Pixar’s Pete Docter Reminds Us Sequels Help Keep the Lights On

Pixar’s Pete Docter Reminds Us Sequels Help Keep the Lights On
Disney Pixar's Turning Red (left) stands in stark contrast to the Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University. (Image: Disney)

Pixar is responsible for some of the greatest animated films of our time…and then some of them were milked into franchises. For a time, it seemed like the studio cared more about repeating past successes than creating new ones. But it looks like Pixar’s latest studio head is ready to get down to brass tacks, even if the existence of ongoing sequels is an inevitability.

Pixar’s Pete Docter, who helmed movies like Monsters, Inc. and Inside Out, recently sat down with the Hollywood Reporter for a lengthy chat about his tenure as chief content officer. The veteran animator took the position in June 2018, after John Lasseter quit amid sexual misconduct allegations. Since then, Docter’s seen the release of what looks to be his final stint as a co-director, Soul, as well as several new projects like Luca, Turning Red, and a Toy Story quasi-prequel about the real Buzz Lightyear. This final one raised red flags, that we could see a repeat of Disney Pixar’s sequel era — one which saw over half of its releases between 2010 and 2020 dominated by prequels and sequels like Finding Dory and Monsters University.

Docter noted that the three upcoming films, including Lightyear, were approved before his tenure. Furthermore, he recognised that Pixar got a bit carried away with sequels for a time and promised that his upcoming slate of greenlit films (which have not been announced yet) will prioritise original stories and new, diverse voices behind the scenes.

Crucially, he also noted that doesn’t mean Pixar sequels are going away. After all, they make a lot of money and provide stability even a studio as big as Pixar needs to experiment with new stories and worlds. “In the past we had a big run of sequels, too many in a row,” he said. “Now we have a lot of original stuff, which I’m personally excited about. But for financial safety, we probably should have a few more sequels in there. Sometimes it’s tough because the creative projects have a life of their own, and they either take off or they don’t.”

One of the places we’ll continue to see sequels and spinoffs is on Disney+, as Pixar is busy working on spinoff television shows for Monsters, Inc., Cars, and Up. The company is also doing original projects for the streaming platform, including a longform animated show called Win or Lose, about a middle school softball team, as well as a collection of mini-shorts called Pixar Popcorn, which comes out this month. In fact, Docter said Pixar is producing “as much for streaming as we are in theatrical release.”

For more, you can check out THR’s in-depth interview here. Soul, which Docter co-directed with Kemp Powers, is now available on Disney+.