I have three children, ages 11, 8 and 5, so I'm entitled to use my sternest sounding mother voice to say this to all of the concerned folks who think Pixar is ruining its legacy: "Calm down." Seriously, give it a break. The world isn't ending, Pixar isn't selling its soul, and there's no reason to fear the coming of "Finding Dory."
In case you missed it: on April 2 Pixar officially announced that "Finding Dory," the sequel to 2003's "Finding Nemo," will hit theaters Nov. 25, 2015, just in time for families across America to make it their annual Thanksgiving movie trip. Andrew Stanton, whose foray into live-action work with "John Carter" was underwhelming (to put it mildly), is returning to direct the new feature, which takes place about a year after the events of the first film.
Ellen DeGeneres sounds thrilled to reprise her role as the extremely forgetful blue tang fish: "I waited and I waited and finally I got the call from the director, Andrew Stanton... and he said, 'Yes indeed, we are going to make Toy Story 3'," DeGeneres told her TV show's audience on Tuesday." I said, 'Hooray for Tom Hanks - finally something good for him'."
"I'm excited that it's finally happening and I've read the script - it's fantastic, it's hilarious, it's warm, it's everything that you want it to be," she added. "And here's the good news - they say I'm one of the top five contenders to play the part of Dory!"
While my kids and I shared her enthusiasm – my daughter even called dibs on making her 11th birthday party an outing to see it – a vocal minority of folks has been complaining bitterly about what the sequel means for Pixar. The Atlantic posed the question: "Does Pixar's worsening case of sequel-it is mean the studio's heyday has passed?"; Slate bemoaned that "Pixar sequels are no longer exciting," and one Twitter user said, "Dear Disney, Nobody cares about the new Finding Dory movie. We only care about Star Wars. Sincerely, Everybody."
Well, I disagree. So what if Pixar is revisiting another one of its most popular stories? The studio is responding to audience excitement, not just a big opening weekend. Pixar has never released a film that didn't go on to make more than $360 million worldwide, so it could release an animated adaptation of Michael Haneke's "Funny Games," and it would still make hundreds of millions of dollars.
And as for the idea that a sequel could never measure up to its predecessor, that argument works for pretty much every studio except for Pixar. Aside from "Cars 2," which is Pixar's worst-reviewed film , the studio is known for making sequels that are actually worth seeing, that honor the characters and the universe of the original, that imaginatively further the plot. That's a helluva lot more than can be said for a lot of other adored franchises.
And although I don't know anyone who has seen the upcoming "Monsters Inc." prequel "Monsters University" yet, the trailers and clips make it look as charming as the original. I can tell you without a doubt that I'd rather see "Monsters University" than the vast majority of family friendly movies made under the impression that parents are so desperate to have something to take their kids to see that they'll put up with the dregs of the Hollywood idea bowl, like "The Smurfs 2."
See those of you who are single or child-free don't understand, but Hollywood producers and writers are more than happy to make the stupidest of CGI-meets-live action, talking pet, anthropomorphized alien movies for five year olds who don't know any better. In my other gig as senior critic for Common Sense Media, I see every family title that comes out every year, so I know of what I speak; I've sat through "Escape from Planet Earth," "Space Chimps," "Marmaduke," "Safari Dehli," "The Wild," all of those "Chipmunks" movies, you name it.
So even if Pixar decides to switch off between an original film and a sequel for the next decade, I am willing to bet that those sequels will be as witty and sophisticated and gorgeously depicted as all of their other movies. Maybe they won't all be dazzling Academy Award-winning masterpieces (every studio, no matter its prestige, has lesser films), but they'll still be worth seeing, because Pixar is a studio that respects its audience and knows that adults and children alike should enjoy their films.