Pixar Movie Sequels That Were Better Than the Originals

Now that the fourth installment of the Toy Story series is on its way, some viewers may wonder how it can possibly live up to the other beloved films in the series. Yet that very question proves that Disney/Pixar has, on more than one occasion, produced sequels that are superior to the original films.

Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ sequel was a hit

Fans were initially skeptical because, by this point, Disney had produced a deluge of direct-to-video sequels to their animated classics (Belle’s Enchanted Christmas, Bambi 2, etc. ) While the merits of these sequels are highly debatable, almost no one argued they were better than the originals. In fact, Pixar originally conceived Toy Story 2 as another direct to video venture. Were Woody and Buzz already being confined to the shelf of inferior follow-ups?

However, as work progressed on the sequel, the filmmakers realized they were on to something, having tapped into deeper emotional depths with the melancholy song “When She Loved Me,” written by Randy Newman and sung by Sarah McLachlan about a toy lamenting her long lost owner. Few who saw that sequence saw it with a dry eye, and the studio decided to release the film to theaters. The song was nominated for an Oscar, and the movie was an even bigger hit than the original. While the first Toy Story grossed $191 million, Toy Story 2 topped that with $245 million.

‘Toy Story 3’ did even better

With Toy Story 2 having done so well, it only seemed natural to conclude the toys’ time with their beloved owner Andy as he grew up and headed off to college. Not even Andy could take his toys there, leaving his old pals grappling with such weighty issues as mortality itself.

As before, the development of the third film was occasionally rocky. In 2004 Disney had originally commissioned not Pixar, but a studio called Circle 7 to make the movie, and a script was completed about the toys being sent to Andy’s grandmother’s attic.  At the time, it seemed possible that Pixar and Disney might split apart.

In 2006, however, Disney purchased Pixar, and Circle 7 was disbanded, leaving Pixar to create its own sequel. The result was released in 2010, and it delighted and moved audiences, particularly with its harrowing and heartbreaking third act. Toy Story 3 became not just the highest grossing movie in the series, but Pixar’s third most successful movie overall, grossing $415 million. The movie even managed to score a Best Picture nomination, becoming only the third animated film to do so, after Beauty and the Beast and Pixar’s own Up.

An ‘Incredible’ follow-up

So if Toy Story 3 was the third most successful Pixar film, which two did better? Two sequels: Finding Dory and Incredibles 2. While audiences loved Finding Dory, they went to Incredibles 2 in even greater numbers, with the latter grossing $608 million in the US alone. That made it not just Pixar’s biggest hit, but the biggest animated film of all time.

Why the outpouring? Probably because fans had been clamoring for it since the original film came out in 2004. Its ending jokingly teased a sequel, but director Brad Bird and his team took their time to get it right, with a whopping 14-year gap between movies.

And for those who still think Pixar should make original movies, fear not. After Toy Story 4, their next movie is the non-sequel elf movie Onward, slated for March 2020.