Of all the entertainment companies in the world, Disney (NYSE:DIS) arguably boasts the most impressive knack for creating enjoyable, profitable sequels.
And why not? Each of the world's top six grossing films last year were sequels, and at the head of the pack was Disney Marvel's Iron Man 3, which grossed a staggering $1.2 billion in global ticket sales. Meanwhile, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal's Despicable Me 2 trailed a distant second with "only" $935.2 million, followed by Lion Gate's (NYSE:LGF.A) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at $848 million.
In fact, while only three of Disney's 10 films released in 2013 were sequels -- the other two were Monsters University and Thor: The Dark World -- they still accounted for more than half, or $2.6 billion, of Disney's company-record $4.7 billion at the box office last year.
And Disney has no intentions of slowing down, either. In 2014, audiences will be treated to Muppets Most Wanted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Planes: Fire and Rescue. Better yet, Disney has already slated Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Episode VII for 2015. Then in 2016, they've announced both Alice in Wonderland 2 and Finding Dory.
This little robot could be huge
But as long as Disney remains on its sequel binge, here's some food for thought: I think WALL-E 2 should be next.
First, absolutely every character in the original was endearing -- whether a robot, an immobile human being, or that weirdly adorable cockroach. If that wasn't enough, the quasi-dystopian story was at once scary, heart warming, thought-provoking, and hugely entertaining. Best of all, WALL-E's conclusion perfectly sets up filmmakers to take it in virtually any direction they choose to depict humanity attempting to rebuild the planet it ruined.
And besides, it's no mystery Disney Pixar makes great films in the first place. WALL-E was no exception, taking home a slew of awards including both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film in 2009. In case Disney's wondering whether movie-goers would love a follow-up, remember WALL-E also earned a 2009 People's Choice Award for Favorite Family Movie.
What's more, though WALL-E did require a huge $180 million production budget, it still garnered a respectable $521.3 million globally after 28 weeks at box office. That may not sound like much given Iron Man 3's enormous take last year, but keep in mind the first two Iron Man films only earned $585.2 million and $623.9 million in 2008 and 2010, respectively. And yes, I'll admit that's a tough comparison since coinciding characters and storylines from Disney's Marvel brand have made Iron Man all that much more popular.
More pertinent to our Pixar conversation, then, is the fact every follow-up movie Pixar has created to date has proved more successful than its predecessor.
Take Cars and Cars 2, for example, which brought $462 million and $559.9 million globally in 2006 and 2011 -- and that's not to mention DisneyToon Studios was also able to spin off its Planes franchise from Cars last year. Then there was Monsters Inc., which earned $528.8 million in 2001 only to be trounced with a $743.6 million total from 2013's prequel in Monsters University.
Last but not least, consider Pixar's three Toy Story movies, the individual totals from which successively increased from $362 million in 1995, to $485 million in 1999, and finally to an amazing $1.06 billion in 2010.
Here's why WALL-E 2 hasn't happened...yet
So what's holding WALL-E 2 back?
First, shortly after WALL-E's theatrical run concluded in early 2009, writer/director Andrew Stanton insisted he had nothing in mind for the characters going forward. He then elaborated,
We work on these things for so long that we have a hard time simply thinking that the [first] film is ever going to be done. I'm not against sequels, and I've certainly experienced personally and seen secondhand great sequels, but I don't go in with that intent.
However, Stanton has definitely warmed up to the idea since then. When asked about a sequel to either Finding Nemo or WALL-E on Twitter in early 2012, he offered this coy reply:
Today, he's working as the director of 2016's Finding Dory -- a project that was recently pushed back by seven months from its first late-2015 release, after Pixar realized it needed more time to perfect an earlier original film, The Good Dinosaur.
Unfortunately, that means WALL-E 2 won't happen for at least another few years. In the end, however, Disney should have plenty of reasons to make sure it's next on Pixar's to-do list.
Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Twitter and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.