Friday, 28 June 2013

Pixar - Worst to Best

'Pixar? What is that?'

Said no one ever. When it comes to Hollywood animation, Pixar are the king of their craft; ever since they released the legendary Toy Story in 1995, they have had a huge influence on the evolution of computer animation and its dominance in modern cinema. With fourteen films produced since their inception, Pixar have since become one of the most commercially successful studios of all time. They've won tons of accolades and the love of many fans and critics and none of these are awarded without thought - the studio deserves all their praise and continues to be the best of the best. So, with their latest hit Monsters University out now, let's take a look back at their filmography; from the worst to the very best...

#13 - Cars 2 (2011)

You saw this coming from a mile away - but the truth is inevitable. Cars 2 was gorgeously animated and occasionally funny, but in the long run it failed to prove itself as anything more than a way to expand its monetary powerhouse of a franchise. I for one enjoyed the first Cars; it was funny and had a heart, but Cars 2 lacks such care for its characters. Mater is the star of the show for no logical reason and his irritating voice and exaggerated idiocy becomes too much within minutes. He's possessive, weird and completely insecure, and this paves the way for a forced and poorly constructed moral that also feels rather condescending. Even die hard Pixar fans have trouble liking this film and I am no exception.

#12 - Brave (2012)

You'll probably find this to be another obvious choice, but it should be noted that I actually really like Brave - and so this is where films aren't at all bad but just not my top favourites. Brave is one Pixar's most appealing films when it comes to visuals; the studio completely rewrote their animation software to create the most complex and realistic graphics possible and this worked to great effect. The story is a little too predictable and sometimes hollow, but it has a heart and an endearing moral alongside plenty of comedy. Not stellar, but still very good.

#11 - A Bug's Life (1998)

If you ask someone to name a random Pixar film, it's likely A Bug's Life will be the last thing they'll say. While it is a pretty forgettable effort from the at the time young studio, it is in no a way a failure; beautiful cutesy visuals help to create a humanoid insect world that isn't utterly terrifying and the script is packed with witty dialogue and a decent level of complexity. It's not a masterpiece, as the story is a little bit bland, but it can't not be enjoyed.

#10 - Cars (2006)

Ultimately seen as the first less than spectacular Pixar film, Cars almost broke the studios line of critical acclaim - fortunately it was still seen as a good film in the eyes of most critics and its sequel ended up being the true offendor. The story of Cars isn't where it slips up; it's the world where it all happens. The fact that automobiles are the living entities is a difficult concept to digest and raises many awkward questions. If you look past this, you'll find Cars is a fun and likeable movie with plenty of jubilant characters; not to mention stellar visuals as usual.

#9 - Up (2009)

When the story for Up first got announced, I was somewhat challenged. It sounded absolutely absurd, but Pixar's ingenuity and stellar execution turned the premise into an enriching animated flick with comedy, genuine emotion and stunning visuals. I sometimes struggled to fully connect with it outside the beautiful first 10 minutes, but the comedic timing is gold and there's still a loving and powerful theme flowing throughout the creative story.

#8 - WALL•E (2008)

What makes WALL•E such an appealing film at first glance is the sheer ingenuity of its premise; Pixar have created an unusual but interesting world to develop a romance but, believe me, it really works. The film contains substantially less dialogue than other Pixar flicks but never was I bored or uninterested in what was unfolding on screen. With the cute protagonist rarely speaking, comedy is created through plenty of witty slapstick and visual gags but is thankfully balanced with the emotional resonance of the plot. A brilliant effort and one that's exceptionally heartwarming.

#7 - The Incredibles (2004)

Though unusually violent and long for an animated film, Pixar's first step into the superhero genre never fails to impress on a visual and narrative scale. The titular heroes themselves are explored flawlessly as they struggle to cope with the pressures of society - and this is joined by some thrilling action sequences animated with suitable intensity. Its runtime is never bloated or dull, and so we have another winner from Pixar.

#6 - Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo is undeniably one Pixar's best known films and one that any random person could name if asked. It was a major hit when first released, earning over $850 million worldwide which for a while made it the highest grossing animated film of all time. It was no different in the eyes of critics either - scoring 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and 89% on Metacritic and loved by audiences of all ages. A story of love and the courage it fuels, Finding Nemo is a powerful, charming and equally funny adventure across a stunningly animated ocean and anyone who dislikes it has no place in modern society.

#5 - Toy Story (1995)

Sure Finding Nemo is iconic to Pixar, but obviously it can't top the unbeatably renowned Toy Story - the very first CGI animated feature film to ever hit cinema screens and one with tons of interesting merits to its backstory. Innovating animated films in terms of storytelling and computerisation, Toy Story was met with huge box office and critical success when released in 1995 and to this day, alongside its sequel, is one of few films to have a flawless 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. All these accolades don't go undeserved: Toy Story is both hilarious and emotionally satisfying, and while its animation can be a little rough, the innovation it pioneered still makes it beyond impressive.

#4 - Toy Story 2 (1999)

A film also able to boast a stunning 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Toy Story 2 is arguably one of Pixar's best films in the eyes of many audiences and for good reason. Like its predecessor, the film truly gets you to care for plastic toys and opens your eyes to a fantastical world where they do come alive and they do feel emotions - paving the way for some powerful themes and morals. It never fails to make you laugh or cry, and so deserves its place as one of the company's best films.

#3 - Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Though the film is critically acclaimed, I still hear some people say Monsters, Inc. doesn't focus on its characters enough and renders them a little too flat. To these people I say: hahaha no lol. Monsters, Inc. is overflowing with creativity from beginning to end, based in a wonderfully unique and clever premise full of loveable characters. Goodman and Crystal perform their central roles with sheer excellence, and the bond developed between Sulley and human child Boo makes an already enjoyable film even more exceptional. An under-appreciated classic whose prequel I'm dying to see!

#2 - Toy Story 3 (2010)

If someone asks you if you were excited as hell for this movie and you say no - you're lying. Simple as that. Originally planned to be written and animated by Disney's short lived Circle 7 Animation studio, Toy Story 3 fell back into the rightful hands of Pixar when they were finally purchased by the house of mouse in 2006. Everything was redone from scratch and moulded into the final product we have today. Toy Story 3 is emotional, hilarious and sometimes very dark, balancing these factors flawlessly to develop a worthy conclusion to a much loved series. It being the first animated film to top $1 billion worldwide is no surprise - it was hyped and loved by any worthy moviegoer.

#1 - Ratatouille (2007)

It may seem like an odd choice as my favourite Pixar film, but I can't help but adore the 2007 hit Ratatouille. Though it scored one of the lowest ever Pixar opening weekends, the film went on to top $600 million worldwide and received glowing reviews from critics and audiences alike. It's a bravely unique tale set in France, where Remy, an ordinary garden rat, dreams of becoming a chef - though of course this is no easy feat for an animal seen as a disgusting pest. His dreams take him on a magnificent and vibrant journey, told with great characters, memorable dialogue and some of the best animation from the studio. My only grudge is how hungry it makes me when I watch it - but we can brush that aside as the film is simply excellent. 

So there you have it - you owe it to yourself to see every film on this list, and though I have yet to see Pixar's latest summer hit Monsters University (sucks to live in the UK), I can only hope it meets my expectations and lives up to its predecessor (or successor?)'s standards! Until next time, thanks for reading!