Back in March, a young girl who turned into a red panda whenever she felt any strong emotion caused a stir with movie audiences. And now, after a recent announcement from Pixar Animation Studios, and some information shared by someone very close to the project, the company may face even more trouble in the years ahead.
Known for its unique storytelling, Pixar Animation Studios — a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios — has released over 25 feature films. What began back in the mid-nineties with Toy Story (1995) has grown to deliver numerous now fan-favorite movies, characters, and stories.
From A Bug’s Life (1998) to Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003) to Ratatouille (2007), Pixar’s output really stretched the boundaries over what computer animated animation could be. The studio’s franchises are aplenty, none so than the popular Toy Story collection. Toy Story would eventually be joined by three sequels plus the most recent Pixar offering, Lightyear (2022).
The in-universe origin story of the Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear, Lightyear had a hard time at the box office. It was the first Pixar film to hit movie theaters exclusively in years; previous movies, Soul (2020), Luca (2021), and Turning Red (2022), all hit The Walt Disney Company’s streaming service right off the bat. The lukewarm reception was, in part, caused by the so-called “controversial” inclusion of a same-sex couple in the animated movie, but Pixar does not shy away from making sure their feature films are inclusive.
The backlash generated by Lightyear was not the first time in 2022 that Pixar Animation Studios faced criticism regarding the content of its movies.
March saw the world introduced to Mei, 4*Town, and the hereditary curse of the red panda in Turning Red (2022) from director Domee Shi. Starring Rosalie Chiang as Meilin “Mei” Lee and Sandra Oh as her mother, Ming Lee, Pixar’s 25th feature film received positive reviews from critics, but with audiences, it caused a division.
The issues some viewers had with the movie stemmed from the red panda metaphor itself, and what that represented in relation to the 13-year-old girl serving as the main character. A more obvious image from the movie saw Oh’s Ming Lee attempting to hand her daughter a Maxi Pad after Mei’s first transition into the red panda. While this is an absolutely normal and ordinary experience for a teenage girl to go through, some audiences expressed their distaste at references to periods and puberty — citing that Disney is for children.
And yes, it has been six months since Turning Red, and three since Lightyear, but Pixar look set to once again cause a stir in just two year’s time.
At last weekend’s D23 Expo, Pixar Chief Creative Officer, Pete Docter, announced a flurry of new content coming down the pipeline. From Elio (2024) starring Ugly Betty‘s America Ferrera, to the studio’s first Original streaming series, Win or Lose, the minds behind Up (2009) and Coco (2017) are conjuring up multiple new projects. And just as Docter was closing out his part of the Studios Panel, Amy Poehler took over the stage to announce Inside Out 2 (2024).
What she also announced is what could get Pixar Animation Studios in hot water with some viewers. After revealing the sequel was officially in the works, the Saturday Night Live star shared that Inside Out 2 would once again be following Riley — as a teenager. Now, that shouldn’t be a shocking, boycott-worthy premise, but as history has shown with the likes of Turning Red and Lightyear, whenever projects deemed “family-friendly” include references or explore adolescence, the pitchforks come out.
Only time will tell how fans of Inside Out will react to teenage Riley and the new emotions Pixar has cooked up for her — some have even begun speculating what they could be.
Inside Out (2015) saw five emotions of young girl Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) take center stage, and proved to audiences that it’s alright to be happy and sad sometimes, or angry and scared, or… and the list goes on. Poehler’s Joy led the troupe, which also included Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Bill Hader (Fear), and Lewis Black as Anger. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2016.
What are you hoping to see from Inside Out 2? Let us know in the comments down below!