Pete Docter on ‘Toy Story 5’ and ‘Lightyear’

We have our first little bit of information about Toy Story 5, from Pixar CCO Pete Docter!

In an interview with The Wrap, Docter – who will be receiving the Winsor McKay Award at this year’s Annies on February 25 – discussed the process and reasoning behind developing another sequel in the Toy Story series.

“The thing we’ve been really trying to do, and this has been the case for a while, is we’ve been looking at them a little bit like, okay, we’re not planning for the future. When we made the first ‘Toy Story,’ we had no idea there would be a ‘Toy Story 2.’ We’re just trying to make this movie. But that in making the movie, it takes you places, unexpected places, which is what I love about the creative process. If I knew exactly what I was doing when I started making a movie, there’d kind of be no point in making it. I discover so much along the way.” Docter equates the creative process to going on a trip where you have a specific destination in mind but along the way you get sidetracked and “come home wiser and more worldly.”

He also addressed sequels at Pixar in general:

“It’s great to go back and explore these worlds and these characters, but you want to have a reason, some kind of compelling reason, that you’re making the movie.”

I really like this explanation, which is how I’ve always understood Pixar’s process of developing sequels, based on statements other filmmakers have made in the past. While they may not make a movie with the intention of a future sequel, it won’t be ruled out if someone comes up with a worthwhile story idea to continue the series. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I personally enjoy sequels. I welcome the chance to revisit favorite characters, and see what they’re up to. I’ve never understood the rage online against sequels – I mean, if you think it sounds lame, and don’t want to watch it, then don’t watch it. There is literally no valid reason to ruin it for everyone else. But then, I think people hate on stuff just for sport anymore.

The best part of the interview for me, though, is that Docter also very vaguely hinted at the plot for Toy Story 5:

 “I think it’ll be surprising,” Docter teased. “It’s got some really cool stuff that you haven’t seen before.”

Would it really be a Pixar statement if it wasn’t completely mysterious? “Surprising” definitely has me curious! But it does sound as if the story is already pretty well established, which is promising. With as-of-now unfilled slots in Pixar’s upcoming movie calendar, of course it would be nice to see Toy Story 5 released on the sooner side, in 2025, but I know it could be later. The film’s release date is probably what I’d like to know most at this point; anticipating all the gradual reveals is a big part of the fun for me.

In addition to Toy Story 5, and other new projects in the work like Elio and Inside Out 2, Docter also touched on Lightyear, and why it struggled in theaters this past summer.

“We’ve done a lot of soul-searching about that because we all love the movie. We love the characters and the premise. I think probably what we’ve ended on in terms of what went wrong is that we asked too much of the audience. When they hear Buzz, they’re like, great, where’s Mr. Potato Head and Woody and Rex? And then we drop them into this science fiction film that they’re like, What?” Docter said. “Even if they’ve read the material in press, it was just a little too distant, both in concept, and I think in the way that characters were drawn, that they were portrayed. It was much more of a science fiction. And Angus, to his credit, took it very seriously and genuinely and wanted to represent those characters as real characters. But the characters in ‘Toy Story’ are much broader, and so I think there was a disconnect between what people wanted/expected and what we were giving to them.”

This rationale makes sense – for fans like myself, who understood the film’s premise, and were excited to see a new version of Buzz and add more depth to his story, it wasn’t a problem. But the general public isn’t anywhere near as invested in the intricacies of Toy Story as the franchise’s dedicated fans are, and I can see how it might have been confusing to a casual observer. (Of course the unnecessary hate that was heaped on Lightyear by the culture war perpetrators didn’t help it either.) I will say, though, that as much as my family and I enjoyed Lightyear, and went into it knowing it was Buzz’s story and his alone, I did miss seeing the rest of the gang.

Now, hopefully, we’re going to get to revisit that old gang after all! There’s still so much we don’t know, but right now I’m just happy in the moment that we’re getting another movie. Toy Story 5 news is going to be light for a while, I’m sure, but I’m already having fun on the search.

Credit to this great find goes to my longtime fangirl friend Amanda! We’ve known each other since ‘Toy Story 3’ days, and are so excited to share the emotional rollercoaster of waiting for another new Toy Story movie. I always appreciate when she’s willing to dive into the cesspool of the internet to help find actual good info amidst all the trolling and negativity. Be sure to give her a follow on Instagram and check out her Saturday Morning Serial podcast!

Image © Pixar, edited by me.