These five years of Pixar revolutionised film not just in terms of animation (which it did in spades) but for film as a whole with their limitless imagination, stellar scripts and characters that stay with you long after you leave the cinema. Pixar by this point had established themselves as a respected animation company that alongside Disney dominated the family market and with an Academy Award under their belt, it’s needless to say that this merely predicted further success. Utilising the creativity of directors such as Brad Bird and in-house artists such as Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton, this period of films cemented Pixar’s legacy firmly in film history.
You can read the ranking for the previous link here:
As ever, let’s get on with the reviews and rankings for Pixar films 6-10:
6) The Incredibles (2004)
Before the superhero film became a monthly fixture in our movie calendars, Brad Bird teamed with Pixar to create a world where superheroes have been outcast but must come out to fight against a narcissistic billionaire who has been killing superheroes in a bid to become a saviour to the human race. The superheroes set out on saving the world are The Incredible family, consisting of dad, Bob (known as Mr Incredible), mum, Helen (known as Elastagirl), teenage daughter, Violet and son, Dash. The family use their unique abilities to save the world from Syndrome, the billionaire set on revenge against Mr. Incredible, whom he idolised as a child. It’s a brilliantly complex film that depicts an ordinary family in an extraordinary situation. The script is second to none, the score is sublime and the primary characters are all developed fantastically with likable secondary characters in the form of fellow superhero, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson on top form) and the iconic superhero outfit designer, Edna Mode (voice by the film’s director, Brad Bird). I would say that this film surpasses most of the superhero films that are churned out month after month in recent years as it follows the formulaic route without becoming victim to it. Elastagirl is a brilliant female character who isn’t afraid to stick up to the patriarchy (even in the film’s opening when she says “leave all the fighting to the men? I don’t think so!”). It’s a film that is aware of society’s expectations but thwarts them by exploiting the flaws in society and using the heroes strengths to fix them.
7) Cars (2006)
Created from a love of cars by the heads of Pixar, Cars is a film set in a universe of anthropomorphic cars. It tells the story of Lightning McQueen, a sports car who longs to win at a rescheduled race after finishing in a three-way tie. On his way to training, he finds himself in a crash and stumbles upon Radiator Springs, a small town tucked away in the middle of nowhere. He befriends Mater, a battered tow truck and his experience among the small townspeople teaches Lightning lessons in humility and respect. This film has spawned two sequels as well as spin-off films and is popular among the younger audience particularly; however, I am not a huge fan of the Cars franchise. Even from the first viewing, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of anthropomorphic cars which sounds ridiculous in the world of Pixar because anything in animation is possible. Living toys, monsters and animals in general I am perfectly fine with, but I just can’t immerse myself in the Cars universe because it seems a little too ridiculous. I can’t help but think that the idea itself is rather forced and inorganic unlike the other films that Pixar had offered up to this point. Maybe this had to do with Disney’s increasing power in the company or the slump Disney studios where experiencing lately but it just seemed that the heads of Pixar sat down and said “we like cars… let’s make a film about it!” and didn’t think about the logistics of this. Monsters. Inc. is a film about monsters in their own universe and yet they have access to the human universe so there is an awareness of the “real world”. But since Cars doesn’t have any humans at all, it pushes the film into an absurd territory of the audience asking questions about the technicalities of the universe rather than enjoying the film.
