Saturday 30 June 2012

Theory: Monsters University Has the Potential to Beat Toy Story 3

A few days ago, I posted a theory: that Pixar's purportedly shelved film newt, wasn't in fact cancelled, but rather, just hibernating. A couple of weeks ago, the first teasers for the Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University, appeared online, to a huge response. "Monsters University" trended on Twitter, worldwide, all day, and fans across the web and across the world were enthralled. It really struck home for me, once again, how insanely popular Pixar is, and how Monsters, Inc. is one of its most beloved properties.

Back in 2010, after an 11 year break since Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 arrived in cinemas, and went on to become the highest grossing film of the year, the highest grossing animated film of all time, and the 5th highest grossing film worldwide, ever (now down to 8th). This got me thinking, it'll have been almost 12 years since Monsters, Inc. when Monsters U premieres, so: does Monsters University have the potential to out-gross Toy Story 3?

The Pete Docter directed 2001 original was, at the time, Pixar's highest grossing film - before being wiped out by Finding Nemo in 2003. As well as a huge critical success (although it did lose out on the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature to DreamWorks' Shrek), Monsters, Inc. was very, very successful commercially too; it remains the studio's funniest film and continuously shifts a lot of merchandise. Positive word of mouth and Pixar's ever increasing prestige meant that it took over half a billion dollars worldwide - most of that actually in territories outside of the United States.

To put that into context, Toy Story grossed much less than that - around the $360 million mark - and Toy Story 2 grossed, whilst more than the first, less than Monsters, Inc. eventually would. Yet, after an 11 year break from the Toy Story universe, Pixar returned on top form, grossing over a billion dollars, and wiping out all competition for the year. So, by sheer numbers alone, a follow up to Monsters, Inc. should be bigger.

Admittedly, there is the affect of inflation and increased prices for 3D tickets to consider, as well as the exponentially increasing popularity of Pixar - and Toy Story in particular - that would certainly contribute to a huge affection for the threequel. Nonetheless though, Monsters, Inc. is one of Pixar's most beloved films, and we should remember as well that the audience had already seen a sequel to Toy Story, in 1999, so they had already returned to that world. Whereas, by this time next year, it'll be almost 12 years since Monsters, Inc., 12 years in which we've seen (apart from the short film Mike's New Car) no follow up - no sequel. That alone has to amp up the anticipation, which always translates nicely to box-office receipts.

That, and it promises to be a great film. Returning the fantastic characters we love to the big screen in an entirely new fashion for Pixar, a prequel, will surely be a hit with audiences. And Pixar are presumably hoping the mix of Monsters, Inc. nostalgia and the familiar college setting will draw in the older teenage viewers. New director Dan Scanlon (Mater and the Ghostlight) also promises to bring a sufficiently different feel to the prequel, setting it apart tonally, yet staying true to the roots of, the first film.

Despite all this though, does Monsters University have what it takes to top the colossal feat of childhood memories, decades of nostalgia, fantastic scripts and worldwide affection for the films that was Toy Story 3? It's not an enviable task.

Let's not forget as well, that, even if it doesn't dethrone Toy Story 3 (it is sitting fairly comfortably after all), Monsters University is going to be huge! Sequels and prequels always are. The Avengers is technically a sequel to 5 prior films and that has been a fantastic success - the highest grossing film yet for Disney, third highest in the world and highest of the year so far - and the only films this year that have the slightest chance of out-grossing it are a sequel and a prequel themselves, in the form of The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Both of those films are follow ups to two of the most successful (critically and commercially) film series of all time, but Monsters U may have the slight edge on them for the simple reason that it has a broader appeal. Pixar films aren't made for kids, but they do, without question, appeal to families, with their great morals, innocent humour and spectacular visuals - parents love them for their kids - and the great scripts and genuinely funny characters mean that almost anyone can enjoy a Pixar film.

Cars 2 did well at the box-office too, taking almost $560 million worldwide (up from Cars 1) but the Cars franchise is arguably Pixar's least loved one, so this essentially the first non-Toy Story follow-up to a Pixar film that has been clamoured for by die-hard and casual fans alike. It's almost clichéd to say it, but Monsters U really does have a universal appeal. Also, the aforementioned inflated 3D ticket prices surely bode well for it as well.

We're a way off knowing yet, but it certainly provides ample room for thought. Regardless though, Monsters University is going to make a fortune, and, presumably, be a fantastic film to boot!

What do you think? Can Monsters University dethrone Toy Story 3? Can anything?


  1. Damien/Archibald30 June 2012 at 00:31

    I don't think it will make more money than Toy Story 3. The Toy Story characters seem much more popular worldwide than the Monsters Inc. characters.

    But it will surely make a ton of money and probably (hopefully) end up being the 2nd highest grossing animated film of all time.

    1. Mm, at first glance, I thought it had no chance, but the more I think about it, the more I think it might give TS3 a run for its money.

      Close second for sure I think though!

  2. If there's a sequel that would run TS3 close, it would be The Incredibles 2 (if and when it eventually comes into existence). Monsters Univ will probably not stand a chance to come anywhere near a billion dollars. That's not saying the movie will not be popular - 2.5 million views on Youtube for the teaser illustrates that - but it will probably not gain such strong word-of-mouth to bring in the haul in TS3's magnitude. I just hope for a strong story and a good time at the theatre.

    1. I'd probably agree that Monsters U won't top Toy Story 3, but I think it has a shot at grossing a billion dollars - or close anyway. Incredibles 2 would be huge, but, alas, I doubt we'll be getting it any time soon.

      And yes, I'm sure Monsters University will be a brilliant film regardless!