope that getting back to Disney’s roots could be what turned the tide for the company at the box office.
Now, however, months after Iger’s initial announcement about the three savior productions at Disney, actor Tim Allen, who voices the action figure space ranger Buzz Lightyear in Pixar’s Toy Story franchise, has revealed that CEO Bob Iger recently called on him and Tom Hanks, who voices Sheriff Woody in the same franchise, to share their thoughts about a fifth Toy Story installment.
Iger Calls in the Experts
While details about the new film are scarce, the new film will reportedly be a back-to-basics take centered on Woody and Buzz rather than a spinoff like Pixar’s Lightyear (2022). Perhaps that’s why Disney CEO Bob Iger reached out to Allen and Hanks to get their take on a fifth film
Before Thanksgiving, Tim Allen appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, during which he talked about Toy Story 5, saying that Iger chose to “reach out” to him and Tom Hanks as well.
“Bob Iger, head of Disney, said [the film] was on and actually said it was going to happen,” Allen said. “They have reached out to Tom and I to reprise the roles. They’re not saying anything about it. You wonder if four was too many. Is five going to be too much?”
“According to the scuttlebutt,” he continued, “the writer that’s doing it wrote one of the better ones and said, ‘If I didn’t get this right, I wouldn’t do it.’ It could be a very, very interesting way to reunite it.”
Though the storyline for Toy Story 5 has yet to be revealed, one thing is certain: Pixar absolutely needs a hit, and if any of the studio’s franchises can pull it off, it’s Toy Story, Pixar’s first and oldest franchise, the initial installment for which debuted in 1995, with sequel installments debuting in 1999, 2010, and 2019.
Following Pixar’s major flop in June 2022 with Lightyear, the studio is in desperate need of a home run.
In June 2023, Elemental debuted at the box office, setting records as Pixar’s worst box office debut in history. But several weeks following its theatrical release, Elemental began to take off, surprising even the head of Pixar Animation Studios–Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter, who admitted they simply didn’t know why the film started low and then saw an exponential boom at the box office.
But that boom was enough to convince Pixar execs that it’s time to return to the studio’s roots.
Docter said that PIXAR’s classic stories, including Toy Story, are often anchored on “ideas that we all carried around as kids.” That focus shifted in films like Elemental, and now, the studio feels that it needs to take a closer look at the stories it’s creating and “double down on what allowed [them] to speak to audiences” in the first place, per Docter.
“I always felt that Elemental would speak to a lot of people, and I’m so happy it has,” Docter said. “But we have also taken another look at the projects we’re working on now. What are the kinds of films we want to be making? I really think I want to double down on what allowed us to speak to audiences, to begin with.”
No release date has been announced for the fifth Toy Story film, but diehard Woody and Buzz fans–this writer included–are thrilled that the newest story in the franchise will get back to where it all began–the unlikely friendship between a pull-string cowboy doll and a space ranger action figure. “Dieharder” Toy Story fans take it one step further, hoping that the fifth film will undo the awful tragedy that was the story of Toy Story 4 (2019).
Only time will tell if we “dieharders” will be so lucky.