8) Ratatouille (2007)
Brad Bird’s second offering for Pixar, Ratatouille, is the story of a rat with a big dream, to become a gourmet chef in a Michelin star restaurant. Remy lives on the outskirts of Paris, but when he finds himself in one of the most iconic Parisian restaurants, Gusteau’s, he begins to use his talents to help out the chef and prevent the restaurant from closure. Like any animation that incorporates food (check out Studio Ghibli’s offerings), Ratatouille’s concoctions look delectable and good enough to eat off the screen. As ever, the detail is on point and makes the film appear to be a sensory experience. Remy is an adorable protagonist who fights against the odds to achieve his dream despite what his family says or expects of him. His determination to teach Gusteau’s son, Alfredo, the ropes of cooking with hilarious results with Remy controlling Alfredo like a marionette by pulling his hair. Another brilliant character in this film is the lovable Emile, Remy’s brother and best friend. He’s a rat who loves to eat food without savouring the taste which repulses Remy, who urges Emile to appreciate the food. The film boasts a starry cast with Patton Oswalt voicing Remy and Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego, the pretentious food critic that Remy longs to impress. It won the studio it’s third Best Animated Feature Oscar and remains a Pixar favourite among fans.
9) WALL-E (2008)
Pixar’s 2008 feature is set in a world that has seen the mankind abuse the earth so much that it is now inhabitable. The film was directed by major Pixar figure, Andrew Stanton and tells the story of WALL-E, a friendly robot who sorts out the trash left and organises it into piles. His daily routine is constant as he is the only “living” thing with the exception of cockroaches. WALL-E collects trinkets that he finds and takes them back to his home where he watches old films on a box television. When a mysterious robot called EVE visits earth, WALL-E instantly in love with her and longs to be with her. Together, they embark on an adventure that sees them dancing among the stars in a stellar sequence that is mind-blowing and encountering what is left of the human race on a spaceship. On the surface, it’s a beautiful love story communicated through actions and shows how far someone would travel (literally) for the one they love. Under the surface, it is a story about mankind’s continued abuse on the planet we live on and how greed and corruption will eventually cause the world to ruin. It’s a film that was made over a decade ago but feels even more relevant now than ever in a time where the push for climate change has never been stronger.
10) Up (2009)
This film is too good for words. Pete Docter’s creation is beautifully animated as expected, filled with a spectrum of colour (courtesy of 20,000 animated balloons) and has, arguably, the most emotional opening to a film ever. Following pensioner, Carl as he flies his house to Paradise Falls (the place he longed to visit with late wife, Ellie), he is accompanied by boy scout, Russell, exotic bird, Kevin and talking dog, Doug in a big to find peace and fulfill the mission he has worked on for years. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times that I have watched this film but I can say that 100% of the times I have seen it have ended with me in tears with a box of tissues by my side. Featuring a brilliantly sinister performance from Christopher Plummer voicing Carl’s childhood idol, Charles Muntz, an explorer who was disgraced earlier in his career, Up is a film that swept the critics and audience away with its beauty and heart. As I mentioned before, it features the most emotional opening to a film ever and I think I should discuss this scene in detail. We follow Carl and Ellie’s relationship from marriage to Ellie’s death and the highs and lows in between as they struggle (and sadly fail) to save up for a trip to Paradise Falls. It is a sequence with no words, only music and this only heightens the opening. The jaunty score shows them renovating and decorating their home then slowly descends into a sad clarinet as they struggle to conceive and Ellie eventually ends up passing away. It’s a poignant story and a really powerful message to put in a children’s film, especially in the opening when it isn’t expected. I think this was revolutionary in Pixar storytelling because they are explicitly showing the love and eventual heartbreak and sadness that comes with being human.
Again, this ranking took me ages to decide because the films are of such a high calibre but I have made some (arguably controversial) decisions. I think the quality of films from this period was so strong (with the exception of Cars) that it was so hard to place them among the previous films.
Here is my ranking:
1) Up (2009)
2) WALL-E (2008)
3) Toy Story 2 (1999)
4) Ratatouille (2007)
5) Monster’s Inc. (2001)
6) Finding Nemo (2003)
7) Toy Story (1995)
8) The Incredibles (2004)
9) A Bug’s Life (1998)
10) Cars (2006)
The next post begins to delve into Disney’s takeover seeing Pixar create sequels and prequels galore as well as the first Pixar princess and more Oscar winners.
What do you think of the ranking so far? Let me know in the comments below what you’d place as number one!