The release of Pixar’s latest film, Monsters University, is just around the corner but it’s existence has raised some very relevant questions about the integrity of Pixar films. The animation studio hit an unprecedented run when it came to hit films from the mid-90s through the mid-2000s, but lately the films being put out by the studio have strayed from that path and it’s a trend that many moviegoers and cinephiles don’t want to see continue.
From Toy Story, which re-set the landscape for animated films in 1995, through 2004’s The Incredibles, Pixar didn’t have a film register lower than 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and had each film be both award-winning and financial successes. But the release of Cars in 2006 was a significant drop off for the studio and while Pixar rebounded with Wall-E, Up, and Brave, they went back to the well with Cars 2 and the results were even worse than the first time around.
Pixar has gone back to the well again with the upcoming release of Monsters University which is a prequel to the wildly successful 2001 film Monsters Inc.
So the question has naturally become will the Monsters Inc. sequel fall into the trap of Cars 2?
At first glance, logic actually suggests it won’t. The problem with Cars 2 was the original really wasn’t the well received by critics. By the time it had been released, the bar had been set so high for Pixar that they were honestly bound to fail at some point or come in slightly to the left of their landing zone we’d become accustomed to.
Cars lacked something we had loved about all previous Pixar films so when the sequel cam around, there really wasn’t that much to be excited about. The sequels to Toy Story were well written, brilliantly animated and built on the charm with each new film to the point we were crying at the thought of toys being burned alive together at the end of Toy Story 3.
So Monsters University has the luxury of following up a hit original, but that luxury could also end up being a curse. We live in a recyclable Hollywood these days where sequels and remakes come around more often than anything else in the world, which immediately places Monsters University in that dreaded category.
What it all comes down to is charm. That’s why every other Pixar film has worked — it’s had heart and charm surrounded and stimulated by a universe we fall right into. The first film in the series created that universe but the new film is walking a very fine line that even some of the best filmmakers fall on the wrong side of.
While it likely won’t live up to the first film, Monsters University may end up being a successful film but for Pixar, anything less than perfection is a failure in the eyes of many who adore the back-catalog the studio has made us fall in love with.