The Best of Pixar

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With the release of the 11th Pixar film, I thought it appropriate to rank the ten other films that Pixar has churned out. What’s different about Pixar compared to other animation studios? The animation itself, while certainly a new and amazing technique and medium, has little to do with what makes Pixar so amazing. What makes Pixar amazing is the fantastic stories they tell. Every film they’ve ever made appeals to both children and adults, but not in such a vulgar subversive was as, say, Shrek from DreamWorks Animation. All of their films have a very dark subtext and are layered smartly. This is what sets Pixar apart and ever since they debuted on the feature film scene in 1995 with the groundbreaking Toy Story, the mile-stick that every other animated film has been measured against. Pixar has broken box office records left, right, and center, including breaking the record for biggest opening weekend in the month of June, with Toy Story 3 taking in an astounding $110 million. So, let the ranking begin!

10. A Bug’s Life

Out of work circus performers are used to impress clan of native people’s fighting off enemies. Very much a thespian story of the importance of acting, and also the importance of being yourself, A Bug’s Life was never a very appealing film for me. After their success with Toy Story, I feel as if the screenwriters tried a bit too hard and only accomplished a very surface wary storyline, instead of the complex and layered plots they would eventually produce. Nonetheless, the film is still good, if not great. Grade: B

9. Cars

Certainly packed with an all star cast, the film that brought John Lasseter back to the director’s seat warmed hearts. It was set in a very familiar locale: Route 66. But what Cars had in warmth, it also had in corny jokes. This is not a problem, as it was a pleasure to see on the screen. The moral of the story is don’t let your ego get too big. It was Paul Newman’s final acting job before he passed away. Larry the Cable guy plays a very obvious comic relief character, Mater, a tow truck that seems to have come straight from Hill Billy Central. Delightful at times. Bonnie Hunt’s voice acting however is a bit bland. Grade: B+

8. Monster’s, Inc.

A wonderfully successful film about the scariest things hiding under your bed, the voice acting from John Goodman and Billy Crystal is fantastic. A very lovable story about what it means to monsters when they scare little kids, the film had true heart and the little girl in the film Boo, is one of the cutest things to ever set foot on screen. The film transcends what it means to confront your fears, it even jumps a whole other level. It remains cute, but it shows the beauty of friendship, and, after all, laughter. A great film! Grade: B+

7.  Ratatouille

This was probably the hardest of the Pixar films to sell to kids. Oh, cooking. In comparison, the other films had much more relatable subject matters. Yay, monsters! (Monsters, Inc.) Yay, fast cars! (Cars) Yay, talking toys! (Toy Story/Toy Story 2) But a cooking rat? The great thing is they pulled it off! The combined great story telling, relatable scenarios for kids and gorgeous visuals makes for an awesome film. Oh, yeah, and food! (I never knew good bread was in the crust.) The cute little rat, Remy, made cooking more enjoyable than it had been for kids in years. Also, this was one of their funniest films. Grade: A-

6. Up

The film starts off really, really depressing, and how can one get kids over that when an important character dies in the first 15 minutes? Well, there’s nowhere to go but Up. Pete Doctor helms this picture with a sweet story and a big scale. The innocence and sweetness pulls this together and it becomes one of the most wonderful pictures ever. The scale of the film is enormous, traveling all the way to South America. But the important part is that it shows you how to find adventure right in your own back yard. Grade: A-

5. Toy Story 2

One of the very few sequels to match its predecessor in quality, the film packs emotion where it needs it and lots of humor. The visuals blaze on the screen and it’s a thrill ride for all. Luckily, however, it’s not as scary. The introduction of the new character Jessie, voiced by Joan Cusack, is welcome as a worthy adversary to both Buzz and Woody. My favorite part remains the montage that Jessie sings, the montage about her past. Sarah McLachlan sings a flawless rendition of “When She Loved Me” by Randy Newman and it brings a tear t one’s eye very easily. Grade: A

4. The Incredibles

As action packed as a mainstream super hero movie, this film is a gem by showing the family structure of a rather super family. Very funny and insightful, first time Pixar director Brad Bird ran the film and it came out fresh and satisfying. All the old clichés are there, but they’re newer, fresher, and more brilliant with the top notch writing and great voice acting. Its snappy score by Academy Award winner Michael Giachinno (who won for Up) is very reminiscent of John Barry. Fantastic and fun! Grade: A

3. Finding Nemo

Going to the Blue Planet has said to have been a pretty easy task, or at least that’s what the animators of Finding Nemo say. But, the gorgeous landscapes and emotion that the fish (yeah, fish) emulate is the best part about the movie. Certainly Ellen DeGeneres deserves props for her awesome voice acting as Dory, the fish with short term memory loss. Nemo remains the highest grossing G-rated film of all time, not counting inflation where Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey takes the crown). A very emotional story about a clownfish whose son is kidnapped and his quest to find him, the notes are all perfectly orchestrated. Check out the credits for Robbie William’s recording of the Bobby Darin classic “Beyond the Sea”.  A very beautiful tale of love and family. Grade: A+

2. WALL•E

Another very hard film for Pixar to sell to kids, WALL-E is the story of a clunky robot who falls in love with a gorgeous new robot. Or, it’s a story of mankind redeeming themselves from years of waste. Or, it’s the story of a man who takes control of his life, his ship, and becomes the captain he was meant to be. All these intertwining stories culminate in a fantastic finale, and together, they are part of one whole beautiful story. Why was this hard to sell? There were barely 30 pages of dialogue. It was all up to the animators and sound designers (including Academy Award winner Ben Burtt, the voice of R2-D2 and sound designer of the Star Wars saga) to show the emotion and represent what was going through the characters’ minds. WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load lifter, Earth class) is a tubby and stout little robot who likes collecting things he finds whilst working. He likes musicals, especially Hello, Dolly! And he the essential underdog and hopeless romantic. The want and the sadness and the happiness that WALL-E feels is shown in his binocular eyes, as the lenses fill with star shine. It’s one of the biggest accomplishments in film and one of the most moving things I have ever seen in a movie. Grade: A++

1. Toy Story

In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios and Disney released a tale of jealousy, greed, and revenge specifically aimed at children. It was violent, loud, and fright filled It was also the first fully computer animated feature film. However the elements of greed, jealousy, and revenge are under the surface of a story that’s about friendship redemption, and dependence, but even so, it’s an important thing to note. Tom Hanks voices Woody, a toy that is put in his place when his place as Andy’s favorite toy is jeopardized with the arrival of a new toy. This new toy, Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear, is a space ranger with all sorts of gadgets on his plastic body. Light as the surface of this film may be, the story behind it is incredibly intriguing. Disney ordered a rewrite of the original script because Woody was such a mean and unlikable character. This movie is about how far people will go to be in the spotlight and how far they’ll go to get that security of knowing they’re the best. Incredible visuals, even today, 15 years after its release in theaters,  it looks amazing. It’s been an enduring classic and even appears on AFI’s list of the 100 greatest films ever made. John Lasseter does a spectacular job as director. An exciting and totally delightful film, Toy Story defies expectations, to infinity and beyond! Grade: A+++

The Top 3

Finding Nemo:

WALL-E:

Toy Story:

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