Monday, May 27, 2013

Movies: Pixar at 10 - How Their First Ten Classics Stack Up

The Bottom Line:
Pixar entertains
Even subpar ones are good
Love every one

It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since we were introduced to Woody, Buzz, and the gang in Andy's room.  In that time, hand drawn animation has been on life support as everyone has rushed to cash in on the popularity of computer animation.

But very few of those movies get what Pixar has done so well - give us stories that entertain us populated with characters we truly care about.  That is why all 10 of Pixar's animated movies have been worldwide hits.

This summer, Pixar returns to the old gang for Toy Story 3.  And while we anxiously await the final chapter with these beloved friends (3 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days as of this writing, not that I'm counting or anything), let's take a look back at the movies Pixar has already released and see how they stack up.

This was a very hard list for me to put together.  The top two and bottom two were obvious, but their positions are fluid.  And the other six movies?  While I think this is how I would rank them, this could all change depending on which movie I've seen most recently or which one I want to see again.

10. Ratatouille
I know, I know, everyone loves this film about a rat who dreams of being one of the great chefs of Paris.  And it is a good film.  Pixar has yet to release a truly bad film.  But I felt this movie tried to take on one sub-plot too many, weakening the film overall.  Still, there are some great laughs and the visuals are stunning.

 How can you not love this little robot?  WALL-E is left behind on earth and tasked with cleaning up the pollution left behind by the humans.  But over the centuries, he starts to get lonely and curious about those who left him behind.  I find the first half of the movie a little slow, but once it gets going I truly enjoy the themes that come through in the end.

8. The Incredibles
While most people think director Brad Bird is a genius, I'm not completely sold on his films.  (Notice his two Pixar movies are already on my list).  I've got to admit I enjoy The Incredibles a lot more now than I originally did.  This tale of superheroes sued into hiding is ripe with laughs and great action.  It will keep audiences of all ages entertained.

7. Toy Story
The one that started it all, at least for Pixar.  (Hey, is Snow White if the one that started it all for Disney, this fits here.)  The animation, especially of the humans, is very dated.  But this film still entertains in spades because the characters were sharp and the themes universal.  This also introduced a Pixar staple I call "The climax that will not quit."  Just when you think things are under control, they throw another twist at you that puts the characters we love in danger yet again.

6. A Bug's Life
This film has sadly been overlooked already, and I'm not quite sure why.  Again, the animation is dated, but that's only a fault of how far computers have advanced since it was released.  The story of an ant who sets out to rid his colony of the neighborhood bullies (in this case grasshoppers) with warrior bugs and an inventive idea or two is absolutely fun to watch no matter how many times you've seen it.

5. Toy Story 2
If the conventional wisdom is that sequels are always the inferior product, Pixar proved that in the right hands, a sequel can actually be better.  How did they manage that?  They didn't simply retread the original like many sequels do.  Instead, they took the characters we love, threw some new ones into the mix, and then gave us an entirely new adventures.  By expanding the universe, it made it feel like a natural next adventure.  And, of course, the fresh jokes certainly don't hurt things either.

4. Finding Nemo
Sometimes, one character makes a film.  In this case, that character is Dory, the forgetful sidekick played by Ellen DeGeneres.  While the story of a father frantically searching the ocean for his son who has been kidnapped is fun, it is Dory's antics that keep me laughing no matter how many times I watch it.  Some of the other minor characters, like the sharks who are trying to stop eating fish and the surfer sea turtles, also provide great laughs.

3. Cars
I know many people who think this is a weak film.  Yes, we've seen this basic plot before.  But that doesn't make the story of a race car who gets reminded of what is really important in life any less fun.  One of the big reasons the film works so well is because of the creativity shown.  Every little thing has been redone in this film to fit the car theme.  The animation is breathtaking.  And there are enough laughs to keep anyone entertained.

2. Up
Again, a controversial choice.  This movie is darker than any of the other films here since it starts out with a character dying in the first 10 minutes.  Yes, I was wiping tears the first time I saw it.  But the message that comes out of the sadness more than makes up for it.  And the humor picks up as the story progresses, making for a lighter movie overall.  Plus, where else can you fly a house to South America?  It is simply too cool to be any lower on the list.  Squirrel!

1. Monsters, Inc.
All I need to hear is Boo say "Kitty," and my heart melts.  Again, creativity is front and center as we are taken into the world of our closets to see what those monsters we always knew were lurking there are really like.  Full of imaginative laughs and truly heart tugging moments, you can't go wrong with this movie.

Now I want to sit down and have a Pixar marathon.  If you don't hear from me for a while, don't send help.  I treasure every moment I spend in the imaginative worlds that Pixar has created for us.

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