Let me state for the record that I am excited for The Incredibles 2. Of all the Pixar films that I think needed sequels, Brad Bird's love letter to the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books has always sat comfortably at the top of my list. It should have happened eight years ago, though I'm fine with it happening now since director Brad Bird is slated to return to write and direct. He has definitely improved as an action director, as anyone who has seen Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol can attest to.
Yes, I can confidently say that I am quite looking forward to this Pixar sequel. That said, I have to admit a certain amount of skepticism. The announcement of [The Incredibles 2](movie:673500) was made yesterday by Disney President Bob Iger, along with the announcement that Cars, the least critically praised of the studio's films, would be getting a third entry. This is in spite of the sequel to that film being critically lambasted (it holds a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes; the lowest score ever for a Pixar film on the site). Even audiences were pretty dismissive of it.
There has been a steady decline in the quality of the films Pixar has been producing as of late. At this point it feels as though the studio is coasting by solely on its name. It has been three years since a Pixar film scored a 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes ( Toy Story 3 was the last), and with no films coming out this year it looks like that number is going to become four. It's last two films couldn't even break into the 80s, with Monsters University sitting at a 78% and Brave sitting at a 77%, and I already mentioned how critics felt about Cars 2. None of these films have been financial failures but critically they just aren't leaving the impact they once did.
Seemingly gone are the days of the exploration of complex themes, like a parent learning he can't always protect his child from the outside world (Finding Nemo), or the gradual and sometimes painful process of shedding one's childhood (the Toy Story series). No more films that delve into the heartache and regret that comes with age (Up), or the impact humanity has on the planet (Wall-E). Instead we're left with a clichéd straw-feminist princess, monsters going to college ... and cars.
I heap a good portion of the blame on Disney. It's no secret that the studio places coldly calculated demographic pandering above all else. Treading on new ground isn't exactly the company's strong suit. If an idea has been proven to put butts in the seats, Disney will run it into the ground. Even their latest animated box office smash, Frozen (as good as it was), isn't exactly an original tale. Sure it focuses more on the relationship between the two princesses and their bond as family than it does the relationship between the princess and a man (as Disney Princess films are wont to do), but Disney did that already, back in 1998 with Mulan.
Ever since Walt Disney completely gobbled up Pixar Studios the name of the game has been to turn as many of their properties into franchises as possible. As I said, I'm all in for The Incredibles 2, and the Toy Story sequels were fine, but did we really need a prequel to Monsters Inc.? Do we need a Cars 3 (did we need a Cars 2)? As long as the studio is financially secure they don't need to change the formula, but it would sure be nice if they did. It would be great if another Pixar film was released that had people talking weeks after they left the theater.
Pixar has a few new films coming down the pipe. One is the completely unnecessary sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory. Two slated for next year, however, are original works. One, titled Inside Out, follows five personified emotional states of a young girl forced to move to San Francisco. The other, titled The Good Dinosaur, follows a teenage dinosaur living on an Earth that didn't get hit by the meteor that caused the ice age. That last one sounds like it could be skipped, but the first one sounds very interesting, and were this four years ago I'd already be buying my ticket. As it stands I'll just cross my fingers and wait to see what everyone else says.