This actually really sets my mind at ease about the process behind and prospects for Star Wars Episode VII:
Months before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney and plans for new Star Wars movies were announced, Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt was hired to write a 40-50 page treatment for Episode VII, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. Arndt, the Oscar-winning scribe behind Little Miss Sunshine, has completed a treatment for the new movie and is likely to pen a draft of screenplay.
The Toy Story franchise is, to a certain extent, an obvious — but until this point, overlooked — analogue for the Star Wars universe. That was a story about toys brought meaningfully to life, and the ways in which their personalities were limned by their corporate programming, but also about the fact that they were able to transcend them in the name of larger goals like friendship, safety, and deep and abiding love. The Star Wars characters and movies went through a rather different trajectory: they started out as deeply human, were entombed in plastic both literally in the proliferation of toys that extended the franchise, and figuratively given the woodenness and pandering of the prequels. Arndt’s found deep humanity in actual plastic before. He could do it again.
More broadly, Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine are among the most genuinely sincere cultural artifacts to take hold in a big way in recent memory, and movies that respect children’s ability to absorb a lot of difficult stuff. Lots of folks remember how weird the family in Little Miss Sunshine was, but it’s fundamentally a movie about pain and utter commitment. Paul Dano’s agonized silence in that movie is as dark as any of Hayden Christensen’s pouting in Episodes I-III. The movie itself isn’t really for children, but it’s a movie that respects Abigail Breslin’s character’s ability to reckon with death, depression, even the prospect of her own humiliation. And it’s a film about resisting enthusiasm and finally giving into it. Toy Story 3, by contrast, lives in that space of utter commitment to its emotions, trusting children to reckon with the prospect of abandonment, betrayal, death, and moving on, and grown-ups to be emotionally open to a story about those ideas without needing to be heightened by any of the folderols that are supposed to make a story “adult.”
That is where Star Wars‘ sweet spot is: big, sophisticated, difficult-to-confront emotions that challenge kids just enough and make adults remember what it was like to be awed by the world. If Disney’s looking at Arndt, or folks like him, it seems more likely that they recognize that.