In its 19-year history, Pixar Animation Studios has largely avoided making sequels — of the 14 films it’s released since 1995, only four feature the same characters in follow-ups.
Yet with Thursday’s announcement that Disney will release “Toy Story 4,” on June 16, 2017, Pixar now has four new sequels planned over the next several years as the Mouse House looks to add more heft to its record fiscal earnings.
The first, “Finding Dory,” a sequel to the 2003 hit “Finding Nemo,” will be released on June 17, 2016. The next “Cars” and “Incredibles” are not yet dated, but Pixar already has planted its flag on Nov. 22, 2017, and June 15, 2018 for untitled pics.
It’s unclear whether Disney will move forward with another “Planes,” a spinoff of Pixar’s “Cars” franchise. DisneyToon Studios produced “Planes,” a film originally planned for homevideo platforms, that was released in theaters in 2013, flying away with nearly $220 million at the worldwide box office. Its sequel “Planes: Fire & Rescue” came out this summer, but was grounded with landed with $139 million.
Pixar is still betting on original productions. In fact, it has two new properties — “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur” — bowing in 2015, the first time it will release two films in a year, introducing new worlds and characters.
It also has two more movies dated for 2017, and one so far for 2016. Another new property is one based on Dia de los Muertos.
Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios has said that creatively, it is important for the company to produce one original film a year, with a sequel planned for every other year.
But as Disney puts more emphasis on branded fare, keeping its popular characters fresh in moviegoers’ minds through new toons may be unavoidable.
This year alone, Walt Disney Co. chief Bob Iger has personally announced three new Pixar sequels — “Cars 3,” “The Incredibles 2” and “Toy Story 4” — during meetings with shareholders and Wall Street analysts.
“As you know ‘Toy Story 3’ was a tremendous success generating wide critical acclaim as well as more than $1 billion in global box office and almost $10 billion in retail sales demonstrating that these wonderful characters are clearly just as relevant and beloved as ever,” Iger said on Thursday.
But the focus for Disney isn’t just on the box office.
Disney is keen on exploiting Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Disney’s franchises through every division at the company. A sequel for “Cars” was greenlit, in part, because of robust sales of toy cars and other licensed merchandise tied to the film, especially among young boys.
“In fiscal ’14, we had 11 franchises drive more than $1 billion each in retail sales and more than half of them originated from our studio,” Iger told analysts. “We are releasing a total of 21 tentpole movies under our great banner brands over the next three years compared to only 13 in the last three. While there is no sure thing in a creative business, we believe the proven appeal of our brands and franchises reduces risk and maximizes our unique ability to create significant long-term value by leveraging successful content across our diverse array of businesses.”
Yet the box office can hardly be ignored, with sequels outperforming new films, thanks mostly to the established characters.
Pixar’s last three original movies, “Brave,” “Up” and “Wall-E,” earned a collective $1.8 billion worldwide. Its last three sequels, “Monsters University” (technically, a prequel) “Cars 2” and “Toy Story 3,” hauled in $2.3 billion.