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Has Pixar Lost its Way?

With Car 3 hitting theaters on June 16 and a fourth Toy Story already in the works, there’s a feeling highlighted by one Hollywood insider that Pixar studios is undergoing “a sort of creative bankruptcy.” A new article in The Atlantic makes the claim that Pixar has lost its way. That Hollywood Insider, by the way, was Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar, who said as much in his best-selling 2014 business-leadership book.

I think the article is a bit over the top. Attributing failure to what is a hard fact – it’s hard to make a hit every time you visit the plate. Pixar has still done better than average. It’s also hurt by comparison to Walt Disney Animation Studios which has had a string of great movies recently (although I’d argue Frozen isn’t one of them).

The culprit: The article points the finger at Disney’s desire to sell buckets of toys and build rides at Disney’s theme parks. Which all started at Disney bought Pixar.

Can Pixar turn things around? After Cars 3 comes Coco, another original film, then two sequels. The original plan was to make 1 sequel for every two originals. It’s been about 1:1 since Up.

The truth: The brain trust may have taken their eye off the ball a bit with The Good Dinosaur, but the rest of its films have performed well at the box office. Critical acclaim hasn’t come since Inside Out however. Maybe they have strayed from a path a bit, but they are still heading in the right direction.

Do you feel that Pixar needs to get back to making more original films?

8 thoughts on “Has Pixar Lost its Way?”

  1. They dont have to make original films. They have to make films that feel fresh.

    Cars 3 – More of the same dying formula
    Coco – The reincarnation of Book of Life
    Toy Story 4 – Maybe… but it kinda ended perfectly already.
    Incredibles 2 – YES YES YES

    Originals are great. Sequels are great. But the real trick to success is knowing when to stop. But today’s Disney is so focused on making Theme Park tie-ins it doesnt seem to know where the brakes are.

  2. No sure what theme park “tie ins” have to do with bad Pixar movies. You will need to Elaborate. You don’t need sequels to create a themed ride. Sounds like an excuse. If a movie is a hit you can make a ride out of it. You also don’t need to make sequels for every hit movie. Don’t blame theme parks for bad movies. The lack of creativity is the real problem not theme park development.

  3. Yes – Pixar has lost its way. I feel that the last excellent original Pixar film was UP. Toy Story 3 was also a great film but a sequel.

    I agree – Frozen is a bit overrated in my opinion. Tangled is much better and Moana is amazing.

    Pixar needs to get their act together. I truly agree the studio needs to get their act together. Hopefully Coco will do just that.

  4. I think it’s not so much they need to make more original films, but just LESS films. Pixar movies used to be an event. Granted the early ones were absolute trailblazers for the then-new 3-D animation technology but those movies were consistently powerful, entertaining and emotional stories. Movies that made audiences laugh, cry and everything in between. I honestly don’t remember a single line from Brave which speaks volumes about it. More recently The Good Dinosaur was baffling to me but my daughter has enjoyed it several times. (If they wanted to make a western, why not just make a western? Why is it dinosaurs??) Inside Out was fantastic and seems to have been forgotten about. Daughter LOVED that Inside Out but finding any merchandise for it has been really challenging.

    Pixar used to be leagues ahead of any other American studio making quality family movies. There was Pixar, then down a few notches was everyone else in terms of character development, story, cleverness, originality, emotional depth, casting… The stories were so good you could almost forget how amazing the animation was. That is certainly not the case with some of the more recent ones. Non-Pixar Disney movies like Zootopia are creating the new benchmark.

    REALLY looking forward to Incredibles 2 but other than that I’d love to see Pixar slow down and take a lot longer on each film.

  5. I have no problem with sequels if they are truly excellent. The 3 Toy Story movies are all top drawer as far as I’m concerned. Of course I’d love more original stories, but at the same time would be very excited to see the Parr family back in The Incredibles. The Cars movies are to sell toys, that seems obvious. I ignore those.

  6. I think the article lost it’s way a bit towards the end. Relying on the premise that the only draw affiliated theme park rides have is if kids are familiar with the affiliation, and won’t work after 10 years pass ignores the popularity of the Dumbo ride that was great enough for Disney to double capacity in the Magic Kingdom, or the high demand for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. There’s a running joke in my family about how long the lines for the Peter Pan ride always seem to be on either coast.
    That’s not to say that the increased responsibilities for Lasseter and others haven’t seemingly diluted the storytelling success Pixar had achieved, nor to say the Frozenification of the parks has been a good thing, but this article could have done a better job of making those points instead of trying to connect them.

  7. I agree with everyone who commented.

    It comes down to this quality vs quantity.

    Leave the quality to Pixar studios

    Leave the quantity to Disney.

    Dory was disappointing.
    I haven’t enjoyed a Pixar movie since Brave, even that was a lost opportunity. I’m very excited about Incredibles 2.

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