This period saw the complete acquisition of Pixar by Disney, giving complete control to the Disney board on what projects should go ahead at Disney. Whereas John Lasseter had stopped sequels and remakes previously, Disney did the opposite at Pixar and wanted to capitalise on the loved characters that Pixar had created. Although with Toy Story 2 they had found success, other franchises were not as lucky and the films were met with lukewarm reviews which was pretty unheard of at Pixar but has sadly become more of the norm now.
If you want to read the other Pixar reviews and ranking you can click the links below:
Now without further ado, let’s begin with the reviews and rankings for Pixar films 11-15:
11) Toy Story 3 (2010)
The third segment of Toy Story 3 was built with hype in the months leading up to its release and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Following the toys’ adventure in a daycare centre as Andy heads off to college, Woody, Buzz and co face off against the manipulative Lotso and his henchmen who oppress the “weaker” toys. It’s brilliant and sassy, bringing everything we love about the franchise into an even bigger film. My favourite inclusion is Ken and his dream-house with the scene in which he shows Barbie his vintage clothes collection is clearly so well researched with the materials and textures impeccable as always. The scene where Barbie threatens to rip his clothes has me on edge as we see her ripping each individual thread apart is just as horrific as the now-iconic incinerator scene. Although not quite as good as Toy Story 2 in my opinion (although this is no insult), Toy Story 3 won the franchise its first Best Animated Feature Oscar with ease. Bringing in new toys courtesy of the daycare centre as well as Bonnie’s (the daycare assistant’s daughter) collection which features a Totoro and personal favourite, Mr. Pricklepants, a dramatic hedgehog teddy who loves Shakespearean style acting. Passing the toys onto Bonnie at the end seemed like a fitting ending for the franchise so it is exciting to see how Toy Story 4 will fare and if it will live up to its hype.
12) Cars 2 (2011)
I didn’t go into this film with high hopes because I am not a fan of the franchise and I think that Cars has been the weakest offering in Pixar by a long-shot so I was definitely surprised when they announced a sequel. Pretty much more of the same but with added spies, Lightning McQueen finds himself a love interest in the form of Holley Shiftwell. It’s racing, it’s boring and to be honest Lightning McQueen isn’t an engaging enough character to be the protagonist. I am happy that there is more focus on Mater in this film but he spends most of his screen-time getting berated by McQueen who is so focused on his image and looking cool that it seems the messages he learned from the first film are completely forgotten because of his egotism. I hate to be biased about it but it just doesn’t interest me as a franchise and as much as I try to enjoy these films, I simply struggle to because of how ridiculous the whole concept is.
13) Brave (2012)
Now for a film I was really excited to see in the cinema on its release day. Featuring Pixar’s first princess, Merida, Brave looked to be full of spirit as the princess longs for freedom and to fight the tradition of marriage as is expected of her. In the course of her rebellion, she argues with her mum who is then turned into a bear. This film is an odd because aesthetically, it is stunning and captures Medieval Scotland beautifully but the screenplay is imbalanced and poorly paced. The beginning and ending to this film are brilliantly done but the middle portion just doesn’t seem to fit. It feels as though there was so much focus in establishing Merida’s character and how her character will end up rather than establishing her character and the mum’s character and then developing their relationship in the typical Pixar way, with detail and finesse. The middle portion seems poorly planned and forced, making the film drag and bringing an underwhelming feeling to the audience. The general consensus was the same among critics and audiences who responded with mixed reviews although the film did do well at the box office and subsequently won the Best Animated Feature Oscar although this was in (admittedly) an underwhelming year overall.
14) Monsters University (2013)
The first prequel offered by Pixar was a surprising choice. Monsters University, as implied, follows Mike and Sulley in university and shows how they met and how their friendship developed. It feels formulaic in development, the two dislike each other with Sulley the jock type and Mike as a nerd, the two find common ground before using their strengths to win the “Scare Games”. It’s not a terrible film by any means but it is very cliche and feels underwhelming for a Pixar film. Although it received positive reviews, it doesn’t hold a light against Monsters, Inc. because it’s clear that this is a film that Disney has ordered to be made rather than an organic creation. In Sulley and Mike’s fraternity, there are a collection of cliche characters. Although basic, my favourite is Art, the creative hyper artsy type who is bright purple and rolls around super fast and likes shiny things. I’m glad that they chose to create a film set in a different environment in the monster universe because this does make it far removed from the original and therefore the impact of Monsters, Inc. hasn’t be tainted.
15) Inside Out (2015)
After several underwhelming offerings, Pixar appeared to get back into their stride with this masterpiece. The question the creators asked: what if feelings had feelings? The result is a brilliant portrayal of the emotions living inside a teenage girl, Riley after her parents force the family to move to San Francisco from their cosy life in Michigan. As Riley struggles to fit in, her major emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Panic and Sadness also struggle to adjust to the situation. This sees Sadness outcast by Joy and the others which causes an imbalance when Joy and Sadness are accidentally sucked from “headquarters” and into Riley’s mind. Although the plot may appear simple, a teenage girl struggles to fit in, the Emotions’ journey is actually a complex one as they learn that they need each other to thrive in the environment. Joy learns that Riley needs Sadness in order to feel those moments of joy and that this isn’t always a bad thing even if it doesn’t feel nice in the moment. Although the most dense of the Pixar films, it isn’t without its lighter moments which are provided by Anger, Disgust and Panic, who are struggling to run headquarters with Joy. I don’t think Inside Out could have been made 20 years ago as people find it hard to talk about real and complex feelings, especially in a children’s film but now there is a wider awareness on mental health and the importance of this in young children. It is a film that can engage that younger audience, even if they don’t understand everything and as they grow, they will learn to understand it. Also, the inclusion of childhood imaginary friend, Bing Bong shows the importance of the child imagination from a young age as he helps Joy and Sadness find their way back to headquarters. It’s a brilliant film that will have you roaring with laughter one moment and then sobbing the next, making it as emotionally complex and rewarding as the film itself.
This ranking was a little easier because there were a few under-performers in my opinion. I think that Pixar thrives when able to produce original content because Pixar have established themselves as the innovator rather than the follower so it’s a shame that Disney are forcing the same structure on the studio as itself by creating sequels and prequels.
Here is my ranking:
1) Up (2009)
2) WALL-E (2008)
3) Toy Story 2 (1999)
4) Inside Out (2015)
5) Ratatouille (2007)
6) Toy Story 3 (2010)
7) Monsters, Inc. (2001)
8) Finding Nemo (2003)
9) The Incredibles (2004)
10) Toy Story (1995)
11) A Bug’s Life (1998)
12) Brave (2012)
13) Monsters University (2013)
14) Cars (2006)
15) Cars 2 (2011)
The next post will look at the last bunch of offerings that includes even more sequels but also gives a couple of originals so let’s hope this batch fares a little better than this bunch.
What do you think of the ranking now? Is it a surprise? Let me know in the comments below!