Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is the Golden Age of Pixar at an end?

I'm a huge Pixar fan. I've seen every Pixar film except Cars. The reason why I've never seen Cars is that I don't want to taint my Pixar experience. Every - single - Pixar movie I've seen has been revelatory, emotional, beautiful, complex and utterly wondrous. I can't have Cars, often considered the weakest effort, poison my opinion. That being said, I think the Golden Age of Pixar has come to an end, and I will tell you why I think this.

Firstly, Toy Story 3 might be the apotheosis of Pixar's sensibilities. It's the culmination of a lot of themes and techniques that the studio has been working with. Toy Story 3 is a meditation on loss, coming to grips with it, moving on, and letting the past be the past, looking forward. It's an unbelievably good ending to a movie and to a series. It feels like a natural and organic ending to the adventures of Woody and Buzz, et al. But it also functions as an ending to the Pixar story, if you will.

Toy Story is the movie that started Pixar - what better way to end the era than with the movie that started it all? While Toy Story holds up as a great movie, even today, it still kind of feels like a warm-up to the imagination and skill the filmmakers would show with The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up.

Toy Story 2 began the trend, the trend of real Pixar movies, not just fun fluffy pieces of animation. The theme of coping with reality is compounded with more realistic situations and a truer emotional core, with Jessie mourning the loss of her owner. That is the nugget of Pixar: putting away childish things is inevitable.

Tell me that Toy Story 3 doesn't crystallize this idea, and tell me that it doesn't do it in an adult and mature way. There are jokes for kids, but they're going to be kids born after the first Toy Story. This second sequel is for the people who grew up with Disney and Pixar.

At the climactic scene, when all seems hopeless for the toys, they hold hands and steel themselves for the end. That was one of the most intense scenes in a film that I have ever seen. It's absolutely heartbreaking. This is a scene for grown-ups, made by adults, who have grown past simple kids' fluff. The filmmakers at Pixar want to make a real movie, and they succeeded.

Is there anything left for Pixar to do? Should they stop? No, of course not. But Pixar's future leaves me a little nervous. Their 2011 release is a sequel to Cars. Maybe it will be awesome. I hope so. I hope to watch it and love it.

But after Cars 2? Pixar has decided to make a fairytale movie, complete with princess, and this disappoints me. I'm sure it will still be entertaining. No doubt the fine people at Pixar are putting their all into it, and it will be a fun magical hour and a half.

It disappoints me because Pixar is the studio that gave me The Incredibles, a superhero deconstruction that rises above its sources, thanks to an excellent story and a rather complicated moral. And it's the studio that gave me Wall-E, a cynical love story, that believes even if mankind loses humanity, we'll find it regardless. And it's the studio that gave me Up. And Monsters Inc. And Ratatouille. And Finding Nemo.

Every time I get to see a new Pixar movie, I think that they can't possibly top themselves in terms of quality. I loved Wall-E, but then I saw Up, and Up became the new favourite. This was supplanted by Toy Story 3 right after. Can Pixar really keep up that measure of quality?

I fear not. That's why I think the Golden Age of Pixar has come to its natural organic end. It reminds me of the final Calvin and Hobbes strip. Can you think of any better way to end things than with another beginning?


Anonymous said...

Actually, making a princess movie is the GREATEST thing Pixar has decided to do, since up till now, they've dissed the female audience. I'm getting tired of these modern, techno-savvy Pixar films that cannot seem to escape the 'geek' factor. So a nice, period piece set in medieval Scotland is a breath of fresh air.

What has me more concerned more than 'Brave' is that everything AFTER that film is sequels. You mentioned "Cars 2" coming in 2011. But there's also going to be a sequel to "Monsters Inc." which does not need a sequel. This just sounds like a money-making caper. And I've heard threats from the studio of starting "Bug's Life 2".

Self-Imposed Gurudom said...

I read your post with interest, but I still never found that reason why this is the end of the golden era of Pixar.

Because they have topped themselves (and then where would they go from here, but down?), but as you also point out, they have continually topped themselves since the beginning.

So really, what reason is there that this will be the end of the era? I have my own ideas/reasons/suspicions, but I didn't see any from you. Perhaps you would like to clarify or expand?

matthew. said...

I feel like there are a million princess movies out there. Disney just put out two in two years. That market is being handled. Pixar should be forging ahead in new interesting ways, not retreading old ground like princess movies or sequels to movies that had natural endings.

To Marque Pierre Sondergaard,
Yes they continually top themselves, but they seemed to have reached a organic conclusion to themes built upon since the beginning. I feel like movies that come after Toy Story 3 are going to be anticlimactic.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope Pixar blows my mind!