Way back in 1995 with Toy Story, Pixar introduced itself as a titan in 3-D animation, masterful storytelling, and a great world. These aspects have greatly evolved since then but in those years there were a couple of movies that really didn’t push the exploration of what Pixar had to offer. This article takes a look at the greatest and not-so-great of Pixar. Note: Any multiple films of the same series on this list, will be counted as one film.
Great: The Toy Story Trilogy
The first Toy Story movie is what established Pixar. The first movie established a wide array of memorable and likable characters, humans and toys alike. And each movie gave a legitimate dilemma with the toys’ relationship to their owner. Many people who saw the Toy Story trilogy were Andy’s age and it makes these conflicts all the more relatable and interesting. On top of that even the villains have some level of understanding to them even though they are trying to force their views onto the heroes. The toys are toys but the dilemmas they face very much humanize them whether it is favoritism, insecurity, belonging, or friendship. These stories are simple but they’re timeless in the way they connect to us. With each movie the dilemmas evolved and so did the animation. It is amazing how much the textures of the toys and the designs of the humans look so much more polished than way back in 1999.
Only Pixar can make the world of the dead look so welcoming, colorful, and vibrant. Just about every visual in this movie evokes warmth through its colors alone. But that’s not the only thing it has going for it. Just about every character Miguel comes across in his journey is literally a walking skeleton and yet they are so expressive and beautiful. Even though it’s family-friendly and vibrant it goes deep in acknowledging permanent death in a unique way. This movie truly serves as a testament to Pixar’s sophistication that will never go away.
For a while this was my favorite Pixar movie…and then Inside Out came. But make no mistake: this movie is still one of Pixar’s greatest. The first ten minutes alone encompasses so much d emotion through virtually no dialogue at all. It’s a beautiful but sad sequence and one that pretty much could be an entire movie. But that’s not all it has going in its favor. Even after all that it still showcases the fun and dramatic elements through the characters. On paper the story sounds rather silly, and in some respects is but it balances it out with some great bonds between Mr. Fredricksen and young Russell. Both of these elements play perfectly with one another allowing the viewer to get invested in the story and root for the characters. The love and friendship is just amazing. This is one of those movies that proves that in the world of animation, adventure is out there.
Great: Finding Nemo and Finding Dory
Finding Nemo set itself off on a heavy note with clownfish Marlin pretty much losing his wife and all but one of his children to a barracuda. The one child he has left, he of course calls Nemo. Understandably he’s overprotective of young Nemo and big shock that backfires. In Marlin’s quest to rescue his son, he comes across blue tang name Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss. It’s a gag that could easily get annoying but they play the gag rather well. This movie took a big chance in the drama factor in how serious it could get not only with its characters but also its environments in both the sea and the land having many dangers and allies. The characters Nemo, Marlin, and Dory meet are also very colorful and creatively animated and personified. I wish the sequel explored more on them. While the lesson isn’t exactly subtle, it was more for adults, which at the time was pretty impressive.
Finding Dory while it didn’t exactly demand to be made is still an impressive movie while it has fewer colorful characters than its predecessor the new characters still give the same likable life as the first movie. In fact the old comic relief characters of this movie are pretty much cameos giving this movie some new life. Not only do they play Dory’s short-term memory loss for laughs but also drama. This did what Mater in Cars couldn’t in holding a film with the comic relief. And it dives into the hardships Dory has with her short-term memory loss falling apart and being lost and alone at times. There’s also the mystery of her parents. Even though it was nice to see Dory reunite with her old family and have her new family be a part as well, I honestly thought they would go the dark route with them and honestly that wouldn’t have felt out of place. It has great visuals of the sea that are associated with the first movie but the aquarium is amazing in just how big it is despite being smaller than the sea. It gives way to the movie’s jokes and overall beauty. The movie not only works as a sequel but also its own movie.
Great: The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2
In both movies’ portrayal of a superhero family it packs wit, character, genius writing, and outright amazing animation when it comes to the world of superheroes. It feels like a legitimate comic book movie in its storytelling, characters, and animation. In fact I daresay this is the Fantastic Four done right. While the family is made up of superheroes it takes time to go through relatable problems of glory day nostalgia and parent-child relationships. And it gives way to the aforementioned great writing particularly with it being in the superhero sense. These movies have so much potential and capitalize on a lot of it but there is so much more that I personally think Pixar is not seeing with this. These movies blend the best of a family sitcom and super heroism making for an all around enjoyable movie.
