Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pixar: A Mirror of Disney

Since last year's unforgettable "Up" and this summer's record-breaking "Toy Story 3," we all (well, most of us if not all) can agree that Pixar can never go wrong (to paraphrase from a movie buff). But more than the successful and unforgettable films they've made (as well as their stories and characters) and the constantly-groundbreaking technology, perhaps the greatest thing pixar has achieved and sustained is a legacy that mirrors that of Walt Disney himself. Such a legacy involved a pursuit of achieving the essentially impossible (look at "Ratatouille," "WALL*E" and "Up"), and also an emphasis on what is worthwhile, what is convincing, what is real, and not just for the sake of being made.

Any additional thoughts or comments? Feel free to do so.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Animation Speaks

When finding a new picture, we don’t think of grown-ups, and we don’t think of children, but just for that fine, clean, unspoiled spot inside each and every one of us, that maybe the world has made us forget, and that maybe our pictures can help recall.
~ Walt Disney (1)

I’m a life-long animation fan. When I was a kid, one of the first movies I saw in theaters was “Beauty and the Beast.” And that set a tradition for my family and I going to every new release that came out every year, and it’s been that way for us (meaning my whole family, my siblings and I, or myself) since then. (The only animated Disney film I didn’t make it to in theaters since then was the 2001 “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”.)

Yet, I’m sure most of us (if not all) can agree that the Disney films were some of the greatest films we grew up with, from “The Little Mermaid” to “Aladdin” to “The Lion King,” and even the more classic films before then, like “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Bambi,” “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio.” Then in 1995, everything changed with the release of “Toy Story,” which practically put Pixar Animation Studios on the map, and would, in time, established an unprecedented record in Hollywood history with memorable characters and stories for a whole new generation.(1) (For the record, “Toy Story 3” recently became the highest-grossing animated film worldwide, passing “Shrek 2”’s record from 2004.[2]) In fact, a few years ago, there was a belief that CGI movies became more profitable and far better than traditional-animated films. This led to what would become an extinction of 2-D animation for the time being.

This past summer, however, while living in Platteville, I went to an afternoon showing of Pixar’s “Up,” and there was a preview of the fall release of Disney’s newest film, “The Princess and the Frog” – Disney’s first 2-D animated film in five years! A couple months later, particularly during last fall, my memories of the Disney classics were revived and became something more amazing to me as an adult. And I watched a lot, from “Aladdin” to “Snow White” to “The Lion King” and so forth.

But even greater than the memories of these films is how they still speak to us. Never mind that these are just pencil drawings come to life or that they’re two-dimensional characters on a flat cel. I believe animation does more than that. I believe it has the power to speak to us as human beings, to enlighten us, to encourage us, and to remind us (in some cases) that there is much in life that still can be/needs to be valued. In addition, specific characters are more than just drawings. They’re like real people. Look at the Beast, or Simba, or Pinocchio, for example. These are characters that go through various trials and tests and ultimately illustrate the triumph of the human spirit. The same can be said of the recent Pixar films. Indeed, these are characters that transcend the meaning of “coming alive.” Like the story (one of the most important aspects of any great film), we believe in them. We understand them. And we care about them. That, to me, is one of the most enlightening things any great film can offer and stand the test of time, whether we’re kids or adults.

Think about this: Are there any Disney/animated films you loved as a kid and still speak to you as an adult? If so, how do they and why?

(1) From the 2007 documentary, The Pixar Story, by Leslie Iwerks.

(2) Andrew Stewart (2006-07-07). "'Toy Story 3' sets box office record Disney-Pixar film becomes highest-grossing toon ever". Variety.com. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118022934.html. Retrieved 2010-08-16. Visit: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118022934.html?categoryid=13&cs=1 for more info.