There is a question going around the internet right now, questioning Pixar’s prominence: has Pixar lost their touch? We all of course know of their unparalleled success. “Monsters Inc”, “Wall E” “Up”, “The Toy Story Trilogy”, and “Finding Nemo” are all films that were not just some of the best animated films, but some of the best films of the year. The studio would put out this successful streak of films that are unmatched by any studio in recent memory. Even their weakest film in between 1995-2013 was the original “Cars” which was by most account still a solid film. Two of their films in that span would go on to best picture nominations (“Up” and “Toy Story 3”). I would make the argument that not only are they the best Animation studio but the best American studio period.
Yet recently people are starting to wonder whether the studio is still the Pixar we all know and remember. After closing out with what is arguably the best “Toy Story” film yet (“Toy Story 3”), Pixar put out only their second sequel to an original film “Cars 2”. The first “Cars” was already thought of the weakest the studio put out, now “Cars 2” by almost all accounts was a big failure. Not financially (taking in almost 560 million dollars worldwide), but critically, and the film also wasn’t accepted from audiences. I for one was greatly disappointed by “Cars 2”, had this film come from Dreamworks, I may not have hated it as much as I did. Eventually Pixar had to make a bad film, we all knew eventually the studio would make a bad one.
Their next movie was “Brave”. “Brave” felt more like a Disney film than a Pixar, but would go onto critical success and win best animated feature. Still it wasn’t up to the Pixar level of quality that we are all use too. How about “Monsters University” though? (The studio’s first ever prequel), how was that? Well, depends on who you ask. Personally I saw it as a return to form for the studio and generally speaking I think many others did but still quite a number of people still saw it as a step down from their usual line of work. So have they lost their way?
I don’t believe so. I think it’s premature to start saying they lost their way. True, we may not be on the same streak that us Pixar fan are accustom to, but I see it more as a brief stumble. True, “Cars 2” was disappointing, but “Brave” was still a good film and “Monsters University” was heartfelt. Their upcoming original film “Inside Out” has huge amounts of early buzz from people whom has seen 20 minutes of the film (showcased the D23 convention). This could be one of Pixar’s best and plus their long in development project “The Good Dinosaur” is also premiering this November which also has plenty of potential with newcomer Peter Sohn (whom has worked in the Pixar ranks for a while) on as director.
Maybe Pixar’s wide range of talent has expanded to Disney as well. John Lasseter, the chief creative leader of Pixar, goes back well before the days of “Toy Story” (which he would later go on to direct) at the studio (when George Lucas still had control over it) and he eventually became the leader of Disney Animation as well as being heavily involved with all things Pixar (still co-directing movies at the studio). Lasseter is known to bring talent over from both studios, and since he was appointed the head of Disney Animation, the studio has steadily rebuilt the reputation that Disney use to always have. (with many proclaiming Disney is going through their second renaissance). Some might say that “Wreck-It Ralph” feels more like a Pixar movie while “Brave” feels more like a Disney movie. An experiment that it doesn’t look like either studio will be making again in the near future.
So the answer to this question that while Pixar stumbled a bit, I believe that “Monsters University” is proof of their resolve, and their upcoming projects not only excite me but I believe hold potential to be just as good as their previous classics. While Pixar and Disney Animation Studios still are separate, the latent effect of Pixar’s excellence is John Lasseter bringing over talents to both studios, which brings excellence to both of them. This is something that is even more exciting to me than just the excellence of Pixar, but having two consistently good animation studios at the same time sounds amazing to me.