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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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:
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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With three uber-successful features over almost twenty-years, Toy Story and its characters have become an instantly recognizable part of popular culture. It’s hard to even hear the words “Toy” or “Story” without thinking of Woody, Buzz and the gang. Many Pixar fans know that “Toy Story” wasn’t always the title of the film, though. Originally, it was just the working title and Pixar was so stumped as to what to call the 1995 original, they posed the question to the entire company. Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story 3, co-director of Toy Story 2 and editor of Toy Story, took to Twitter to reveal some of the good – and bad – titles that could have described the world we’ve come to know as Toy Story. Read them after the jump. Read More »
Posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by Angie Han
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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Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 by Angie Han
We’ve featured a handful of director montages here on /Film recently, and while this “25 Years of Pixar” compilation isn’t quite that, it’s actually pretty similar. In terms of look, tone, and quality, I’d say Pixar is as consistent as many directors.
For the video, NkMcDonalds pulled scenes from works spanning over decades — from ’80s shorts to this year’s Cars 2. If you like Pixar as much as I do, it’ll definitely make you smile and it might even make you tear up a little tiny bit. Watch it after the jump.
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Now that Toy Story 3 has broken all kinds of box office records, it’s time to conquer the home market. While the November 2 release date and extra features had already been announced, today we can finally see what Pixar has in store for collectors.
The packaging for The Ultimate Toy Box Collection (not to be confused with the 1999 Ultimate Toy Box) is now up on its Amazon product page and it’s gorgeous. According to the page, the set will include Blu-rays, regular DVDs and digital copies of Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 which amounts to a whopping 10 discs. Hit the jump to read more about this set. Read More »
Cool Posts From Around the Web:
Pixar loves to hide Easter eggs in their films, little references to movies and characters from the animation studio’s past and future. two years ago we put together a compilation of WALL-E easter eggs, and last year we published a listing of easter eggs in Up, so we decided to do the same thing for Pixar’s latest film, Toy Story 3. We’ve found over 60 easter eggs and bits of fun trivia, our most extensive easter egg feature to date!
If you haven’t seen the film, be warned that this article references and scenes from the film which may be considered spoilers. I’ve tried to keep plot details out of this or vague. All of the screenshots were compiled through trailers, commercials and the batch of clips that Pixar has released to promote the movie (I’m sure there are many more easter eggs hidden in the 80% of the movie not online). Enjoy!
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