Friday 28 June 2013

Pixar - Worst to Best

'Pixar? What is that?'

Said no one ever. When it comes to Hollywood animation, most will agree that Pixar are the king of their craft; ever since Toy Story in blessed cinemas in 1995, they have had a huge influence on the development of computer animation in every way possible. With fourteen films produced since their inception, Pixar have since become one of the most commercially successful studios of all time. They've won countless accolades and the admiration of many fans and critics; to this day they remain 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 probably saw this coming from a mile away; while Cars 2 was gorgeously animated and occasionally funny, it ultimately failed to prove itself as anything more than a lazy expansion of this monetary powerhouse of a franchise. Unlike the first film, Mater is the star of the show within the cliché and dull story, and his irritating voice and exaggerated idiocy becomes very intolerable very quickly. He's possessive, weird and completely insecure, which then paves the way for a forced and dull narrative moral that also feels rather condescending. Even the most loyal of Pixar fans have trouble liking this film, and I'm certainly no exception.

#12 - Brave (2012)

Brave is actually one of Pixar's most appealing films when it comes to visuals, as the studio completely rewrote their animation software to create the most complex and realistic graphics possible while maintaining a charming and unique aesthetic. Their excellent effort when it comes to such visual design is very clear from the get go, and while the film's story is a little too predictable and sometimes hollow, it still has a heart and some very likeable humour. Far from a masterpiece, but still a good watch all the same.

#11 - A Bug's Life (1998)

If you ask someone to think of a Pixar film, A Bug's Life probably won't be the first that comes to mind. While it isn't the studio's most memorable effort, it has a cast of charming characters and a script packed with witty humour and decent level of narrative complexity. It's charming aesthetic brings to life a humanoid insect world that isn't utterly terrifying to behold, and while it's again not a huge masterpiece, it remains very entertaining even today.

#10 - Cars (2006)

Ultimately seen as the first less than spectacular Pixar film and one that almost broke the studios line of critical acclaim, Cars still received solid reviews in the long run, with its sequel being considered the true offender. The story of Cars is cliché and somewhat forgettable in areas, but it's the world where it all takes place that most view as the film's biggest setback; a world where that automobiles are the living entities, with teeth and even tongues, is a weird concept without a doubt and can raise many awkward questions. Still, if you look past this, you'll find Cars is a likeable movie with plenty of charming characters, and of course the same stellar visuals you'd expect from Pixar.

#9 - Up (2009)

When the story for Up first got announced, I was somewhat challenged. It sounded absolutely absurd, but Pixar's remarkable ingenuity turned a seemingly daft premise into an enriching animated flick that deftly blends comedy and genuine emotion, brought to life with another serving of stunning Pixar visuals. While it can feel somewhat repetitive and overlong at times, it's still a unique piece of work with a powerful theme flowing across its creative and adventurous story.

#8 - WALL•E (2008)

What easily makes WALL•E such an appealing film is the innovative nature of its premise; Pixar have created an unusual world to develop a romantic narrative but in the end it really works. The film contains substantially less dialogue than other Pixar works but never was I bored or uninterested in what was unfolding on screen. The titular protagonist rarely says a word, and so much of the comedy is conveyed through plenty of witty slapstick and visual gags that are perfectly balanced with the emotional resonance and deep themes within the overall story. A brilliant effort and one that's exceptionally heartwarming.

#7 - The Incredibles (2004)

Though unusually violent and perhaps overlong, 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 inevitable pressures of, well, being superheroes; this is joined by some thrilling action sequences animated with sheer brilliance. There's many interesting narrative twists along the way, and the end result is an action packed and highly engaging watch.

#6 - Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo stands tall as one Pixar's most renowned films, quickly becoming a major hit when it arrived in cinemas and ultimately earning the accolade of being the highest grossing animated film of all time. It's a widely loved story with engaging characters, heartfelt themes, and plenty of witty comedy, all within an ocean setting that's stunningly animated from start to end without question.

#5 - Toy Story (1995)

Sure Finding Nemo is iconic, 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 development. Setting new standards for animated films in terms of both storytelling and visual design, Toy Story was met with huge box office and critical success and is widely dubbed one of the best films ever produced, let alone one of the best by Pixar. All these accolades don't go undeserved; it's a hilarious and emotionally satisfying experience, with animation that may look outdated compared to modern works but manages to remain appealing simply when you understand the innovation it all carries.

#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!