The Conversation: Is Pixar Drowning Its Reputation with Too Many Sequels?

The Conversation: Is Pixar Drowning Its Reputation with Too Many Sequels?

Jul 18, 2012

Yesterday we heard the unconfirmed news that Andrew Stanton is heading back under the sea for a sequel to Finding Nemo. The report has been met with a mix of responses, but those who are disappointed have a lot more to talk about, because the director's career path is being dictated by the poor outcome of John Carter, a box-office disaster that does actually have its loyal fans. And so Finding Nemo 2 seems like his punishment. After all, Stanton had this to say to less than five months ago (before the Carter bomb dropped):

"[A sequel to Finding Nemo has] always kind of put a bad taste in my mouth, because I never planned for that, and I hate that it would be… and we have said this at Pixar now. We've kind of come to terms with it. We're not against a sequel being made as long as it's a story we love so much that we'd be dying just to make it, so we're just waiting for stories to tell us if it's worthy of doing. Right now, I've never been able to think of anything beyond what "Nemo" was on its own."

He admits in the same interview, regarding the Toy Story series specifically, that there's pressure not to do sequels because the studio has set a really high bar with its originals. Pressed at the time on other outlets for the Nemo characters, though, he added:

"We're really picky. We've just seen it happen in other places over time. If you start doing stuff that's even slightly less quality it starts to dilute, and you start losing the trust of your audience, and I think in the long term, I don't want to lose their trust. I want them to always trust us that it will be good."

So we ought to put our trust in Stanton to know what he's doing, even if what he's doing is to appease the Disney overlords. Never mind if we love or hate Nemo (I'm not a fan) or love or hate Carter (I'm not a fan), I'll side with those arguing that we shouldn't dismiss let alone criticize a film until it's actually a thing and is released and we can judge it by watching it. So let's all just put our thoughts on Finding Nemo 2 in our back pockets for a few years.

On a larger issue, though, some point to creatively bankrupt endeavors like Cars 2 and (sight unseen) Monsters University as well as this summer's creatively confused original film, Brave, as further cause for alarm about the animation studio that could once do no wrong (upcoming original works are nothing to someone who hates their most recent original film). Even if Finding Nemo 2 is brilliant, its very existence will feel to fans like a safe bet at a time of worry and a cash grab for a corporation more interested in pleasing its shareholders than its devoted audience.

The news has definitely triggered a debate that touches on many angles, and so I leave it to the web to continue the discussion:


What are people saying about Andrew Stanton directing Finding Nemo 2? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:

What would be really sad is if there would be little fits of Pixar genius here and there, little bursts that remind us of the old quality that we had come to expect, instead of a sustained performance. [...] At one point Pixar seemed unstoppable – a studio whose winning streak could not be broken. Now that it has been broken, by a series of high-profile mediocrities (and, as today's announcement showed, more on the way), we are left wondering if they can get back on track.  - Drew Taylor, The Playlist

Nemo is one of the studio’s very best films – and one that has not now, or ever, cried out for a sequel. It’s a lovely standalone story, a complete tale, and one that doesn’t need to be potentially sullied by even a well-intentioned addition by one of its own creators. Let’s hope it’s better than John Carter, and let’s also hope that it’s a bit more imaginative than a Finding Marlin type affair. -  Kate Erbland, Film School Rejects

Finding Nemo isn't just one of Pixar's very best movies-- it's among the great road movies of all time [...] The road movie isn't so much a format as a license for characters to meander and find surprises, and Finding Nemo does that so perfectly-- with three characters utterly transformed by the end-- that both characters and the world feel ideally examined. Nemo can't get lost again, and the ocean can't be explored as a revelation again, and Dory can't join Marlin and find family again. New adventures are always possible, but the unique spark of the road trip will be missing in Finding Nemo 2-- and that's the very spark from the first film they're obviously aiming to re-create. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend

It’s discouraging that Stanton feels he has to go back to the extremely safe route of helming a Nemo sequel. Yes, it was a very successful and rewarding film. But it doesn’t lend itself to a sequel. - Sean O'Connell, Fandango

Supposedly Stanton came up with his own concept for the sequel and the studio loves it. Considering that he co-wrote and directed the original Finding Nemo along with Wall-E, I have confidence that this will not be another Cars 2. That being said, as much as I like Finding Nemo, I can’t say I’m dying to revisit any of the characters. - Sean Dwyer, Film Junk

I'd hate to be embarking on a creative endeavor where people write "we don't need this" before I started. Even if it's a decision motivated by business, those guys are going to take it seriously. Especially Stanton. Not saying the impetus to make a sequel is creative, but the execution will be. An attempt at quality. I'm not defending Finding Nemo 2 as much as saying people shouldn't make a habit of sh***ing on anything in the works. - Matt Patches (@misterpatches)

I think [Matt Patches] might be right that we shouldn't trash Finding Nemo 2, but then he also shouldnt defend it and I still don't want it. I like Stanton, this deal feels like sequel jail so he can do live action again. [Sequels are] what the Cars franchise is for. And the Monsters franchise. Why do we have to keep losing Nemo?

