Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The First Ten, The Best Ten

Everything good must come to an end.

For Pixar, that fact of life seemed not to apply to its first 10 films. Then they were bought by Disney, John Lasseter took around 30 other jobs on top of his main gig as chief creative officer at the animation studios, and the main vision and values that made the first ten films fantastic was lost in dollar signs and work schedules that wouldn't fit into a 10-day week.

I've written about "Cars 2," and how it ruined the studio's perfect record.  Those with taste can agree that the movie abandoned all of the things that make a Pixar film great (intelligence, wit, originality, lack of pandering). It proved that, maybe after the "Toy Story" franchise, Pixar should avoid sequels (we'll see if they get away with the technicality of making a prequel with "Monster's University").

Originality is where Pixar thrives (and another things "Cars 2" lacked), and I hoped that with the original story of "Brave," the studio would return to to it's pre "Cars 2" back-to-back original hits, "WALL-E" and "Up" (Toy Story 3, though a sequel, was also extremely original).

I was let down.

"Brave" was great, but as many reviewers wrote, held to Pixar standars, it was average to below average. It has a 69/100 score on MetaCritic, meaning the majority of its review are positive. "Toy Story" has a 92. The only Pixar film to have scored lower than "Brave" is, you guessed it, "Cars 2."

The same things that made "Cars 2" a failure also made "Brave" below average. All the hype about "Brave" centered around the fact that it is Pixar's first film with a woman in the lead role. You couldn't escape the comparison's to "The Hunger Game's" Katniss Everdeen . Disney princesses have always taken heat for being damsels in distress who need men to complete them (by people who have too much time to analyze entertainment. To blame a lack of feminine power on Disney is lazy and insulting to women. Independent thought it not exclusively a male trait.) so it started to feel like the story was engineered to create PR buzz. 

When you get down to brass tacks, every Pixar film has the exact same story line. Things are good, a conflict is presented, the characters must go on an adventure, there's a chase scene,  the good guys just barely win, and things end up hunky-dory (The three "Toy Story" films have literally the exact same plot). It's the nuances in both the characters and stories that make the films great, and "Brave" lacked those just as "Cars 2" did before it.

"Cars 2" was made because young boys everywhere eat up "Cars" merchandise like it's free candy laced with nicotine. Then Disney has Pixar make a film with a female princess that can sell merchandise to the other half of the adolescent world? Seems suspicious. And most of all, it seems more like a reaction to criticism than pure innovation that's unaffected by what studio heads feel is popular.

I will now turn to the upcoming (hopefully) original films Pixar will be releasing in the near future: The Good Dinosaur and The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind, along with the 2015 Lee Unkrich film inspired by Die de los Muertos. If they are made without pandering and without consideration of how merchadise will sell, they will be great. If not, they'll still be good, but they won't be truly be Pixar.

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