Saturday, October 20, 2018

Pixar and Standalones: When Sequels Work and When They Don't

75% of the time I adore sequels. Usually, the middle book/movie of a series is my favorite and I love seeing an epic series build up to a conclusion, but if anything Pixar and anime have made me realize it's that standalones can have their own magic. Sometimes a story can be complete in itself and stretching it out with a sequel can actually cheapen the story instead of building it up.

Standalones - Pixar has made some fantastic standalone films. Ratatouille, Up, WALL-E, and A Bug's Life are just a few. All of these stories established worlds that were completely fleshed out, the character arcs were complete, and no loose ends in the plot were left. All of these films were just so well-composed that I highly recommend watching them if you ever plan on writing a standalone if you haven't already.

Ratatouille presents the irony of a rat wanting to be a chef and fleshes out this dream. The creators even gave it a twist ending by not ending how you thought it would. Linguini and Remi's character arcs and dynamics are beautifully played out and by the end, you just feel entirely satisfied. 

A Bug's Life presented a world from the insects' points of views. It was enchanting. It presented a problem with Hopper forcing a colony of ants into servitude and it resolved it with a finite ending. Nothing more needed to be done. It was a perfect package.

When writing a standalone think of how you can make sure all ends are tied up, character arcs are completed, and every element of a world is fleshed out so the readers don't feel like they missed out.

Sequels That Worked - The Toy Story sequels are (in my humble opinion) the only ones that truly worked. From the first film, we knew that Andy was going to grow up, so that opened up more problems for the toys with the overlying knowledge that eventually the day would come when he stops playing with them anymore and Toy Story 3 assessed that. The movies built up a plot implied from the beginning and delivered on it in the end in a great and unexpected way.

I know this is a bane for many pansters, but when you think you want to write a sequel imply from the first book that it's going to be part of a series. Books that have an overarching plot that is resolved by the end of the series are the most memorable, even if that plot doesn't start building until the middle of the series.

Sequels That Didn't - I don't think the creators ever intended Cars and Finding Nemo to have a sequel. The former had more material than the latter to expand upon, but neither of the sequels were that good. Cars 2 felt like butter stretched over too much bread and Finding Dory completely retconned character arcs which made me angry. Finding Nemo had such a fantastic story and Finding Dory cheapened it as the creators grasped for problems to expand upon. 

Many stories that were expanded upon even with initial foreshadowing have failed as well even outside of Pixar. It's why that Legend of Korra will never be as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender. It should have concluded with season two. More isn't always better. Nickelodeon ordered two more seasons and the creators had intended it to end with season two, so the next two seasons felt more like afterthoughts than building momentum. This also happened with the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson.

Out of all of the Pixar sequels Incredibles 2 had the most potential. I went into the film with high expectations but came out a little dissatisfied. I wanted to see the kids a little more grown up after all of that time. I'm not sure starting so soon after the first film was the wisest choice. Keep in mind for sequels about when to start it. Immediately after? Weeks later? A year or more later? What would be best to drive your plot forward and give more potential for character development?

Conclusion - Sequels are standalones are both great. Only you can decide what would be best for your story. Choose wisely, my friends.

Of course, I'm going to use this gif. Why wouldn't I use this gif? Also The Last Crusade was the best Indiana Jones film just sayin'. *runs*
What's your favorite Pixar film? What Pixar sequels do you like? What's your favorite Pixar standalone? Do you like series or standalones better?

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