Breaking Down the Top 5 Pixar Sequels and Prequels
A long time ago, we could always expect fresh new content from Pixar. With Toy Story 2 being the only sequel in the studio’s 15-year theatrical run, it was a thrill to see what new animated property they would deliver next. After the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up, originality was king at Pixar. Then came the sequels.
Since 2010, Pixar has released more sequels than original films with Brave, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur joining the ranks. And out of those three, only last year’s Inside Out walked away any universal acclaim. But considering the market, with the exception of Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur, Pixar films are still in high demands. And audiences are still willing to dish out top dollar to see these franchise continue in a new direction. Some have been pitch-perfect, while others are out to sell toys. Down below are top five sequels and prequels from Pixar.
5. Cars 2
Let’s face it. 2006’s Cars was not one of Pixar’s gleaming moments. Focusing more on selling toys than living up to the high standards of Toy Story, Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, Cars even failed to win Best Animated Feature that year at the Academy Awards. It lost to Happy Feet of all films. More a financial success than critical, Pixar greenlit Cars 2, which took all the weakest elements of the first film and cranked it to overdrive.
Mater fans rejoice. If you loved Larry the Cable Guy’s redneck tow truck in the first film, his role increased exponentially in the sequel. For those annoyed by Mater – I apologize five years too late. Instead of a semi-charming tale of overcoming pride and borderlne arrogance, Cars 2 would rather cram as many products in a film that globetrots more than a James Bond movie. Somehow, Pixar thinks we need another sequel as Cars 3 is slated for a June 2017 release. But at least it’s no longer the worst Pixar movie ever with that award going to The Good Dinosaur recently.
4. Monsters University
As Pixar’s sole prequel in the bunch, Monsters University goes back in time before the one-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and the hairy James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) were employed at Monsters, Inc. as the top scaring duo. The main problem with Monsters University is the prequel problem. We’ve seen it before with the Star Wars prequels and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. When watching the prequel first, not only does it kill all surprise in the original film or trilogy, but also starts to retroactively change continuity for the new film’s purpose.
Other than that, Monsters University is still highly entertaining with Crystal and Goodman on top of their game. And for anyone who’s been to college, Monsters University will resonate more, highlighting all the ins and outs of college life, while turning it on its head to feature all sorts of monsters. While Monsters University doesn’t muster up as much heart as its predecessor, there are plenty of emotional moments. Mike’s underdog story in college is heartwarming, even though it’s obvious from the last film where his road is going. The same goes for Sulley, who ditches his “big man on campus” routine and buckles down to ultimately become friends with his future scaring buddy.
3. Finding Dory
The latest addition to Pixar’s 17-film lineup, Finding Dory was exactly a necessary sequel on paper. 2003’s Finding Nemo triumphed as a standalone sea adventure, wrapped in a nice package. So going into the sequel 13 years later, it wasn’t difficult to believe Pixar was cashing in on the nostalgia of the beloved Finding Nemo. After all, when the first film was released, it broke box office records left and right. A $70.3 million opening weekend was unprecedented for an animated film in 2003. The same goes for its $339 million domestic run, which even surpassed the nine-year reign of Disney’s The Lion King. So why not break history one more time for a sequel no one asked for?
Talk about being way off base. While falling just a tad short of Nemo, Finding Dory stands high amongst the other Pixar films in its own right. Ellen DeGeneres carries the film as the forgetful Pacific blue tang, whose backstory is equally adorable as it is poignant. For a while, Finding Dory manages to hit the repetitive beats of Nemo, even briefly revisiting Crush and sea turtles and a new tune from Bob Peterson’s Mr. Ray. Albert Brook’s Marlin and his son, Nemo, are relegated to the back burner, albeit still allowed a handful of humorous moments and delightful father-son banter. Will Finding Dory hold up in coming year like Finding Nemo? Only time will tell.
2. Toy Story 2
Deciding which one is better, either Toy Story 2 or Toy Story 3 is as difficult as picking a favorite child. While neither match the perfection of the original Toy Story, the edge goes to Toy Story 3. Toy Story 2 was Pixar’s first sequel in 1999 and for a time, we weren’t even sure if it was even going to see the light of day in the theater. Buzz (Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks) have built up a friendship since the last movie, but it’s put to the test again when Woody is kidnapped by a villainous toy collector out to complete a retro doll collection.
Without Toy Story 2, we wouldn’t have Jessie the cowgirl or Bullseye the horse as part of Andy’s toy family. The songs are equally as memorable, particularly Sarah McLachlan’s emotional “When She Loved Me” and a more upbeat “Woody’s Roundup,” which is a throwback to the 50s western. It’s a rare sequel that can hold its own against one of the all-time greatest animated movies ever. 11 years later, Pixar would do it again.
1. Toy Story 3
See Toy Story 3 at the top of this list should come to no surprise. But like as I said with Toy Story 2, putting one over the other is a matter of personal preference. Toy Story 3 is undoubtedly Pixar’s best sequel to date. 11 years after Toy Story 2 and 15 years since the original, Toy Story 3 plays on our nostalgia like no other Pixar. Yes, that even includes the recent Finding Dory. It’s a film that many millennials can relate to. Many kids who saw Toy Story back in 1995 are now full-grown adults and fully understand what it means to grow up and leave your childhood behind.
Toy Story 3 does that perfect, yet opens up a new adventure as the toys are donated to Sunnyside Daycare, where things aren’t exactly as they seem. The ending to Toy Story is by far the most emotional sequel Pixar has put out to date. After 15 years, we care what happens to these toys and in the predicament they’re in, the emotional resonance even surpasses that of Up’s opening and the entirety of last year’s Inside Out. You couldn’t ask for a better finale. Or so we thought. Toy Story 4 is due out in 2018.
Do you agree with this list? And where will future Pixar sequels like Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2 rank on a later list? Comment below.