Toy Story is coming back for another installment, and original film director John Lasseter is on board to direct. The film will be released on June 16th, 2017. This is exciting, if trepidatious news for fans of Pixar and the series: Pixar has increasingly relied on sequels for big hits, while creating great new properties has been put on the back burner. It's likely that Pixar's move toward sequels is in part a result of being owned by Disney, which would rather see Pixar continue to mine its most successful properties — of which Toy Story is perhaps the most loved.
Having Lasseter on board is a great sign
Lasseter tells the LA Times that Toy Story 4 will be a love story that picks up where the previous film left off — with Andy giving his toys to a young girl named Bonnie. The story is being created by Lasseter alongside Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story 3, Pete Docter, the director of Up, and Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo — so this is truly coming from a team of Pixar all stars. They have also all worked on prior Toy Story films.
Stanton and Lasseter have reportedly been working on a treatment for Toy Story 4 over the last two years. During that time, they brought on Rashida Jones, who has starred on Parks and Recreation and The Office, and Will McCormack, who previously wrote Celeste & Jesse Forever alongside Jones, to write the full screenplay. Lasseter reportedly called them in after seeing the film they wrote together, and because he was looking for a strong female voice. "They have such a great sense of character and originality," Lasseter tells the Times. Galyn Susman, who has been producing Toy Story shorts for Pixar, will produce the fourth film.
"We love these characters so much; they are like family to us," Lasseter says in a statement. "We don’t want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what’s gone before. Toy Story 3 ended Woody and Buzz’s story with Andy so perfectly that for a long time, we never even talked about doing another Toy Story movie. But when Andrew, Pete, Lee, and I came up with this new idea, I just could not stop thinking about it. It was so exciting to me, I knew we had to make this movie — and I wanted to direct it myself."
Regardless of your feeling about Pixar's sequels, having Lasseter on board is a great sign. Lasseter's one of the major forces responsible for Pixar's dominance in animation and high quality story telling — same goes for Disney's resurgence in making well-received films. He's currently both Disney and Pixar's chief creative officer, and he previously directed both the first and second Toy Story films. Variety is also reporting that Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are on board to reprise their roles as Woody and Buzz.
Even before today, Pixar hadn't really retired the Toy Story characters. It's brought them back for a pair TV specials and a number of short films, which have been generally well liked. Those specials have been following the toys under their latest owner, which is where one would expect to see them in this fourth film.
Between now and Toy Story 4, we know of at least three other Pixar films. Next year will see both Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, and 2016 will have the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory. That would mean two new properties next year, followed by two years of sequels to beloved properties. Of the four movies, Inside Out is the only one that we really know a good bit about yet: Pixar released a first teaser for it last month, and it's hard not to see it as following in the footsteps of classics like Monsters, Inc.
Watch: The Verge goes inside Pixar