Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Top 6 Pixar Movies

I have always been a fan of good animated movies and loved Aladdin but this beast that is Pixar has cornered the market to the point that it's one apparent low point in Cars is actually a great movie. (And incidentally only just misses out on my top and is ahead of several others. Every Pixar movie seems to focus on a common belief/thought/wonderment or idea. Whether it's toys coming to life or monsters in the closet.

I am a huge fan of every Pixar movie and wait in anticipation for the forth coming instalments including Monsters University (a prequel to Monsters, Inc)

Well here it is:

#1 Toy Story

This would be one of the greatest tales ever told and has all the heart and smarts to literally appeal to every demographic. While it’s a G rated movie for the kiddies it also grabs anyone with a nostalgic bone in their body. Even kids who didn’t grow up with a menagerie of toys will have had at least a toy soldier to throw around in the backyard. And let’s be honest as kids we all imagined what it would be like for these creations of metal and plastic to come to life. What personalities would they have and most importantly what would they get up to?

Having the 2 main protagonists as polar opposites is a stroke of genius. I’m going to assume that kids 200 years ago would have played cowboys and Indians and had rudimentary dolls for make believe play. Then the opposite would be the future and what is the future? Space. So we get the greatest space ranger to secure sector G in Buzz Lightyear. Even their names match their appeal. Woody is a basic description of what the first toys would have been made out of and buzz and light brings to mind vivid space fights in an unknown region.

We open with Andy (the owner of the toys) having his birthday party and all the toys are concerned they will be replaced and this included Woody. He actually gets a little irritated and snaps before the party as he is the ‘favourite’ toy and wants it to stay that way. So they send down soldiers to report back what the new toys will be. Most of the toys are non-threatening to the others but the last one is the newest gadget on the market space ranger Buzz Lightyear. This makes Andy’s 2 favourite toys direct rivals for the coveted roles as main toy. Cleverly the movie finishes with the same image but Woody and Buzz are pretending to not be worried about the Christmas presents Andy will receive. The characters have come full circle and learned to be happy with their place in the scheme of these.

The detail and quality of the animation was ground breaking at the time as still holds up today after several jumps in technology. I also rate that the humans aren’t rendered ‘real’ whereas the toys are given great detail.

Having a 21 month boy I’ve seen many of the Pixar movies but none more so than Toy Story. And it was with these repeat viewings that I picked up on the little layers and details that complete the movie. I particularly like it when Slinky dog is sticking up for Woody and Potato Head pulls his lips off and taps his butt with them.

#2 Toy Story 2

Not often does a sequel to a great movie match or beat its predecessor. And Toy Story 2 almost does this. Although TS1 is better TS2 is a fantastic tale and has all the ingredients of an awesome stand-alone movie. And as with all good sequels great characters are added to the fold. Stinky Pete and Jessie being the stand outs.

Woody isn’t taken to Cowboy camp after Andy finds a rip in his seam. Woody is left on a shelf to wait it out and it is up there he witnesses Andy’s mum collecting various unused toys including Squeaky the penguin from the 1st movie for a garage sale. Woody saves Squeaky but in the process manages to be seen by Toy Barn owner Al McWiggin and recognised as the highly valuable toy he is. Andy’s mum won’t sell Woody knowing he’s one of Andy’s favourite toys. Al won’t take no for an answer and steals Woody. The rest of the gang witness this from the safety of Andy’s room and set out to save Woody.

Woody is patched up and in turn meets the rest of the ‘Round Up Gang’. Stinky Pete, Jessie the cowgirl and his trusty steed Bullseye. Woody also finds out he was a treasured toy but during the space wars boys turned to spacemen and aliens for toys and Woody and his gang were phased out. Al finds a buyer for his collection but it’s in Japan. Woody wants to go back to Andy but Stinky Pete has other ideas. Buzz with the help of some of the other toys track down Woody and battle the Emperor Zurg and eventually get Woody back home along with Jessie and Bullseye.

The themes of friendship and our place in the world as again high in this movie and it has a lot of heart. At the end Woody explains to Buzz that it’s ok that Andy will outgrow them because they’ll always have each other ‘to infinity and beyond.’

The graphics are again excellent with vibrant detail and the choices of voices at spot on.

#3 A Bug’s Life

The 2nd Pixar movie to hit the screen was a take on the 7 Samurai/Magnificent 7 story of a group of bandits, in this case grasshoppers headed by…… bullying a defenceless group of ants in this case into giving their ‘stock’ of food they need horde for the winter.

The main protagonist is Flik, a bit of an oddball ant who fancies himself as a bit of an inventor. While carrying one of his inventions he inadvertently knock over the horde of food left for the grasshoppers meaning they don’t have anything to offer when they arrive. He is then banished in the guise of recruiting some ‘warrior bugs’ to fight off the grasshoppers when they return.

