By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist February 18, 2011 at 3:20AM
Diluting the brand much? One of the great things about Pixar when they first came onto the animation scene is that they abandoned the very practices that watered down the once mighty Disney. Story came before merchandising, and more importantly, the up-and-coming studio didn't diminish their quality features by churning out sub-standard straight-to-video features. Until now. With Pixar now firmly under the Disney umbrella, the merchandising machine is going into overdrive and with good reason. "Cars" alone brings in literally billions a year thanks to branding; last year, combined with box office and merchandising "Toy Story 3" brought in $10 billion. That's no small potatoes.
First up, Pixar will deliver "Planes" in 2013, a straight-to-video feature that is a spin-off from "Cars." The film will tell the story of Dusty, a "small town dreamer" who, despite his fear of heights (tough break for a plane), longs to enter the most epic around-the-world air race. With the help and support of a bunch of new characters, Dusty will face his greatest fear and challenge. Yawn. "Cars" is already somewhat of the black sheep of the Pixar family, and "Planes" sounds well -- exactly like a spinoff. Uninspired and dull.
As for "Toy Story," the franchise is far from over, after the third and "final" feature last summer. With the "Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation" short already set to unveil in front of "Cars 2" this summer, Pixar already has another brand new short in the pipeline for "The Muppets." No word yet on the story of plot, but it's another shot for Disney/Pixar folk to show off the beloved characters and get them in front of the eyes of kids right around Christmas time. Savvy.
Pixar is no longer the new kid on the block. They are a bona fide corporate machine at this point and with "Monsters Inc. 2" already set for 2012, the sequels and spinoffs won't be stopping any time soon. [HitFix/Variety]