Over the weekend, Disney confirmed what many of us had expected for months: there would be no Pixar animated short attached to Toy Story 4 in theaters. Now, we have an actual explanation, courtesy of Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera, two of the film’s producers.
Nielsen and Rivera spoke with Yahoo Movies UK to set the record straight:
“The real reason is resources. The people at the studio were all needed to work on feature films at the time. There was a big demand to finish up the last few films, and there just wasn’t the people to make a short.”
This is in line with what I guessed might be the reason just yesterday. The animated shorts are there to give animators something fun to do in between feature films, but they’re not really a priority. If there are a lot of feature-length projects to work on, which are where Pixar makes its money, then shorts are inevitably going to fall by the wayside.
Thankfully, that’s not the full story. Rivera weighed in as well, promising the shorts will return:
“We love the shorts. And we’re continuing to do the SparkShorts, and all that stuff at Pixar, but yeah, it just didn’t line up for this one.”
The optimistic side of me wants to take Rivera at face value on this. I’ve met him in person, and he’s been very straightforward with the press for as long as I’ve followed these movies. But my worry remains: if it didn’t line up for Toy Story 4, then that could mean it won’t line up for some other Pixar films down the road.
Maybe we get an animated theatrical short every so often, but Pixar has a lot on its plate at the moment, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. The box office success of Finding Dory, Incredibles 2, and assumably Toy Story 4 will strengthen the studio’s resources over the next few years, essentially financing the next four original, non-sequel films they have coming.
But as I mentioned yesterday, theatrical shorts aren’t known to be moneymakers. If Pixar can expend its resources on shorts and shows for Disney+, which they can get paid for, then who knows if they’ll have enough time or budget to properly develop a theatrical short good enough to place before their movies? Pixar probably knows, but for now, I doubt they want to raise any alarms unnecessarily.
My guess is that we will get a short of some kind before Onward, but maybe not the other Pixar film coming out in 2020. This might be the start of a more gradual phasing out of the short films, or perhaps a more inconsistent release schedule determined by how many animators Pixar hires or recently hired. These are details only they are keenly aware of at the moment and likely planning out for the next five or six years. So we won’t know what’s really going on anytime soon.