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Inside Out Didn’t Need A Sequel, But Pixar Did

Pixar has announced that Inside Out 2 is in production, and while the original movie didn’t need a sequel, the studio certainly does. Inside Out was a huge commercial and critical success when it was released in 2015, receiving praise for how it taught children about mental health and how it was okay to feel sad sometimes. The sequel to the seemingly self-contained original will pick up the story of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) years after she moved to San Francisco with her parents, as she and her emotions tackle her teenage years.

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The surprise Inside Out 2 announcement came after Pixar revealed their upcoming slate as part of Disney Animation’s D23 panel. As well as the upcoming Elemental, Pixar also gave a closer look at their first TV series, Win or Lose, which focuses on a high school softball team, and announced their 2024 film Elio, in which an introverted young boy accidentally becomes an intergalactic ambassador for the entire human race. Each of these upcoming projects shows that the beloved animation studio is still pushing creative boundaries and telling imaginative new stories, so the announcement of an arguably unnecessary sequel to Inside Out was a big surprise, but the harsh truth is that Pixar does need these sequels.

RELATED: Inside Out Broke A Pixar Trend (& Changed What Their Movies Could Be)

The care and attention that Pixar took to the Toy Story franchise proves they rarely do sequels without first having strong stories to tell. However, movies like Cars 2 and the Toy Story spinoff Lightyear are evidence that they’re not completely above making ill-advised franchise decisions. In a box office landscape that increasingly favors sequels and spinoffs to and from established IPs, it can be hard for truly original work to flourish. This has only worsened during a pandemic that has seen the theaters close and some of Pixar’s best work in years go straight to Disney+. It’s therefore incredibly likely that the studio needs a movie like Inside Out 2 to enable them to continue making more original work like Turning Red or Soul.


Why Pixar Needed An Inside Out Sequel

While it’s true of Pixar that they approach sequels very carefully, the idea of a Toy Story sequel was first discussed roughly a month after the movie was released in theaters. After a troubled production period, including the accidental deletion of Toy Story 2, the sequel outgrossed Pixar’s previous two movies and, for a period, became the second highest-grossing animated movie of all time. This huge commercial success arguably allowed Pixar to continue making original movies during the decade between Toy Story 2 and 3. The sequel had established both Toy Story and Pixar as a brand, and the studio could trade off that brand identity to sell original animated movies to a burgeoning audience of Pixar fans.

Sequels have since become an integral part of Pixar’s release strategy, funding the more creative and original work that continues to garner critical acclaim. In the decade since Toy Story 3 was released, the number of Pixar sequels and prequels increased rapidly, with mixed results. Between Toy Story 3 in 2010 and Toy Story 4 in 2019, original Pixar movies like Inside Out and Coco were exceptions, rather than the rule. Pixar stated there would be no more sequels after Toy Story 4, but the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the industry and on the box office performance for 2019’s Onward has clearly forced Pixar to rethink this standpoint. The December 2020 announcement of Toy Story spinoff Lightyear is proof of this change in thinking, with the studio banking on audience fondness for their most popular franchise.

Inside Out 2, therefore, is a logical step for the studio to take in an attempt to reverse its fortunes at the box office post-pandemic. It’s one of the few Pixar movies that simultaneously hasn’t already had a sequel and has story potential for a follow-up. As with the Toy Story sequels, there’s potential to subvert audience expectations by telling a suitably emotionally satisfying story that also earns Pixar big numbers at the box office.

RELATED: Is Lightyear The Movie That Kills The Pixar Universe Theory For Good?

Inside Out 2 Makes More Sense After Lightyear’s Box Office Struggles

Lightyear failed Pixar at the box office for a number of reasons, one of which being that it was a harder sell to audiences than a straight-up Toy Story sequel or spinoff. The movie’s concept was muddled and attempting to explain how it was Toy Story‘s Andy’s favorite movie only made it more confusing. An Inside Out sequel doesn’t have this issue and is a much easier sell to audiences young and old. The concept for Inside Out 2, vague though it is at this early stage in production, is about those difficult teenage years, which introduces new emotions and, therefore, new characters.

Like the recent Turning Red, which disappointingly avoided theaters, it’s a universal story of growing up that will strongly resonate with audiences. Having this universal tale of the conflicting and frightening new emotions of one’s teenage years tied to an existing, and beloved, Pixar property only increases the movie’s appeal. Even older audiences who loved Inside Out and are skeptical about the merit of a sequel can take some comfort in how Pixar continued to subvert expectations with Toy Story 3 and 4, and so will still turn up to see if Inside Out 2 reaches those same high standards.

The strength of the concept of the Inside Out sequel also reduces the cynicism with which some corners greeted the Lightyear announcement. With Toy Story 4 acting as a beautiful epilogue to the franchise, there was nowhere else to go, narratively. Rather than attempt to give Buzz Lightyear’s story a similarly emotional ending with a Toy Story 5, Pixar and Disney instead attempted to launch a new Buzz Lightyear franchise that had no clear links to the franchise beyond the titular Space Ranger. In contrast, Inside Out 2 is a much more coherent concept, a clearly defined sequel to a beloved Pixar movie, and is therefore a much safer bet for the studio at the box office when the movie releases in summer 2024.


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