The Pixar Lesson

I recently watched the documentary The Pixar Story and I wanted to take a quick post to reflect on the films, the company, and the inspiring story behind it all.

Starting out as a rag-tag team of animators, scientists, and just plain creative minds, the Pixar team (though not originally known as such) were trailblazing an area of animation that most of their peers, and superiors, wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Having grown up in the world of technology, my generation often forgets that most computer advancements are still relatively new. Even now, the field of computer animation is continuously growing and discovering new ways of doing things. When Pixar first came into creation, CGI films were practically unheard of; now, you can’t meet a kid (or adult) who hasn’t seen (AND ENJOYED) one of Pixar’s CGI masterpieces.

While there are plenty of big names currently and previously associated with the company, some of the most influential contributors to Pixar’s initial success include Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and the incomparable John Lasseter.

After releasing their first feature film in 1995,  the studio continues to create some of the world’s favorite family films. So what was that initial film that sparked such success? Toy Story. Massively entertaining for both parents and children, Pixar managed to find the perfect recipe after a number of rewrites and reworkings. Now, Toy Story is a classic that few haven’t seen.

Defying the odds, sticking with a company that originally seemed to be nothing more than a money pit– the creative talents behind Pixar have alway been so dedicated to their jobs. When asked to produce the Toy Story 2 movie in conjunction with their then partner Disney, Pixar found themselves in a bit of a crisis as they faced deadlines they weren’t sure they could make. What’s more, they soon, though not soon enough, realized that the original storyline they were working with was…well…bad. And so Pixar started over, from scratch, despite the insistence of Disney executives that the story was “good enough.” Good enough, however, wasn’t good enough for the dedicated artisans at this amazing studio.

The Pixar Story documentary not only told the interesting history of the company, but reminded me of the role each of those films has played in my own childhood. I can still remember watching all those films– Toy Story, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo— for the first time. While I didn’t truly appreciate their genius when I was younger, they never failed to amuse me. Even now, with each rewatch, as I pick up on the subtle adult humor and painstakingly intricate detail put into the animation, I can’t help but smile and laugh.

In the end, the real lesson that can be taken away from The Pixar Story is intrinsically tied to their parent company Disney’s own mantra:

“All our dreams can come true,
if we have the courage to pursue them.”

-Walt Disney

“Cars n’ Deals”: Pixar works the web

I absolutely love viral movie campaigns, and Pixar has yet to disappoint (see Toy Story 3 social media campaign. No, seriously– click the link and check it out. It’s great!).

The first Cars movie, much like all Pixar movies, received rave reviews and prominently displayed Pixar’s unique ability to simultaneously entertain both children and parents. It’s 5 years later, and expectant audiences are eagerly awaiting the sequels upcoming release.

Trailers have been showing for a while now, promoting the film in the regular way. Pixar, however, is anything but regular. After the success of the Toy Story 3 viral campaign, the company has turned once more to director Chris Cantwell. Together with Pixar, Cantwell has put together faux car advertisement to promote the new Cars film. The video is complete with corny sales pitches, editing gaffes, and cheap-looking production quality. This ‘ad’ makes all those other annoyingly tacky bargain car commercials look award-worthy– and I say that as a great compliment. The video is hilarious and well worth a watch, for Pixar fans or those just looking for a laugh.

Pixar and Cars fan, however, are in for a special treat. Hidden within the video is link to a site where you can watch exclusive footage from the film (hint: 57 second mark). Also, if I’m not mistaken, some of the actual cars seen in video might look a bit familiar to anyone who has seen the trailer…just saying.

Sprinkled throughout the video are also hints to the new movie’s plots. Make sure to watch it more than once to make sure you catch everything. Plus, apparently the phone number they give at the end of the commercial is a working line. I might have to pick up a phone and check this out for myself!

Cars 2 opens June 24, 2011.

P.S. My favorite parts: “Lion of a deal” as he wears a tiger costume and the jingle at the end (“but don’t go too far or you’ll miss it”).

Why Toy Story 3 deserves Best Picture…but won’t get it.

First, let me admit to being late to the game. I’ve only JUST seen Toy Story 3. For months I’ve had to avoid spoilers. My friends, having grown up with the series like myself, had all seen and loved the film, and were anxious to talk about it. But I plugged my ears and carried on, somehow missing out on every opportunity to see the film until I Netflixed it.

The. Movie. Was. Wonderful.


