It is no secret that Pixar don’t do bad films. They don’t even do good films. They only do amazing films. Almost fifteen years after the groundbreaking Toy Story was released, they have never released a film that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Their tenth feature length film, Up, was released in October, and so we thought it would be an opportune moment to look back at their highs and, well, highs.
And where better to start than the film that started the ball rolling, Toy Story. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost fifteen years since we were first introduced to Woody, Buzz and the whole of Andy’s room, and yet the film still retains the charm that made it such a hit in the first place. The first ever computer animated film set the bar impossibly high – although it was aimed at kids, it had a universal appeal that drew in adults aswell. I know a lot of older people that call Toy Story their favourite film for that very reason. It was a great premise in the first place – the idea of what the toys do when nobody’s around, and the introduction of Buzz Lightyear into the mix made it an exciting, funny and altogether entertaining movie. One of the reasons I personally love this film is the supporting character choices – Woody and Buzz wouldn’t be half as good as they are if it weren’t for Mr Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the Piggy Bank, the toy soldiers, Little Bo Peep, Etch-a-Sketch – the list is endless, and these characters really give the film a depth that some live action films lack, which what makes it so groundbreaking in the first place. And the majority of the audience can relate to these characters because they are toys that they would have played with in their childhood. I don’t need to say how good this film is, really – I honestly believe that it is a film that has defined a generation and will still be watched in many years to come.
It is therefore an impossible act to follow Toy Story, and maybe that’s why A Bug’s Life isn’t remembered with quite as much fondness as Pixar’s original animated feature. However, A Bug’s Life was still a huge success; once again, Pixar succeeded with the interesting characters – life from insects’ point of view is a really interesting concept and it translated to the big screen perfectly. The ant colony, the so-called warrior bugs, and of course the grasshoppers – the obligatory enemy – really made the film stand out. The only major issue for this film, and this has to come down to bad luck, is that Dreamworks’ Antz was released at almost exactly the same time, and they both had fairly similar premises. However, I believe that A Bug’s Life has stood the test of time much better. Although it isn’t revered in the same way as some of Pixar’s other films, it’s hard not to love the story of Flik and friends.
Toy Story 2 was next, four years after the original, and it is in some ways the ultimate sequel. It is generally thought of as a rarity – a sequel that is better than the original – but that just goes to show how magical Pixar Studios are. More great supporting characters are introduced – Jessie, Bullseye and the eventually evil Prospector – and of course there’s the pantomime villian in all this, Al of Al’s Toy Barn fame. All of our favourite toys are back, including Mrs Potato Head – a great addition. The story plays with the ideas that will be brought back this year with Toy Story 3 – what happens when the toys’ owners are too old to play with them? This film is probably Pixar’s finest work to date, and for a sequel, that says something.
Following Toy Story 2 was another of my favourite childhood films, Monsters, Inc. – the story of Sulley and Mike and all of the other residents of Monstropolis coping with a human girl, Boo, entering their world. I loved this film when it first came out, and I could still watch it now. I feel that’s the main quality of Pixar films – you can watch them and re-watch them, even when you’ve grown up so much since you first saw them! The storyline is great in this film, and unbelievably original yet still believable. The whole premise of monsters going through doors to scare kids is fantastic, in my opinion, and Sulley and Mike have great chemistry between them that make this film a joy to watch. A true Disney Pixar classic that cemented the studio’s place at the top table.
Next up was Finding Nemo, the film that is widely regarded as Pixar’s most successful movie yet, and certainly their most successful up to this point. The animation was, as usual, stunning, and the charaters were, as usual, so human – even though they were fish, of course. The film made over $864million worldwide when it was first released, as audiences fell in love with the heartwarming story of a father and his new, mentally challenged friend Dory trying to find his lost son in the vast Pacific. It oozes appeal, and it won the Academy Award for best animated picture. While I disagree that it’s the best animated film that Pixar has ever made, it is definitely up there with the best animated films of all time.
Another one of my personal favourites was next up – The Incredibles. A departure in some ways from Pixar’s earlier films in that this film focused on humans – okay, superheroes, but this is the most human Pixar film so far by some distance. And it was great. The undercover superheroes story really worked, and the film portrayed Mr Incredible aka Bob Parr breaking out of his routine really well. The family element to the film shines aswell, especially with the children that are just coming to terms with their abilities. Dash using his super-speed for sports? Excellent. It’s your classic superhero movie done in a loving way, and it is often not given the praise that it deserves. Maybe it isn’t a classical Pixar film, but it is still a classic film.
Cars was released in 2006, two years after The Incredibles, but I will gladly admit that I never actually saw Cars until late 2009. Why? I don’t really know – I just seemed to skip that film for whatever reason. When I watched it, I liked it – although maybe not as much as the preceding films, so maybe I don’t have quite as much to say about it. It is back to classic Pixar – a solid storyline, likeable characters and no humans to be seen. It wasn’t that memorable to me, though, and so although I’d give it a good grade, I can’t really elaborate much further than that.
In 2007, Ratatouille came out, and again it took me a while to actually see it. I finally managed to watch it on a plane a year later, and again, I really enjoyed it. Although the story didn’t seem like it should work – rats? – it did in true Pixar fashion. The characters were really likeable, and it had a really nice storyline to it, even if it was ridiculously unbelievable. I don’t really know what else to say about this film, but don’t take that as a bad thing – it is one of Pixar’s most successful films so far, without doubt.
Wall-E was an interesting one. Parts of the film had no dialogue, and so the studio’s skills were put to the test to add appeal and chemistry to two robots. And obviously, they pulled it off – were you really expecting otherwise? The animation at the start of the film, introducing us to this world that humans left behind, is amazing, and the interaction between Wall-E and EVE is surprisingly watchable and charming. The storyline flows pretty well, too, even if it does go slightly off-track when the two robots reach the Axiom, the new home of humanity. It is a really interesting film for people of all ages, and I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout. It takes huge inspiration from silent movies, and does it to perfection.
And finally – for now – Up, released in the UK late last year. This is a fantastical story of an old man trying to achieve the adventures that he and his dead wife dreamed of when they were children – which we see in a flashback with some of the most touching animation you will ever see. The animation as a whole is a key point in Up, because bits of it – such as the balloons originally being unleashed and tearing the house from its foundations – are absolutely breathtaking. There is some really nice interaction between Carl, the old man, and Russel, an overeager Wilderness Explorer desperate to get his assisting the elderly badge. Add in some more crazy but classic Disney characters – Kevin, an exotic bird unique to Paradise Falls, and Dug, a talking dog that has an obsession with squirrels – and you get a film that is up there with Pixar’s finest. This film is so human, and has a universal appeal.
Ten films, ten unquestionable successes. And with Toy Story 3 coming later this year, you wouldn’t bet against them significantly increasing that number. Everything they touch turns to gold, producing some of the finest films of our time.Noteworthy 24 January 2010
Tagged as movies, noteworthy, reviews
Great article, very readable. Would have loved to see it appear on Bite, but glad you decided to post it anyway....Brian on 25 January 2010 (1615)
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