Pixar Future Hinges on One Film, Studio Head Reveals

in Movies, Pixar

Anxiety introduced in Inside Out 2

Credit: Pixar

At one point, Pixar was Disney’s secret weapon responsible for releasing emotional powerhouses like Finding Nemo (2003), Up (2009), and Inside Out (2015). However, recent developments from the sister studio could permanently change things at The Walt Disney Company.

An image shows animated characters Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust from the movie "Inside Out" trapped in a glass jar. Joy looks up smiling while the other characters display various emotions. The jar is dimly lit from above, creating a spotlight effect.
Credit: Pixar

Disney and Pixar have been heavily criticized for some of their recent releases and underwhelming box-office performances. With Inside Out 2 (2024) predicted to be the company’s biggest release this year, there is little to no room for error.

Related: ‘Toy Story 5’ Update: Pixar Unveils Big Announcement Amid Studio Struggles

With so much riding on one film’s success, director and head of Pixar Animation Studios, Pete Docter, recently shared his vision for the studio’s future with TIME. Depending on its success or failure of Inside Out 2, it could change how Disney fans see movies moving forward.

Pete Docter and the Future of Pixar

A person with glasses and short hair is smiling at the camera. They are wearing a dark shirt with a Pixar pattern. Behind them is a colorful background featuring numerous bright, circular lights arranged in vertical columns.
Credit: Inside the Magic

During an interview with TIME’s Eliana Dockterman, Pete Docter was asked several questions about the upcoming sequel and the studio’s future in light of recent missteps, like the critically panned Lightyear (2022). Docter was also asked how he saw the stakes after being built up as a big box office win.

Docter replied with,

“I can’t imagine having a better chance at a big box office than this because it’s a known movie and characters that meant something to people and a really funny cast—and hopefully something meaty at the heart of it that you can take home as well.”

“So if this doesn’t do well at the theater, I think it just means we’re going to have to think even more radically about how we run our business. So far, Pixar has built a business around pretty large budgets. It allows us to make a lot of mistakes and take risks, and if it doesn’t work, we can still go back and fix it…”

Although the director seems hopeful about the sequel’s performance, his mention of “radically ” changing Pixar’s business might indicate a warning shot, especially since the company is currently recovering from the largest restructuring in the studio’s history.

Related: ‘Finding Nemo’ Star Unaware They Were in the Movie

Docter didn’t ignore the recent event either, and the director shared how else the studio is changing. Along with shorter production times by much fewer weeks, Pixar is reportedly looking at what kind of stories they tell.

Docter shared,

“In the ‘Monsters Inc.’ through ‘Ratatouille’ days, there was—I was going to say opulence, but that’s not the right word. There was much more freedom to explore. And now we’re tightening the belt, and we’re really going to be targeted about when we take risks.

What Does It All Mean

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) traveling at lightspeed in the 'Lightyear' trailer
Credit: Pixar

Pixar is doing much more than just restructuring. The studio is undergoing a metamorphosis that aims more at the audience en masse rather than telling individual or alternative narratives. There’s a reason films like Inside Out have much more appeal than something like Lightyear: managing intense emotions is much more universal and relatable than a sci-fi spinoff.

Related: John Lasseter, Brad Bird, and Other Legends Start War with Disney

The biggest problem might be that Disney and Pixar have been focusing too much on telling stories that appeal to a particular minority rather than the universal appeal of their previous films. Even Docter realized how this model affected the studio.

Docter stated,

“It’s sort of cynical to say people want to see stuff they know. But I think even with original stuff, that’s what we’re trying to do, too. We’re trying to find something that people feel like, “Oh yeah, I’ve been through that. I understand that I recognize this as a life truth.” And that’s been harder to do.”

“A lot of people say, ‘I totally thought toys came to life when I wasn’t in my room.’ ‘I totally believed there were monsters in my closet.’ We’re still rummaging around for things like that, but it’s harder and harder to find as we’re into our 28th movie or whatever.”

Appealing to a larger audience through universality and shared experiences is simply good business, and it’s certainly a very logical step for Pixar to take. While we might not see something as complex or personal as Elemental (2023) for a while, returning to what is familiar and relatable might be best.

Do you think Inside Out 2 will make or break Pixar? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

in Movies, Pixar

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