First Came “Cars.” Now Pixar Gives You… PLANES

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“Toy Story 3” recently became the highest grossing movie in Pixar’s short (but mind-bogglingly successful) existence, with over $360 million in ticket sales in America alone. But that gross is small potatoes compared to the whopping five BILLION dollars in merchandising generated by “Cars,” the 2006 Pixar smash hit. And so it was only a matter of time before Disney and Pixar decided to make a sequel to “Cars.” What may surprise you is that it appears Pixar will also, in addition to a sequel, make a direct-to-DVD spinoff of “Cars” as well about… drum roll… PLANES. From Mike Sampson:

Eager to cash in on the lucrative direct-to-DVD market, Pixar is apparently developing PLANES, a movie very similar to CARS, except with planes as the anthropomorphic characters.

Disney has churned out hundreds of direct-to-DVD animated films over the years. And if you have children, you know just how terrible those half-assed sequels usually are. Just try and sit through “Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True” if you don’t believe me. Once upon a time, “Toy Story 2” was going to be a direct-to-video sequel before the folks at Pixar decided to protect the franchise by making it into a full feature effort.

Sampson says “Cars” director John Lasseter (who is now the Chief Creative Officer at Disney) shut down the budget sequel pipeline at the studio, which means “Planes” would be something of a reversal for him. “Planes” would, in theory, be its own franchise, with all new characters and no real relation to “Cars,” except for sharing the idea of talking vehicles as characters. But it’s clear that Disney is hoping for the same kind of merchandising bonanza from this movie that it got from “Cars.”

By producing the first direct-to-DVD Pixar movie, Disney is also clearly hoping to create a precedent for Pixar to make more movies like this, and on a cheaper budget. And having the Pixar brand on this kind of movie would be a way of letting consumers know they aren’t getting just another cheap knockoff. In theory.

“Cars” is, at least in my opinion, the worst Pixar movie: a legitimately lousy movie that feels like it was derived from a marketing document and not a storyteller’s inspiration (even if that wasn’t the case). It’s the studio’s “Shark Tale.” Everything about it is predictable and familiar, and so it’s worrisome to me that the first direct-to-DVD movie from Pixar would be a spinoff of the only bad movie they ever produced.

But let’s face it: Pixar’s miracle run of hits will have to end at some point, and they may as well have it happen it on DVD, away from the spotlight of feature filmmaking. So get ready for lots of aviation puns and wise old Cessnas. “Planes” is coming to your Wal Mart pretty soon. After that, anything is possible. TRAINS. WAGONS. BIKES. Anything that moves, people.

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