Since 1995’s Toy Story, the computer animation geniuses at Pixar had been a run that can only be described as genre defining.
I was 11 years old when Woody and Buzz came into my life, and the results were nothing short of defining. I became obsessed with movies. The in’s and out’s of their creations. These amazing characters, so richly detailed, were made from computers?
I had always been an inquisitive child, interested in learning as much about things as I could – but I think it was Toy Story that made me a true film nerd. I could tell you as much about Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as I could John Lasseter. And for many many years, Pixar delivered movies that amazed me.
I remember Monsters, Inc. tugging at my heart strings with the adorable Boo. I remember when Toy Story 2 spoke to me as a toy collector at the time, while also showing that sequels can improve on the original. I remember The Incredibles being everything I’ve ever wanted out of a movie, from an amazing score by Michael Giacchino, to being a Silver-Age superhero film that my Wizard-addled mind could only dream of. I remember the amazing short films that came before each movie, packed away in the DVD extras. I remember the shared tears as my family and I watched Toy Story 3 together on Blu-Ray one Thanksgiving.
They were the movies I could talk about and share with anyone – from my film nerd friends, to my parents, to little cousins. You knew that if you paid for your ticket to a Pixar film, you’d be guaranteed an impeccable movie experience.
The less said about the Cars franchise, the better. (I know, kids love it.)
The peak? The amazing three film streak they released from 2007 to 2009. Three films created in the time period where they didn’t know if they were going independent, or staying with Disney. The brillance-out-of-chaos production of Ratatoullie which mixed rats, food and criticism. The apocalyptic yet uplifting Wall-E which warmed our hearts with an adorable robot, while questioning what we’ve done (and may do) to our planet. The love-lorn adventure of Up, mixing some of the saddest animation ever with the bold thrills of pulp – to see what lives BEYOND THERE! I don’t know that there’s been a gutsier trio of films made by any studio or creative force back to back, especially under the guise of “family entertainment”.
They’ve been praised, heralded by animation aficionados as one of the greatest studios ever, spoken in similar tones of the masterworks created by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. They’ve made billions at the box office. They’ve been imitated by other studios such as Dreamworks and Warner Bros. Animation.
…But I worry the sterling reputation has been tarnished, and may not shine again for some time. Since 2011’s Cars 2, something has been off about Pixar. And I’m not sure if – or when – it will turn around.