Ranking the Best & Worst Pixar Movies

How is it that a movie studio that produces kid’s films can be responsible for so many of the best films in cinema?

Twenty years ago, that question would be directed at Disney. Now it’s more likely to refer to Pixar, Studio Ghibli, or even Dreamworks of late. What is it about children’s entertainment that has, time and time again, managed to capture the hearts and minds of adults as much as it has their offspring?

Perhaps it’s a result of these films rekindling our lost sense of childlike wonder and naively adventurous spirit. Perhaps it’s their universally accessible narrative simplicity, always ready to charm away our worries with the awe-inspiring visual splendor through which these tales are so often told.

Whatever the case may be, with thirteen films under their belt, the Pixar formula is one that’s proven itself to leave a lasting impression, transporting us to spectacular, gorgeously rendered and thoughtfully defined worlds — second only to the passionately heartfelt and funny stories of family and friendship embedded within.

What’s more, Pixar is able to achieve this mixture while emboldening children to think for themselves; to challenge the status quo; to recognize their true potential, as well as their limitations. As fun and charming and pretty as Pixar’s films are, it’s the complex ideas and emotions they explore that makes them truly special, affording youths the opportunity to confront the realities of the world around them in a way they can understand and cope with. While everyone else is content to pander to kids, Pixar knows that the best way to communicate with children is to treat them as equals.

But equality is not a trait shared by the current roster of Pixar films. Despite the technical virtuosity on full display with every production, it takes a lot more than stunning animation to make a film great, and that’s not a balance that Pixar always strikes — at least not recently. At one point it may have seemed like the studio could do no wrong, but that was a short-lived romantic notion, and hardly one that merits much deliberation. No, far more instructive would be to scrutinize their missteps in conjunction with their successes, and try to determine what exactly it is that makes any one of their works richer than the other. After all, what better way to understand what makes a story great than to study the best? Read More »

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Brave Logo Art

This weekend saw the release of Pixar’s latest film, Brave, a movie that easily won the weekend, garnering an overall “A” CinemaScore from appreciative audiences. Still, at only 74 percent on RottenTomatoes (Pixar’s second worst), and a 7 out of 10 from Germain Lussier, it is clear there is a bit of room for dissent.

Out there in audience-land, did you notice something a little “off” about Brave? Perhaps there are lessons that can be learned, or conversations to engage in?

To provide some context, and on the off chance we have completely different taste, here are my top five Pixar efforts:

1. WALL-E
2. Up
3. Toy Story
4. Finding Nemo
5. Monsters, Inc.

Until now, the only Pixar film I flat out didn’t enjoy was Ratatouille, though I admit to only having seen it once, and folks say I’d like it much more if I were to re-visit. Even Cars 2 had redeeming qualities. I can truly say I’ve never found a Pixar film entirely lacking, and that statement includes Brave. There’s no question the film had amazing visuals, setting a new standard for excellence within the animation genre. Unfortunately, the story lacked a bit of … what’s the word I’m looking for? Ooomph. As such, I’m compelled to break down where I feel the problems were, if only to restore everyone’s favorite animation house to the glory they so richly deserve.

One final note, just to head off the obligatory “comparing Brave to the rest of Pixar’s work isn’t entirely fair” argument, we’re in complete agreement there. It’s not fair, and in many ways Pixar’s own ambition and commitment to excellence have raised the bar for all movies. So no, Brave isn’t a bad movie on merit, it’s merely an average one, which animation houses make all the time without compelling anyone to write a 3,000 word article on the subject. But within the greater context of Pixar’s previous work, Brave does come up short, and I think we’ve got a bead on the reasons why.

Note: Massive SPOILERS follow, naturally.

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In the Summer of 1994, while deep in production on their first feature film Toy Story, the key Pixar creatives (including John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Joe Ranft) had a now famous lunch in a diner called Hidden City Cafe in Point Richmond. During this lunch meeting they ended up brainstorming the ideas that eventually became the films A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and WALL-E. The story has become mythical, a part of film animation legend and a cornerstone moment in Pixar’s history. It was even featured in the teaser trailer for Andrew Stanton‘s WALL-E.

