In honor of Pixar's latest offering "Brave" being released this weekend, I'm going to take a look at all of what Pixar has done over the years.
This movie holds a special place in my heart because I recall seeing it in theater when I was probably around six years old, maybe a little older. The adventures of Woody, Buzz, and co. were a childhood favorite in my household, and the movie still remains entertaining to this day, with its witty dialogue and memorable characters.
"A Bug's Life"
This movie was another household favorite when I was younger. Inspired by the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, this story takes place among the world of insects. Dreamworks released "Antz" around the same time (which I also saw), but to me "A Bug's Life" was a far better film in regards to its plot and its characters.
"Toy Story 2"
Generally when a movie studio announces a sequel to an excellent film, doubts begin circulating as to whether or not the sequel will be as better than or equal to the original, and most of the time sequels fail in some way. Not so with Toy Story 2, a movie worthy of its predecessor. To this day, my favorite scene is the toys crossing the road inside traffic cones, which still makes me laugh.
In terms of Pixar movies, this one has the most fascinating twist in terms of the plot and world-building. Starting with the basic idea of monsters hiding in closets, Pixar writers showed off their genius by giving the monsters a reason to scare kids: for energy to power the monster world. The cast, especially John Goodman and Billy Crystal, were well-picked and definitely made the friendship between Sulley and Mike memorable, and the little girl Boo is definitely a scene-stealer. The effects for this movie are amazing, whether it be from the details on individual hairs moving on characters like Sulley or from the room where all the bedroom doors are kept. All in all, I've got to say that "Monsters Inc" is one of my favorite Pixar movies in terms of its screenplay, characters, and effects.
In this film, Pixar explored new boundaries in special effects by setting their story in the ocean, off of the coast of Australia. The effects for the coral reef, the movement of the water, and the movement of the fish were very well done, and it shows that the crew definitely did their home on researching the ocean. Even though the plot itself might be controversial among parents because of Nemo's statement "I hate you" to his father, it is an interesting concept: a father chasing his son from the reef to Sydney, Australia to get him back from a diver who "fish-napped" him. The dialogue was humorous, and all the characters are memorable and interact very well. In terms of the effects, this was another high for Pixar.
This was the first Pixar film that did not have the involvement of Lasseter, Doctor, or Stanton, and it also turned out to be the first PG offering. However, "The Incredibles" proved to be a high for Pixar. Using humans for the main characters for the first time, Brad Bird paid homage to superhero films and James Bond by telling the story of a retired superhero who seizes a chance to get back into work, though he soon discovers that the threat is larger than he expected and that he can't do it alone. The writing is humorous, and the characters are memorable and interact well. This is another favorite Pixar movie of mine.
Up until this point, Pixar had proven itself to be head and shoulders above most other film studios, putting out family-friendly movies that were original, humorous, and heartwarming. For me, the trend went down a bit with "Cars." Don't get me wrong; "Cars" is not a bad movie, but it just was not up the same standards of other Pixar greats like "Monsters Inc" and "Finding Nemo." The story was one that has been used several times before: a hot-shot, arrogant person is somehow forced to stay in a small town for a few days and during the process learns humility and completely changes, except that cars were used instead of people. While the movie is still entertaining, it was not as good as earlier Pixar films.
After a slight slump with "Cars," Brad Bird shot Pixar back up with his new offering and reminded audiences why Pixar was so good. Using an original plot (I mean, who thinks up a story about a French rat who loves to cook food?), Bird used plenty of humor and good special effects to give us a very memorable movie. This is another one of my personal favorites from Pixar.
Unlike most of the other Pixar films, I never saw this one in theater because, even though the movie got good critical reviews, I heard mixed reviews from people I knew who saw it. Unfortunately, in my opinion "Wall-E" was a low point for Pixar and their first film that I was not fond of. The effects were good, and there were some redeeming moments, but ultimately I found that the whole environmental/ criticizing modern society message was too overhanded and that the characters and plot were not overly memorable. While the concept was good, I thought it was poorly executed.
After the disappointment of "Wall-E," I was pleasantly surprised by "Up." Even though "Up" is not one of Pixar's best, it still has plenty of redeeming qualities. The plot was fairly straightforward, but there were aspects of the movie that were either just a little strange or didn't really fit in, like the house being carried by balloons or the dogs with the collars that enable them to talk to humans. However, the film had several good aspects that I love about it. The relationship between Carl and Russell is cute and memorable (Russell is one of my favorite Pixar characters), and the talking dogs was entertaining in that the writers definitely got inside the mind of animals and how they think. The eight minutes or so that details Carl and Ellie's married life without the use of dialogue is one of Pixar's highlights, and it captures the love between the two, and the dialogue throughout the movie is also memorable and humorous. All in all "Up" was entertaining, though it was not as good as earlier Pixar films.
"Toy Story 3"
Again, like sequels, a third movie in a series gets people nervous about the quality. "Toy Story 3" was able to stand up to its two predecessors, though in my opinion it was not quite as good as them. The movie had its humorous moments, but at times it was a little intense or even meant for more mature audiences than for children. Not to mention that the plot and certain incidents were very similar to those used in "Toy Story 2," which made this film feel a little too derivative. Still, it provided a satisfactory conclusion to the story that started with "Toy Story."
I admit that this is the only Pixar full-length film that I have not seen and have no interest in seeing. When I saw trailers for this film, I was not very impressed and thought it looked like it was relying on stupid gags for humor, not using witty dialogue and such that has been used in previous Pixar films. After seeing a low score on rottentomatoes.com (a site I frequent to see movie reviews and such, though I sometimes don't agree with their ratings), I was very disappointed to see a Pixar film fail so much.
Pixar has generally had a good run with their films, but in recent years it has made me wonder if the studio is running out of steam a bit. Ever since "Cars," their movies have been hit-or-miss or were entertaining though not as good as earlier films. It does make me wonder what will happen with "Brave" being released this weekend. Watching trailers and such, I have not been overly impressed with the plot, characters, or even the humor, which seems crude sometimes. Maybe the film will turn out better than I think it will, but I do hope that Pixar still has some life left in them before they go down the road of Disney studios: churning out crappy movies while leaving the audience to ooh and awe over the older films that were amazing.
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