Once upon a time, there was a little company that dreamed of reinventing the animation industry. Pixar defied cinema standards with its acclaimed debut movie, Toy Story. The film’s charm and originality were unlike anything moviegoers had ever seen, and it caused a shock that could only be compared to what people felt in 1937 when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs introduced cinemas to animated feature movies.
However, in recent years, things seem to have changed for good ol’ Pixar. Their latest films lack that certain je ne sais quoi that made earlier Pixar movies so iconic. Is Pixar losing its magic? Why do films like Luca and Turning Red look so soulless in comparison to Monsters Inc. and Ratatouille?
Let’s take a closer look at what has been going on with Pixar’s creative process – and why perspective matters.
Creating a Masterpiece
The first Toy Story film was released back in 1995; by comparison, some other animated films released in the same year include A Goofy Movie and Pocahontas. While those movies (especially Pocahontas) have become cult classics for Disney, they lacked any real innovation in terms of storytelling.
Toy Story presented audiences with a whole new way of making movies. Sure, the idea of toys competing for the love of their owner might not sound all that great on paper, but the undeniable charm of Woody and Buzz proved to resonate with moviegoers of all ages. This ability to take something seemingly plain and give it a soul would become Pixar’s trademark for years to come. Until it began to repeat itself.
Attack of the Sequels
When Toy Story 2 hit theatres in 1999, audiences were ecstatic to receive a sequel to one of the most beloved animated films in movie history. The same, however, can’t be said of Cars 2, one of the worst-reviewed films in the studio’s record.
That’s not to say that every Pixar sequel is bad: Toy Story 3 might very well be the studio’s finest film, a satisfying conclusion to a beloved franchise. A perfect ending that is immediately undone by yet another sequel: Toy Story 4. It soon becomes clear that Pixar is at its best when it creates movies that are born from the will to innovate, and not when it mindlessly pushes out films that are there just to fill a gap.
Looking Forward At Upcoming Pixar Movies
These past two years have been a turbulent time for everyone, including film studios. Pixar has changed its business model with the advent of Disney+, and it seems like the quality of its movies has changed as well. Movies like 2020’s Soul proved that Pixar can still conjure up interesting concepts, but they’re diluted by overly long runtimes and an excess of awkward humour.
At the very least, Soul had a superb art direction, something that Luca seems to be sorely missing. While the story was alright for a kids’ film, most of the characters look to be taken straight out of a DreamWorks film – something that the old Pixar always avoided.
These simplified designs and risk-free storytelling approach are seemingly present at Pixar’s upcoming movie, 2022’s Turning Red. Meanwhile, Disney’s own CGI movies, like Encanto and Frozen II, seem to replicate the innovative spirit of the Pixar of the 2000s.
Only time can tell what will happen with Pixar moving forward. Every studio has its highs and lows, and considering the studio’s track record, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see the studio radically changing its course in the coming years. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a new Ratatouille sooner than we’d thought. Let’s just hope we don’t get a Cars 4 instead.