Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Just why I love Pixar

I may have a fascination for zombies, a lifelong passion for Die Hard, and undying respect for Ripley, but in my heart of hearts, I simply adore Pixar. I've seen all of their films at the cinema, with the exception of The Incredibles, and the release of a new Pixar film fills me with the kind of childish glee normally associated with Christmas Day morning.

So it was with a lot of excitement that I saw Up last week. It's not their best film ever, and I couldn't put it in the same category as Cars or Monsters, Inc., but it's still a cracking good yarn, and just proves that Pixar are slowly moving into slightly more grown-up territory, managing to tackle such themes as miscarriage and being widowed in a short introductory session that manages to communicate such themes without being preachy, or spelling anything out.

Why can other filmmakers not manage this? So often I watch a film, or read a book, and feel like I'm being spoon-fed the plot, as if the director or writer feels I'm too moronic to get what's going on. Dan Brown is guilty of this on an epic scale with The Da Vinci Code, and Chris Colombus over-egged the pudding to such a stupid degree in Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone that it almost ruined an otherwise enjoyable film. Yet Pixar avoid this trap. Personally, I think it's because they simply enjoy telling stories, and they trust that their viewers can detect and understand the visual clues that tell the story, without having to brow-beat anyone into epiphany.

The trend towards CG films has exploded ever since Toy Story came out in 1995, with varying degrees of success. The first two Shrek films were interesting and enjoyable ventures from Dreamworks, but then they also foisted the godawful Shark Tale upon us. Such a preachy, horrible film carried the core message that you should always be happy with your station in life, and never strive to better yourself because if you do, you'll fail. What kind of ideal is that to be pushing onto people? Yet among all the dross, Pixar have always shone as an example of decent filmmaking. Some of their efforts haven't quite connected as well as others (e.g. A Bug's Life, Ratatouille), but even their 'poor' films are strides ahead of the best films released by their competitors.

I think their success is due in part to their attention to detail. Fur moves like fur, water behaves like water, objects appear to have true weight - all a testament to their partnership with Disney. Old Walt used to send his artists to draw from life, so even if the animals or birds were cartoons, they still had a level of verisimilitude that is unmatched today. Beyond that, they're happy to cast an actor based on how well they fit the role, not on their box office draw at the time of casting. If an A-lister happens to win the role, it's because they're the best person for the job. The characters thus become believeable, and not simply star vehicles.

Pixar love their craft, and it shines through in the finished film. They tell a story for the pure joy of telling a story - they leave the money-making aspect of the business to Disney. You can go into the cinema feeling burdened by the weight of the world, and come out feeling lighter, as though maybe this crazy lil thing called life isn't so bad after all. And in this day and age, that's no bad thing.

4 comments:

ChloƩ P. Kovac said...

I totally agree with your summary of Pixar and the quality of their films, and what makes their films of such generally high quality.

Icy said...

If anyone can watch Wall-E and not get a lump in their throat when they think Wall-E's had it, then they have no soul!

StephanieD said...

Hi, Icy-

I still have not seen Wall-E, but I loved Ratatouille, which I agree might not have been for everybody. Ratatouille worked for me because I love food and I love to cook (not a foodie though) and so does my 14-year-old son. He's the one who made me watch it. My mouth watered throughout the entire movie!

Icy said...

The graphics were beautiful in Ratatouille and I love the fact that Pixar use caricatures instead of trying to make people look realistic (since CG people are scary), I just didn't 'connect' with the characters as much as I have with other ones! Still, it was a VERY gorgeous movie, and at least had Janeane Garofolo in it!

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