The top 10 Pixar films. By Simon Miraudo.
Pixar has established itself as the most reliable studio in Hollywood, churning out critically-acclaimed blockbuster after critically-acclaimed blockbuster; collecting 11 Oscars, more than $7 billion at the theatrical box office, and inspiring an infinite number of tears (both joyful and sorrowful) from adults and children alike. Selecting and ordering ten favourites out of their 13 releases (from 1995′s Toy Story to their most recent, Brave) was the film-lover’s equivalent of a Sophie’s Choice (but, you know, without the horrible consequences). We love you all!
10. A Bug’s Life
Considered something of a let-down after the groundbreaking Toy Story, their second feature, A Bug’s Life, squeezed into cinemas a mere month after DreamWorks Animation’s suspiciously similar Antz. But Pixar proved that a superior product will always trounce the competition, and their wonderful take on Akira Kurosawa‘s Seven Samurai is remembered today as one of the studio’s underrated success stories (well, as underrated as something that grosses more than $300 million can be).
9. Toy Story
Director John Lasseter and his team of animators set the bar high (somewhere just beyond infinity, actually) with the first ever entirely CGI-animated feature, Toy Story. The film was retooled late in production when cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) seemed like too much of a jerk to naive spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). For their troubles, the innovative picture won a special Academy Award, and the screenwriters (including future directors Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Joss Whedon) picked up an Oscar nomination too.
Monsters, Inc. was Pixar’s fourth film in seven years. Thank heavens we don’t have to wait that long between innings today. Billy Crystal and John Goodman voiced kindly monsters Mike and Sulley with real heart and humour, though they had the pic stolen out from under their giant feet by baby Boo. A prequel, Monsters University, arrives next year.
7. Toy Story 3
It’s hard not to think that – at least to some degree - Toy Story 3 was a little unnecessary. After all, its predecessor more than ably dealt with themes such as the inevitability of death and the fear of irrelevancy. But director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) didn’t care about our concerns of a third Toy Story potentially visiting an empty well, and totally went for it, delivering the most gut-churning, heart-breaking, and sob-inducing ending of all the studio’s endeavours. With more than one billion in the bank, it proved to be their most profitable too.
6. Finding Nemo
Pixar headed down under for their 2003 flick (and Andrew Stanton’s directorial debut), Finding Nemo. It highlighted one of the studio’s finest talents: recruiting the perfect voice actors for the roles. While other production houses were capitalising on the CGI animation craze by snapping up big name actors, Pixar gravitated towards vocal pros Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres for this tale of a grieving widower desperately looking for his lost son, and also learning to let him go (yes, it’s about fish).
It took Simpsons alum Brad Bird to use the medium to produce a balls-out superhero flick. His family-drama/superhero-spectacular The Incredibles pretty much perfected the action set-piece. And speaking of vocal talent, this one has Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, NPR’s Sarah Vowell, and Pixar’s lucky charm John Ratzenberger as The Underminer. We’d never had it so good.
Peter Docter and Bob Peterson’s Up is a wonderfully funny, Indiana Jones-esque adventure about an old man, a boy scout, and their talking dog. But we all know why it’s entered the history books: for that tear-juicing opening few minutes in which nary a word is spoken, but a decades-long relationship is conveyed. Is there any more touching a sequence in Pixar’s entire filmography than Carl and Ellie’s Frederickson’s marriage montage; from their wedding, to Ellie’s death, with all the obstacles in between? Michael Giacchino rightfully won an Oscar for his haunting, melodic score.
One of cinema’s greatest love stories concerns a couple of animated robots who can pretty much only say their own names. Andrew Stanton’s warnings of environmental devastation are effective, but they’re overshadowed somewhat by the romance between the gawky garbage-compactor WALL-E (doomed to clean the Earth for centuries after it’s been abandoned by humanity) and super-sleek EVE. It’s almost impossible to explain with words just how transcendent this movie is (fittingly, it’s practically silent, recalling Chaplin‘s City Lights). Just watch the ‘Define Dancing’ sequence for visual evidence.
2. Toy Story 2
It wasn’t until their third, Toy Story 2, that Pixar really revealed the magic they were capable of conjuring. Considered one of the most accomplished sequels of all time (damn that pesky Godfather Part 2 for always taking the #1 spot!), it effortlessly fused the humour and camaraderie of the original, and also hinted at some of the darker themes that they would traffic in heavily over the next decade. Remember weeping during Jessie’s “When She Loved Me” song? We didn’t know it at the time, but that was just the beginning of their stranglehold on our hearts.
(Bonus: Musical accompaniment!) Brad Bird took over Jan Pinkava’s troubled production of Ratatouille, and the resulting product wound up as the studio’s most exceptional effort. In fact, we called it the top film of 2007 (sorry, There Will Be Blood) and also one of the decade’s best. The tale of a Parisian rat (voiced impeccably by comedian Patton Oswalt) trying to make it as a great French chef was originally conceived as a metaphor for a gay man coming out to his family. Though that underlying message of exclusion and ultimately inclusion remains, it also stands as a wonderful depiction of an artist’s unquenchable desire to create, and even makes a case for the necessity of art critics (thank you, Anton Ego). It’s also a hilarious farce, a lovely romantic-comedy, and a gorgeously animated feast for the senses. You can practically smell and taste Ratatouille, the most convincing evidence yet that the team at Pixar are in fact warlocks.