I honestly believe that Toy Story 3 is one of the best films to have been released this past Oscar year. No, I haven’t seen all the pictures rumored to be Best Picture contenders, but I certainly feel confident enough to make a case for Toy Story 3. Critics predict that TS3 will most definitely get a nom, most likely even a Best Picture nomination due to the increased category sizes (10). Yet, critics also overwhelming agree that the chances of TS3 WINNING Best Picture are slim to none. Their most definite lose in the category is not due to any deficiency in quality, but rather it can be pinpointed to the simple fact that TS3 is a “kids’ movie.” Yes, TS3 is quite obviously labeled a “family film,” “child-friendly,” “fun for the whole family”– but what the average viewer fails to understand is that TS3 is much, much more.

Let’s first look at the reasons why TS3 should win Best Picture. As the Oscars website says, the golden statue is symbolic of “superior achievement…Although it measures just 13½ inches high, the Oscar statuette stands tall as the motion picture industry’s greatest honor. Officially named the Academy Award of Merit, the Oscar is given in recognition of the highest level of achievement in moviemaking.” So how do you judge the quality of “moviemaking”? Well, for the purpose of this write-up, and seeing as I’m no expert movie critic, I will explain my argument based upon my own beliefs in what makes a good movie good.

  1. The Cast/Acting: As a cartoon (which, by the way, is a major strike against TS3’s winning Best Picture) we clearly do not see the actors portraying the characters, but a quick view of the cast list reveals a myriad of seasoned veterans in the film industry, led by the admirable Tom Hanks. Other voice talents include those of Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Timothy Dalton, and John Ratzenberger (whose voice “appears” in EVERY Pixar film). The award count, both of nominations and wins, amongst this group is too great to cover. Okay, so clearly the cast is of film history, but further proof of their absolute talent is the impact the characters they have created have had on multiple generations. At 21, I grew up with the series and could name any of the toys. My parents, of the baby boomer generation, could also name any of the toys, because let’s face it– parents want to watch this movies as much as their kids do. I work at a daycare (ironic when looked at in reference to the film’s content), and I know the range of children who come in who can also name these characters. From the two-year old who cries for the Woody doll every time he comes in, to the 8-year-old who (maybe a bit begrudgingly) admits to wanting to play with Buzz. The characters have spanned generations, and are loved by each and every one of them.
  2. The Script: Something I particularly noticed about the “human” dialogue was how believe it was, possibly because I can recall having the exact same conversations within the past couple of years (the mother’s reaction to her sons emptied out room/son going away? Yea, I’m pretty sure they snuck into my house for that one). Of course, the witticisms of the toys are beyond hilarious– and intelligent. From Lotso’s silly sigh of “F.A.O. my Schwartz!” to Bonnie’s toys informing Woody that they “do a lot of improve,” I was laughing almost throughout the film. I possibly mistakenly chose to watch this film with my mom who is a notoriously loud laugher and due to her constant cracking up, there were multiple occasions when I had to rewind a bit to hear some dialogue we might have missed. And it’s also heartwarming, as are several of the moments in the movie.
  3. The Storyline: I will begin this part by stating how frightening I found particular scenes to be in this movie (fire burning at the dump!! My stomach was in my throat). Overall, the story was phenomenal. The plot was perfect and went right along with the other two movies, as well as remained relatable to viewers– Andy ages and goes to college, I’ve aged and gone to college…are my toys mad at me? The story also had everything drama (moving on to another chapter in one’s life, letting going of the past), humor (mentioned above), adventure (an escape to rival Ocean’s 11 or Shawshank Redemption), horror (once again, dumpster and fire), romance (Jesse & Buzz, sitting in a tree…Oh, and whose heart didn’t break when it was revealed the Bo Peep had gone on to a new kid?), and…foreign influence (Yo quiero Espana Buzz).
  4. The Appeal: I’ve already mentioned this various times throughout this post, but there is no denying the widespread appeal of this sort of movie. A greater audience will be able to enjoy this film–to laugh with it, to cry with it–than any of the other contenders. This movie does the practically impossible by defying age boundaries. At the box office, most adults went with children, but I know a great deal more who went on their own. I know grown men who admitted to bawling like a baby at the movie. I know children who call this film their favorite, as well as adults. Critics loved the film, not just for children, but for themselves. The Toy Story franchise in general has a vast appeal that nearly no other movie has, or will ever have.

In an earlier post I mentioned the unique campaign Pixar was running for TS3’s consideration in the award season race. It is the clever and brilliant ideas such as that can be found throughout the whole Toy Story franchise. And yet, it’s a cartoon. It’s a Disney cartoon. While the Academy members who vote are certainly more able to appreciate the film’s genius than the general population, there is still a certain taboo to the idea of a cartoon (actually, computer animated) becoming the Best Picture. After all, an animated film isn’t suppose to be though-provoking, deep, emotional, moving, AND entertaining. That would just be preposterous…right?

Honestly, I can’t rave about TS3 enough. But, then again, this is only one person’s opinion. I would love to know how others felt about it– Sound off below?