The foreseeable has become inevitable: Movieline reports that Pixar Animation Studios and its parent company, Disney Pictures, have announced plans to develop a semi-sequel/spin-off to their Cars franchise for home video. Titled, for now, Planes, the spin-off heralds Pixar's first move into the potentially lucrative direct-to-DVD market. As Movieline points out, Cars wasn't Pixar's biggest box-office hit (Toy Story 3 took that title from Finding Nemo this past weekend), making only $244 million domestically and $461 million internationally (second only to Toy Story, a film released 11 years earlier, box-office wise), nor was it Pixar's best-reviewed film, receiving only a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 73% score on Metacritic, but the merchandising has added several billion dollars to Cars bottom line, spurring next year's sequel and now a spin-off.

As Movieline also points out, Planes isn't the first time we've heard about a direct-to-DVD sequel for a Pixar property. Toy Story 2 was initially developed for home video before current Pixar/Disney Chief Creative Officer and Toy Story director John Lasseter stepped in at the last minute (well, 9 months before the release date) to convert preexisting material into a theatrical feature. What audiences received was far from the second-rate effort many feared. Toy Story 2 retained the original's strong storytelling, taking full advantage of the strides in computer technology that occurred in the intervening four years.

That's a long way of saying that we lucked out with Toy Story 2, but in that case, Pixar's best and brightest were working to deliver a high-quality, feature-length animated film comparable to the original. The fear many share right now is that once Pixar begins developing, producing, and releasing straight-to-DVD films, storytelling and visual quality will drop noticeably. Putting an optimistic slant on the news, Slashfilm's Russ Fischer suggests, straight-to-DVD titles will give younger, less experience animators the chance to prove themselves before moving on to bigger-budgeted, higher-profile (and higher-stressed) feature-length films.

I prefer to wait and see Planes before making any judgments, but I'm also concerned that the originality long associated with Pixar, a potent element of its branding success, will erode over time as Pixar and Disney attempt to exploit Pixar's back catalog, rather than focusing on developing and producing new, original content, something already missing from Pixar's upcoming slate (e.g., Cars 2, Monsters, Inc. 2).

So what do you think? Yay or nay on Planes? Yay or nay on Pixar/Disney's plans to move into the direct-to-DVD market?
categories Features, Cinematical