I don't much care. I liked Finding Nemo well enough, but I'm also happy to skip Pixar films when I have to. There will never be a day when I see Cars 2, and unless the buzz on Finding Nemo 2 is overwhelming, I might well skip it. But that's a big change from the way I felt about PIxar a few years ago. The studio was once bulletproof, but those days seem to be over. - Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

I love Finding Nemo so much that I would probably fight anyone who disparaged it (unless they looked tougher than me), but even I’m not so hot on the idea for a sequel. I mean what’s going to happen, he gets lost again? (I know, I know, they tried it in The Hangover II). Still, I can’t think of much that’s less in my wheelhouse than an adaptation of a homo-erotic pulp novel from the turn of the century, and Stanton still managed to make me enjoy John Carter. Stanton hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I see no reason not to try to kick the football on this one. - Vince Mancini, Film Drunk

Pixar, Pixar, Pixar. I love these guys and am typically interested in everything they produce and now I’m learning that they’re interested in creating a sequel for what is my personal favorite [...] The idea of revisiting the worlds and characters is fun and I can’t wait to find out the approach they take with the film. - Anthony Whyte, The Movie Blog

Finding Nemo 2 isn’t exactly a terrible consolation prize, and with Stanton taking the creative helm on the pic we can rest assured that we’ll be getting a story well worth telling. - Adam Chitwood, Collider

Finding Nemo 2 probably isn’t the sequel that many a Screen Rant reader has been waiting for (that honor belongs to Incredibles 2, no doubt). It nonetheless seems like a Pixar project that could follow the example set by Toy Story 2 and 3 [...] There are also standalone Pixar products coming down the pipeline – and the followups which are starting to take shape seem worthwhile (or have potential, at least). So don’t start panicking just yet. - Sandy Schaefer, Screen Rant

Finding Nemo doesn't even make sense for a sequel. Go with The Incredibles if franchising is such a craven desire. - Kristopher Tapley (@kristapley)

I don't know how strong that Incredibles brand is. Finding Nemo is so much bigger with kids. Next to Cars and Toy StoryFinding Nemo is right up there for them in branding and merchandise. - Erik Davis (@ErikDavis)

Knowing that Stanton is back at the helm gives me hope that whatever the sequel turns out to be, it will be a genuine return to the characters and the wit and the heart that made the original such a hit. [... People will be] demanding "The Incredibles 2," but that only points out the weird hypocrisy that exists in the attitude people have towards sequels.  "All sequels are crass and gross and stupid… except the ones I want to see." - Drew McWeeny, Hit Fix


What could the plot of Finding Nemo 2 entail? 

What they gonna leave him at the Plaza? - Jordan Hoffman (@JHoffman6)

Finding Nemo 2: Lost In New York, Finding Nemo 2: Pig In The City, Finding Nemo 2: Revelations, Finding Nemo 2: Flounder Knight - Da7e Gonzalez (@Da7e)

I hope Finding Nemo 2 isn't Marlin getting captured and Nemo having to go find and rescue his father - Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm)

Finding Nemo 2 will hopefully be a lot like Taken 2. - Matt Patches (@misterpatches)

Perhaps he’ll be fishnapped by that seagull’s relatives as revenge. If so, they’ll need a fish with a very particular set of skills to bring him back. Think Taken meets Mr. Limpet and please let that happen. - Wookie Johnson, Screen Junkies

No word on plot specifics for the sequel, but if Pixar is anywhere near as smart as the makers of Taken, THIS TIME THEY'RE COMING FOR MARLIN. - Mark, I Watch Stuff

Finding Nemo 2 and Taken 2 are both similar in the fact that NOBODY LEARNED THEIR LESSON!! - Frank Amoroso (@FoxyFrankA)

Seriously though, Finding Nemo 2 - Nemo goes missing again, and Marlin gets help from a fish voiced by Liam Neeson. PLEASE. - David Bedwell (@DavidBedwell)

The Ultimate Cross-Over: Finding Nemo 2 meets Taken 2, in which Liam Neeson gets to punch huge sharks but sadly ends up w/only a clown fish - Peter Gutierrez (@Peter_Gutierrez)

BREAKING: Fox, Pixar to Combine Taken, Finding Nemo Sequels for "Action-Packed, Family-Friendly Crossover Event." - William Goss (@williambgoss)


Twitter Poll: Are you worried about the reputation, integrity and originality of Pixar now that Finding Nemo 2 is on the way?

No, I think Cars 2 killed that reputation already. - Edward Douglas (@EDouglasWW)

I was worried about it after CARS. - Jefferson Robbins (@Soulsmithy)

No, that ship sailed when TOY STORY 2 came out. They're a business with brands, and it's in their monetary interest to extend those brands. Pixar's artistic reputation made their assets in the first place, so they'll need to maintain that rep to maintain the brands. - John Gholson (@gholson)

It's still crappy. It isn't like their original films didn't make $$$ - Jon Peters (@omahajon)

I was dead set against the TOY STORY sequels and they turned out fantastic, so I'm willing to give this a chance. - Dominic (@Count3D)

I'm no more worried about their reputation now than I was when they announced Toy Story 2, or Toy Story 3. A lot of the hand-wringing (which I would engage in) about Finding Nemo 2 ignores the fact that of their upcoming projects Pixar has three new original films coming. Three of their next five aren't sequels. People are ignoring that fact. That said, I think that Finding Nemo 2 is a dumb idea. I hope Andrew Stanton has a great idea for revisiting that world. But I can't imagine what idea would reopen that world logically. To the question--Pixar's reputation should be fine. And it would be, if people weren't so selective in paying attention to their films in production. - Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece)

I think the reason I'm worried is they are doing more sequels when their quality is starting to slip. - Alexander Huls (@alxhuls)

That'll be 4 sequels out of 5 films? That's as close to an objective test as the arts gets - Victor Morton (@vjmfilms)

Their next 3 years are originals with totally varying visual styles. Not too concerned about them banking 1 sure-thing sequel. - Brendan Foley (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Pixar is wildly, wildly overrated. I've been taking their films case by case since, like, 1998. So no. - Vadim Rizov (@vrizov)


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.



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