Rats and food: Only Pixar can make an idea like this so captivating. The movie shows the power of food and how it can give art, identity, and passion. It takes the saying “you are what you eat” to a whole new level with who you are, who you once were, and who you may turn out to be. And it uses that message of food to channel a message of individuality and following your dreams. Not only does it do this but gives audiences a new outlook on different kinds of food. Anton Ego’s words towards the end of the movie pretty much say it all.
This is an amazing science fiction movie and a great Pixar movie overall. Neither Wall-E nor Eve have much in the way of dialogue and yet the love story between the two is still a thing of beauty and you truly feel the life in the both of them. It’s also a well-told cautionary tale of hazards of human consumption and destruction but not to the point that it becomes heavy handed. It asks various interesting questions such as what does it mean to be a robot in a trashed Earth? What does it mean to be human? Where and what does it mean to be alive? It shows that we can change things as we see fit and although we can’t change the past, we can make the future better. That’s quite a message to send to an audience for both kids and adults.
Great: Inside Out
This movie took a relatively already used idea in cartoons and did so much with it. It’s not only funny but also dramatic and can relate to any kid or adult. It talks about several hardships when it comes to coming-of-age such as what has to be sacrificed and replaced with more important things in life. Each emotion plays to developing Riley and balances heartfelt and humor just as the emotions balance out each other. The movie perfectly rationalizes and healthily portrays every emotion in as long as each one is kept in check. In doing all this it’s a perfect mix of imagination and realism. Both the emotions and humans coincide with one another, serve a vital purpose, and breathe an enjoyable and emotional life.
Not So Great: Monsters University
This prequel of how Sulley and Mike meant has some good humor and heart but its world is pretty much basic college just with monsters. In the first two thirds, the plotlines and the characters are rather predictable having been done in numerous 80s movies with a clash of the smart kid and jock, an underdog and his team of outcasts and misfits that have to work together to be the best team at a tournament despite the fact that they all look doomed to fail. The only surprise comes towards the last third where and it comes to a bittersweet ending that has an underrated moral. While the monsters have some impressive animation and designs, its characters and storytelling don’t do it justice.
Not so Great: Brave
Pixar’s attempt to give us a princess meant well but didn’t really do its best in execution. It gave us an interesting world of Medieval Scotland but it really has so much wasted potential. We didn’t really have much time to learn much about Merida other than her desire to live life the way she wanted and her mother who wasn’t having it. They tried to make Elinor as a bear to be a villain, which could have been done well but felt like it was done at the last minute. But the movie has a great soundtrack and animation. There’s a great movie in it but it’s buried underneath a lot of average material material.
Not so great: The Good Dinosaur
This movie has some dazzling backgrounds to the point that the landscapes almost look realistic. Unfortunately the design for the dinosaurs does not clash at all with these backgrounds. On top of that the movie doesn’t weave in natural emotion and it feels rather forced more in its style and less its substance. The story is simple and there’s nothing wrong with that but the characters aren’t nearly engaging enough to drive it. This movie went through several major changes behind the scenes over the course of several years so it’s no surprise that the movie is what it is. It’s a movie with good intents but not super entertaining.
Not-So Great: The Cars trilogy
The Cars trilogy is easily Pixar’s worst set of movies. It’s quite questionable why there were sequels when while the original Cars movie was way below Pixar’s standards. It in no way came close to Pixar’s best. No matter how the cars look or how much excitement tries to ignite in its races, the cars are still only cars. In movies like Toy Story, each toy brings some sort of individuality in their design, personality and how they are played with. Here these cars are mostly just vehicles with a pair of eyes on them and there’s not much unique personality you can bring out through a car. No matter how much this movie tries to dazzle with its flashy animation, it’s difficult to care about any of the characters because a car is still a car. There’s not much of legitimate layered humanity in any of these movies. It can entertain some kids and has some good messages but just about every concept in these movies has been done leagues better in other Disney, Pixar, and just overall movies.
Are there any movies you disagree with on either list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.