Sadly, the cafe has closed its doors after over 20 years of service, with unconfirmed reports that it was shut down for rats (Ratatouille anyone?).
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Selling a 3D movie through 2D technology (like our computer screens) always presents a bit of a challenge, but even more so when it’s a 3D converted movie of a 2D film that first came out nine years ago. After all, there’s no new dialogue or footage to pick over, and little insight to be gained by watching a new cut of the trailer.

Fortunately, in the case of Pixar’s re-release of Finding Nemo, the tale is already so charming in any number of dimensions that it’s still a treat to watch Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) navigating the wild waters, even if we’ve seen it all before. Watch the trailer after the jump.

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Andrew Stanton‘s new film, John Carter, is bound to cause a lot of dissension among film fans. Some will love its epic action and incredible visuals, others might be put off by its dense, plot heavy structure. No matter which group you fall into, though, there’s no denying that Stanton has a true talent as a story teller. Case in point: Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Toy Story 1-3, Monsters Inc. and more.

Stanton put that reputation to the test recently, taking the stage at TED to give a talk about “The Clues to a Great Story.” Unlike his Pixar films, his talk does get into some NSFW language. Like the films, it’s enlightening and incredibly watchable. Read More »

‘Finding Nemo 3D’ Teaser Trailer

Out of all the upcoming 3D Disney re-releases, this is the one I’m most looking forward to. Andrew Stanton‘s Finding Nemo, besides being just a flat out great movie, is so incredibly lush and beautiful, seeing it in 3D sounds like a perfect way to enhance the experience. Underwater 3D!

It’s scheduled for release September 14 and a short teaser trailer has been released to remind us of the film’s computer-generated beauty. Read More »

For years I’ve been arguing for the adoption of theatrical 3D, partly as a secret ulterior motive. I believed that the greed over 3D ticket prices would force a change in exhibition which could transform the industry — digital cinema. Without the cost of film prints, independent films could find larger distribution, and one off screenings. We have already seen a surge of special one night only event presentations. And while I’m lucky to live in a city (Los Angeles) where they screen a ton of old classics on the big screen, many people have no choice to see these movies on a small screen. Not that seeing movies on your 60 ince is a bad thing, but some movies deserved to be experienced on the big screen with an audience.

You might be against 3D cinema, but you have to admit that the results will eventually outweigh the negatives. Classic movies will get rereleased, sometimes for one night only, a week, a weekend, or a 3D post conversion rerelease like The Lion King. The success Disney experienced with that film has shown Hollywood there is a market for catelog films.

Years ago Disney presented 3D footage from a 3D converted version of Beauty and the Beast at the movie theater convention ShoWest. I, and most of the audience in attendance, were wowed at how the 3D gave new life to the animated classic. Originally set for a theatrical release, the 3D toon was delayed, and delayed again. The final decision was to release the 3D version on Blu-ray 3D with a one week run at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. They spent years on the conversion, and only a handfull of people were going to see it projected on a big screen. I was lucky enough to attend one of the screenings… and, thankfully, now so will you.

Disney has announced that they will be rereleasing Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and The Little Mermaid in 3D in movie theatres nationwide. I think we can all agree that 3D truly shines in the medium of animation. I can’t wait to experience the beautiful underwater setting of Nemo in 3D. Read the full press release after the jump.

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VOTD: ‘[the films of] Pixar Animation Studios’

For the past seven months, Kees van Dijkhuizen‘s been releasing tribute videos for his yearlong “[the films of]” project, each showcasing the work of a different director via a montage, and we at /Film have been with him since the beginning. For his newest installment, however, van Dijkhuizen chose to go a slightly different route: Rather than select one auteur to focus on, he’s chosen an entire company. Watch “[the films of] Pixar Animation Studios” after the jump.

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