Heading the film’s brain trust in such creative aeronautics was Disney/Pixar Animation honcho John Lasseter and director Lee Unkrich, and to spin off of the title of its Oscar-winning Randy Newman song, these minds clearly belonged together. “Toy Story 3” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film (among its five nominations); the film famously received near-universal critical praise (“99” score on Rotten Tomatoes; “92” on MetaCritic.com); and was a commercial bonanza (more than $1-billion in worldwide gross; the No. 13 highest-grossing film ever).
In other words: Boy Andy had grown up. He was heading off to college. And the grand handing-down of his toys seemed like the best bow one could tie on the trilogy …
But come 2017, you can untie that perfect bow.
Disney/Pixar announced today that “Toy Story 4” will land in theaters in 2017. And that back at the helm will be Lasseter– the Pixar visionary who directed the studio’s first feature film (1995’s “Toy Story”) and its 1999 sequel before turning his director’s chair to the “Cars” franchise.
That’s right: The toys that have already stared down the hellfires of an incinerator — and what a transcendent scene that was — jump back once again into the flame.
And already, two of the early questions pinging around social media were:
1. Is this announcement a good thing?
2. How often will Pixar continue to go to the well of sequels?
Now, I think the conclusion of “Toy Story 3” was a masterstroke of a finishing touch – like a callback to the very origins of the three-film adventure. There was something satisfying about ending it as such – in an act of sweet generosity, farewell-to-adolescence maturity and nostalgic imagination.
Yet if there’s anyone we can trust to untie that bow and open the toy box back up, it should, of course, be Lasseter. He said Thursday that his team “has come up with a new idea for the franchise that he can’t stop thinking about,” reports the AP. Well, if he’s that inspired by the story, then I say: Put Buzz Lightyear back on the launch pad.
Then there is the sometime sniping that Pixar has become especially sequel-reliant as of late, including last year’s “Monsters University” and the announced “Nemo” sequel “Finding Dory” and “The Incredibles 2” — and that was before today’s announcement. But it’s worth noting that 2012’s “Brave” and the forthcoming “Inside Out” (directed by Pete Docter) and “Good Dinosaur” (Bob Peterson was recently removed from the director’s chair) are all originals. And it’s perhaps also a badge of Pixar’s high internal standards that the studio did not force the release of a film this year.
The pioneering John Lasseter is obviously a modern animation genius, and his ability to draw on the wisdom of such fellow Pixar originals as Docter and Andrew Stanton (though regrettably, no longer on that of the late Joe Ranft) also heightens the amount of NASA-level wizardry and creative problem-solving that is poured into the craftsmanship that comes out of the Emeryville, Calif., studio.
Who better to discover new toyland worlds, in other words, than the man who put Buzz Lightyear into orbit?