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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Everyone loves M-O. The adorable, tiny, cleaning robot (or Microbe-Obliterato) on the Buy N Large Axiom in Andrew Stanton‘s Oscar-winning film WALL-E was a breakout character for his determination, charm and of course that voice. “Mo.” While the film was in production, Stanton’s team had a real life statue of the character and one day, on a whim, took him to Sears to get a bunch of family portraits taken. That was years ago and, since then, the photos have remained safely on Andrew Stanton’s iPhone. Nowhere else.
Then at last weekend’s Hero Complex Film Festival (read the full recap here) Stanton told the above story and said he’d send out the images for the world to see. He has and they’re awesome, as you can see above. If you’re a Pixar fan, this gallery is insane. Check it out below. Read More »
Featuring a line up that included Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, RoboCop, A Clockwork Orange, Super, Wall-E and Serenity, the 3rd annual Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival was held this past weekend. Each film was accompanied by one or two prominent guests who all gave fascinating behind the scenes facts about their films as well as info on some upcoming projects.
It was a great weekend to be a fan of movies in Los Angeles and, after the jump, you can read dozens and dozens of behind the scenes facts from all those movies as well as Zack Snyder‘s update on Man of Steel, Simon Pegg talking The World’s End and Star Trek 2, Peter Weller‘s feelings on a RoboCop remake, Malcom McDowell‘s thoughts on The Avengers, James Gunn‘s thoughs on the similarites between Super, Kick Ass and God Bless America, Andrew Stanton‘s statement on possible Pixar sequels and Nathan Fillion‘s casting choices for Uncharted. Read More »
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Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012 by Angie Han
Even as we dive into the heart of the summer movie season, some of the most promising imminent releases could be titles that aren’t new at all. Pixar is re-releasing four of its recent hits — Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, Up, and Wall-E — into AMC theaters for four days over Memorial Day weekend, from May 25 through May 28. The films will be be up against the horror Chernobyl Diaries and the sci-fi sequel Men in Black 3. Yeah, given those options, I may just opt to revisit one of the Pixar classics too.
Especially since tickets will be going for as low as $6 each. Considering that regular screenings generally cost twice that in my area, that’s quite the bargain. Further sweetening the deal, each screening will also include a classic Pixar short and a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at Pixar’s next project, Brave. Head to the AMC website for more info on locations, pricing, and showtimes.
And speaking of Brave, hit the jump for details on its world premiere, which will coincide with the debut of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
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The third annual Hero Complex Film Festival, presented by the Los Angeles Times, is as star studded as ever. Taking place from May 18-21 at Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14, this year’s line up goes from zombies, to cult classics, animation and superheroes. It all begins with Zack Snyder and Robert Kirkman presenting Dawn of the Dead followed by Edgar Wright and Shaun of the Dead. Saturday starts with a digitally remastered version of RoboCop with Peter Weller, A Clockwork Orange with a Malcolm McDowell Q&A and finally the hugely underrated Super with star Rainn Wilson. Then on Sunday, Andrew Stanton will present the Oscar-winning WALL-E, Nathan Fillion will present Serenity and finally there will be ‘An Evening With Stan Lee,’ which will feature a screening that is yet to be announced.
After the jump, find out how you can get tickets and more. Read More »
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 »
Richard Sargent has created an illustration featuring 180 robots from movies, tv and pop culture. The Where’s Waldo-like game asks you to find Pixar’s WALL-E. Can you spot him? Click on the image to enlarge! Answer after the jump.
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