Flik finds his way to the big city (a garbage dump) and he mistakenly thinks a rabble of a circus act are his warrior bugs and they thinks he’s a talent agent. They agree to travel back with him to Ant Island.

Flik eventually twigs to the fact that these bumbling bugs are not warriors he devises a plan to create a large bird to scare away the leader Hooper fabulously voiced by Kevin Spacey. The plan doesn’t quite work and just as Hopper is about to kill Flik he tells Hopper ‘you need us and you know it’. It is at this point when the ants realise they outnumber the hoppers 100-1 and run em out of town. Hopper has one last attempt vengeance but through the quick thinking Flik is eaten by a real bird.

The animation is bright and vibrant and very attractive to the eyes. Each bug is detailed to the hilt and has its own interesting idiosyncrasies. Although this a tried and tested plot A Bug’s Life adds just enough to make it unique and stand out.

Isn’t it interesting my top 3 Pixar movies are the 1st 3 they made? This doesn’t mean they dropped off but damn they nailed it at the start.

#4 The Incredibles

The Incredibles is set in a world where people with various super powers exist but through the growing trend in litigation these ‘super heroes’ are forced to retire and hide for fear of law suits against them. We focus on a family Mr Incredible – strength, Elastigirl (he wife) – she can stretch her body into almost any shape, their kids, Violet - can turn invisible and create protective force fields, Dash – and run extremely fast and little Jack-Jack – appears to be normal. Mr Incredible, Bob has gained weight and works in a boring office job. He his best mate Frozone and Bob regularly go out and fight crime and wish they could go back to the old days.

Bob is soon entrapped after finding a video telling mysteriously offering to pay him a large sum of money if he could locate and destroy a robot. It ends up being a ruse and he has been lured to the island by Syndrome a wannabe superhero. He destroys the robot return home, gets in shape with a returned vigour for the crime fighting caper. Bob is then lured back to the island this time to fight a more advanced robot. He barely survives and his wife finds out where he is. She leaves Jack-Jack with a baby sitter and takes the kids to help out dad. Syndrome captures the family. Bob doesn’t want his family in danger but soon realises he needs they helps and he can’t do it on his own. The family uses their respective powers to overcome Syndrome and learn the valuable lesson of teamwork and family in the process.

My love for the Incredibles is that is it a brilliant mix of action, suburban melancholy and satire. There are a lot more set pieces and it is visually stunning. But again it has heart and a brain at the core of it. Otherwise it’d just be another Steven Segal action movie.

#5 Monsters, Inc.

The 4th Pixar film on the feature slate is Monsters, Inc. The nuts and bolts of the story are: Monsters have access to doors; these doors are entry points into little kid’s bedrooms. The monsters enter, make the kid scream and the scream is bottled as a power source. With kids growing up too fast in today’s society they are bottling less screams and therefore running low on energy.

Our main protagonists are Mike and Sulley. Mike is the fast talking Billy Crystal (with some wonderful dialogue) and Sulley is the huge but lovable John Goodman.

The wonderful imagination of Pixar movies is what makes them so bankable. Through the course of the film a little girl enters the monsters world ‘Monstropolis’ and tags along Mike and Sulley.

Another breakthrough for the animation department was ‘simulated movement’. Instead of animators individually putting three million hairs on Sulley they would animate the character bald and naked and the simulation department would add the fur or clothes as one and they would react to the body’s movement as they would in real life.

Pixar again manage to make a film that appeals to the masses including witty dialogue and a great storyline.

#6 Finding Nemo

A pretty simple premise. A clownfish named Nemo is taken by divers and his father Marlin goes on an odyssey to find Nemo. Along the way he befriends short memory loss victim Dory and ride the East Australian Current down to Sydney.

Nemo learns a lot on the way too ending up in a dentist’s fish task with a band of motley crew who help him escape.

While not as impressive as the previous entrants ‘Nemo’ is a more than worthy Pixar entrant.
Well this rounds out my top 6 but honourable mentions must go to Toy Story 3 and Cars. I agonised over their inclusion and maybe in a few years they'll permiate up the ladder. Although new instalments may take the honour also.

7. Toy Story 3
8. Cars
9. Up
10. Ratatouille
11. Wall-E

N/A. Cars 2 (Took Ben to see it but only saw half so will reserve judgement until a full viewing, I'd guess it'd sit around the 9 mark)

Hope you enjoyed my list and feel free to leave a comment, I'd be very interested to see where others rank this movies. Be warned it's not as easy as it looks!
Until then hail to Dinoco Blue!

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